Knowledge for better food systems

Showing results for: Life cycle analysis

Life cycle assessment (LCA) is the most common method used for quantifying environmental impacts and resource use throughout the entire lifecycle of a product or service. Taking into account all the stages of production, from raw material inputs through to (agricultural) production, manufacture, distribution, transport, use and disposal, LCA aims to make a fair and holistic assessment of one or more products or production methods. Comparisons between different LCA studies, while in theory an invaluable tool for businesses and consumers wishing to reduce their environmental footprint, face various difficulties. For example, two studies examining the environmental impacts of a type of fruit may differ in the variables which they choose to include and the scope of their analysis. In addition, the data on which they rely may be more or less reliable, may differ even when the same input is being considered, or be recorded at different times.

Photo © Dave Smith via Flickr
24 March 2017

This research article provides a new quantitative analysis of data on global feed use and feed use efficiency by livestock, in order to help shed light on livestock’s role in food security.

8 February 2017

This article by T.C. Ponsioen of Wageningen University, and H.M.G. van der Werf of INRA, discusses the major sources of inconsistency in life cycle assessment (LCA) analyses of food and drink, and makes recommendations to address these inconsistencies. The article begins by describing the many attempts that have been made to standardise (or ‘harmonise’) environmental footprints of food and drink, and identifies five main areas which lack consensus.

Photo: Susan Lucas Hoffman, Greek Salad, Flickr, creative commons licence 2.0)
24 October 2016

At a time when interest in the sustainability of food is increasing, the need for well-defined, interdisciplinary metrics of the sustainability of diets is evident. In this study, a group of researchers from Michigan performed a systematic literature review of empirical research studies on sustainable diets to identify the components of sustainability that were measured and the methods applied to do so.

18 October 2016

While insects have physiological and biological differences which make them more efficient than traditional livestock species, little information exists pertaining to the factors which influence the assessment of the environmental sustainability of insects and their subsequent production systems. 

Photo: Joshua Rappeneker, Beef, Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0
11 October 2016

An academic debate on the controversial possibility of decreasing greenhouse gas emissions via increased beef production in the Brazilian Cerrado finds a new set of commentators, who have responded to an original paper by de Oliveira Silva et al. earlier in 2016 in the same journal, Nature Climate Change.

Photo: Jeff Kubina, French cooking class, Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0
6 September 2016

Performing full life cycle assessment on foods and diets is a data- and resource-intensive undertaking and as a result many studies tend to adopt a simplified approach, for example by limiting the number of food studied (in the case of diets), using proxy data, or limiting the system boundaries (cradle to farm gate; cradle to retailer – ie. not the full cradle to the consumer’s mouth).

Photo: USDA, People eating out at a fast food restaurant, Flickr, creative commons licence 2.0
16 August 2016

This paper provides a detailed case study of the history and controversy surrounding the proposed inclusion of sustainability information in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, as recommended by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) – a body composed of nutritionists, physicians, and public health experts, tasked with reviewing the evidence base for the guidelines every 5 years.

28 June 2016

Nanotechnology – the designing of ultra-small particles – is part of the evolving science of precision agriculture, and could potentially solve some of the world’s most pressing problems at the food-energy-water nexus as it requires fewer natural resources and water, and enhances plant nutritional values. 

17 December 2015

This paper by FCRN member Corné van Dooren and colleague Harry Aiking has been published in the International Journal of LCA. The study quantifies the historical Dutch diet of 80 years ago, based on cultural history research. The researchers calculate the greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE) and land use (LU) of this diet, using actual LCA data for the 206 most consumed products, and the health score, based on ten nutritional characteristics.

11 September 2015

Unsustainable patterns of consumption and production threaten global development and environmental well-being. Ensuring sustainable consumption and production should take a life cycle approach, and central to this is the development of product sustainability information (PSI).

This publication provides four key recommendations in order to advance a coherent and context-relevant use of PSI that is useful for consumer decision-making:

5 May 2015

Livestock, domestic animals raised for meat, dairy and eggs, is responsible for 14.5 percent of anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  Because of the scale of its contribution, mitigation of emissions from the livestock sector must be addressed in order to avoid an average global temperature rise of more than 2°C compared to pre-industrial times. 

19 April 2015

Sustainable intensification is receiving growing attention as a way to address the challenge of feeding an increasingly populous and resource-constrained world. But are we asking too much of it? Nearly 20 years after the concept was developed, this briefing revisits the term and asks what sustainable intensification is — a useful guiding framework for raising agricultural productivity on existing arable land in a sustainable manner; and what it is not -a paradigm for achieving food security overall.

26 February 2015

The report Life cycle assessment of tap water: Analysis and comparison with other beverages traces the entire life cycle from water catchment/extraction to serving it up in a glass. The report compares tap water with mineral water and other beverages and shows (unsurprisingly) that from an environmental point of view, tap water is preferable to bottled water and all other beverages. The report was produced by ESU Services – a sustainability consulting firm and commissioned by the Swiss Gas and Water Association (SVGW) in 2014.

29 January 2015

This paper presents two ways of including environmental and nutritional aspects in the sustainability assessment of diets. Three diets were assessed using these two methods: a diet issued from the National Food Agency as a recommended diet reflecting food preferences in Sweden (SNÖ), a diet corresponding to current average food consumption in Sweden according to the latest food intake survey (Riksmaten) and a Low Carbohydrate-High Fat (LCHF) diet, which is a popular life-style diet in Sweden currently.

Pages