Information on which foods are actually “sustainable,” “green,” or “eco-friendly” is sometimes ambiguous, and these words are occasionally flat-out deceptive. How do you ensure that the food you’re consuming is indeed sustainable when everything from meat to beer is now available with a “carbon neutral” label?

The first significant issue is determining how to balance the various parameters that influence how much energy food emits. For instance, there is strong evidence that, compared to animal products, plant-based diets use less energy and emit fewer pollutants. What if those plant-based items, however, had to travel halfway across the globe to reach your table? And to what extent do various cooking techniques reduce or raise carbon emissions? In order to learn the answers, a British public service broadcaster conducted a two-week experiment with Sarah Bridle, a professor of food, climate, and society at the University of York in the UK, and independent sustainability researcher Rebecca Lait.

What is the primary hypothesis of the study? They predicted that an omnivorous diet would produce the most emissions, a vegan diet the least, and a vegetarian diet somewhere in the middle. In the end, it appears that being a vegan isn’t a guarantee for having the lowest carbon footprint—it all depends on what you consume. The study has demonstrated that a plant-based diet generally results in much lower emissions. Eating a lot of meat, especially beef, is detrimental and will inevitably result in a significant increase in emissions. It also brought to light some of the most well-researched methods for reducing the effect of food on the environment.