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.

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. 

Image: Max Pixel, Agriculture Tractor Arable, CC0 Public Domain
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.

Image: Marco Verch, A glass of fresh orange juice with fruit oranges, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
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. 

Image: Max Pixel, Red Tomato Horizontal, CC0 Public Domain
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.

Image: Louise.ward, Blue Apron meal kit, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International
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.

Image: Eric, Cooked shrimp, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
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.

Image: Nadya Peek, Solar cooker, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
11 February 2019

Using home-made solar cookers instead of microwaves could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and electricity use as well as enhance social well-being and motivate people to behave more sustainably, according to this paper, which considers Spain as an example.

Image: Pxhere, farm barn food, CC0 Public Domain
11 February 2019

This life cycle assessment of beef cattle production in the United States calculates greenhouse gas emissions, fossil energy use, blue water consumption and reactive nitrogen loss per kg of carcass weight.

Image: Pixnio, Food meal knife, Public domain
4 February 2019

FCRN member Diego Rose has written a paper on the links between dietary choices in the United States (based on real dietary data), environmental impacts, and nutrition quality, finding that the diets with the lowest greenhouse gas emissions per calorie generally scored better on the US Healthy Eating Index.

Image: United Soybean Board, Soybean Field Rows, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
29 January 2019

This paper presents a ‘carbon benefits index’ to measure how land use change contributes to global carbon storage and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The index accounts for both the carbon that could be stored if the land were reforested, and the carbon emissions of producing the same food elsewhere.

Image: Farm Watch, Dairy Cow, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
29 January 2019

FCRN member Marie Trydeman Knudsen has co-authored this life cycle assessment of organic versus conventional milk production in Western Europe, which highlights the importance of including soil carbon changes, ecotoxicity and biodiversity in environmental assessments.

Image: Alan Light, GIOCO restaurant, Chicago, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
8 October 2018

FCRN member Eugene Mohareb of the University of Reading is the lead author on a paper that quantifies greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with the US food supply chain. The paper argues that the majority of food system emissions could be best mitigated by urban areas and urban consumers (see below for definitions), rather by production side mitigation measures. The paper assesses how municipalities and urban dwellers might be able to contribute to deep, long-term emissions cuts along the food supply chain.

Image: Pxhere, Grass farm animal, CC0 Public Domain
2 October 2018

Relatively intensive, high-yield farming systems often have lower environmental impacts per unit of product, according to a new paper. The paper used a new framework to measure both land use and major environmental externalities (greenhouse gas emissions, water use, and nitrogen, phosphorus and soil losses) for several different farming systems.

Image: Stacy Spensley, Apple cores, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
9 May 2018

FCRN member Ramy Salemdeeb of Ricardo Energy & Environment used Life Cycle Assessment to calculate 14 different categories of environmental impacts of three food waste management options: incineration, composting and anaerobic digestion. Composting had the lowest impacts in 7 out of the 14 impact categories.

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