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.

21 July 2020

This paper, co-authored by the FCRN’s Tara Garnett and John Lynch of the Oxford Livestock, Environment and People programme, identifies and discusses four challenges associated with attributional life cycle assessment.

23 June 2020

This report from the Food System Impact Valuation Initiative (FoodSIVI) at the University of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute examines how the social impacts of food systems can be reported in monetary terms. It suggests that calculating the costs and benefits of food system interventions could help direct spending towards the most effective measures.

5 May 2020

This paper by FCRN member Daniel Tan finds that bioethanol derived from agave grown in semi-arid areas of Australia could have lower environmental impacts than biofuels derived from US corn and Brazilian sugarcane. Agave is widely grown in Mexico to make the alcoholic drink tequila. 

31 March 2020

This systematic review looks at dietary patterns and food sustainability in the United States. It estimates that the healthy US-style diet recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is associated with similar or higher levels of greenhouse gas emissions, energy use and water use compared to the current US diet.

24 March 2020

FCRN member Hayo van der Werf has co-authored this perspective paper, which argues that current Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodologies tend to favour intensive farming systems and misrepresent organic and agroecological systems.

16 March 2020

This e-book, which has been translated into English, sets out the carbon, water and ecological footprints of foods and culinary preparations (items composed of more than one ingredient) consumed in Brazil. 

16 March 2020

FCRN member Elin Röös has co-authored this paper, which finds that the average Swedish diet far exceeds the planetary boundaries (scaled to the per capita level) suggested by the EAT-Lancet Commission for greenhouse gas emissions, cropland use, application of nutrients and biodiversity. The diet is within the boundary for freshwater use.

19 November 2019

This book looks at how the food industry and the environment interact, describes how the industry has developed over the past decade, and sets out suggestions to improve the food industry’s future environmental performance.

11 November 2019

This book explores different indicators that are used to assess the sustainability of food systems and how projects using these metrics can affect communities and policies.

11 November 2019

The European Livestock and Meat Trades Union has published a standardised methodology to calculate and mitigate the environmental impacts of beef, pork and lamb. The guidelines have been designed to allow individual companies to identify “hotspots” of environmental impacts within their own supply chains.

22 October 2019

This book summarises current best practice in using life cycle assessment to quantify and improve the environmental impacts of different agricultural systems. 

2 October 2019

This paper explores ways of ending hunger without causing excessive environmental damage. It finds that ending hunger through economic growth alone (an approach that would try to increase overall food availability without addressing food consumption inequality) would require 20% more food production by 2030 than in business-as-usual, as well as generating higher carbon emissions and using more agricultural land.

16 July 2019

FCRN member Ujué Fresán has co-authored this paper, which calculates the environmental impacts associated with the packaging of several breakfast foods (including orange juice, cereals and peanut butter). For each food product, significant differences in carbon footprint were found, depending on packaging size, packaging materials and brand. Packaging consistently accounted for a lower carbon footprint than production of the food item itself.

9 July 2019

The Plating up Progress? project, run jointly by the FCRN and the Food Foundation, has released a new investor briefing, Plating Up Progress Part 1, which looks at the sustainability risks and opportunities that exist for food retailers, caterers and restaurants. 

25 June 2019

This paper sets out a new method to account for nutrition in the functional unit of life cycle assessments of single foods. The method accounts for the wider dietary context of each food type, which is found to affect the results relative to using either mass as a functional unit, or another nutrient-based functional unit that does not consider the dietary context.

8 May 2019

This paper calculates the environmental impacts (climate change, acidification, eutrophication, land use, and water use) caused by either making a meal by using a meal kit (which contains pre-portioned ingredients for cooking a meal) or by buying the ingredients from a grocery store.

24 April 2019

This paper quantifies the resource use implications of replacing fishmeal with plant-based ingredients in the feed used to farm shrimp. It finds that increasing the proportion of plant-based ingredients in shrimp feed could reduce pressure on marine resources, at the cost of increased use of freshwater, land and fertiliser.