What Seaweed And Cow Burps Have To Do With Climate Change

Written by
February 22, 2024
5 min read

Methane Kicking Up a Stink For The Environment 

We were inspired by the amazing podcast on Spotify with Animal scientist Ermias Kebreab. Our enemy is carbon but it doesn’t mean that at Team SKOOT we aren't passionate about understanding more about our ecosystem and how everything we do has a cause and effect.

Scientists have been aware for years that cows and livestock are huge sources of the greenhouse gas, methane but we have all been wondering if there is a way to make cows less gassy and on the podcast Ermias told us about an ingenious solution to reduce cows methane burps, by feeding the cattle something natural growing beneath the ocean's surface; seaweed 

Most of us don’t realise that methane is 25 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and it makes up about 20% of our annual global emissions. Methane also has more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over the first 20 years after it reaches the atmosphere. This means methane warms the earth at a ridiculously rapid pace, which means we need to really think about how we reduce methane.   

Methane, Livestock and Burps 

When we’re asked what type of land makes up the single largest type of land surface, most of us wouldn’t say pastures, which it is. (when we all know it really should be forests) A quarter of this land is used for livestock due to our love for meat and dairy. The process in which grass and fibre is broken down by bacteria in cow’s digestive systems has a byproduct of large amounts of methane. Most of this methane is burped out (not farted out!) and creates 2 billion tons of carbon per year, and the UNEP estimates that livestock emissions account for roughly 32% of human caused methane emissions (cars in the UK only account for 50m tonnes for comparison)

How Do We Reduce Methane From Cows

According to animal scientist Ermias Kebreab there is a solution to this livestock methane problem, seaweed. Ermias tested this with live animals with colleagues from James Cook university, they decided to conduct a small experiment to determine the effect of seaweed when put in cow feed and to determine how much seaweed would need to be used. 

The experiment began with 60g per day which was increased up to 250g combined with 25kg of their feed. The methane burps of the cows were recorded and in the first experiment they were found to be reduced by 67%! A second trial was conducted and the seaweed was seen to reduce emissions by 80% in the US with colleges in Australia seeing a staggering 97% reduction. The seaweed in the feed also beefed up the cattle with no negative health effects, making it a win for farmers as well as the environment. 

The seaweed works because it contains ingredients which prevent the microbes in the cow's gut from forming methane, without getting in the way of their normal digestion.    

The simple answer might be less cows, less meat, less milk, but there are a lot of people who are going to resist that move, so a reduction and avoidance strategy is definitely needed.

What SKOOT is doing to help the environment

Well we don’t grow seaweed (yet), and we don’t focus on methane reduction as such, but being aware of the impact that our food choice has on the planet is important. 

Currently we focus on the enemy of carbon, and the greenhouse gasses we are and partnered with the Eden Reforestation to plant Mangrove trees in Kenya. 

The specific tree we have chosen is the Mangrove, known to be one of the world's super trees. Mangroves can store and remove from the atmosphere 5.9kg of carbon (another earth warming greenhouse gas) in their first year of life alone. Not only this, but they are 5 times better at removing carbon than North Hemisphere trees.

We have planted 300k trees to date, which we’re really proud of with the help of our growing SKOOT community of 27,000 people. 

Our selected planting site is called Tudor Creek and all the Mangroves from businesses, individuals and communities who use the SKOOT platform are planted here. 

SKOOT can help you play your part in creating a cleaner and greener planet. Use our carbon calculator to identify your carbon footprint and then use the solutions to reduce, avoid and remove. 

Visit the SKOOT shop today to buy and plant your own trees.

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Written by
February 22, 2024
5 min read