Environmental concerns of food consumption
Module 1, Unit 5, Level: Basic
Gas and water consumption
Environment, production, sustainable consumption, environmental footprint, water footprint, local food, environmental impact, greenhouse gases
Food production and consumption have a considerable impact on the environment. Although farming techniques have evolved and crop yields have increased in recent decades, the growing demand will not only require a larger amount of water, energy and land use but also will drive to global warming.
Studies say that for most foods, most GHG emissions result from land use change and from processes at the farm stage (fertilizers and methane emissions). Conversely, transport is a small contributor to emissions, which may initially come as a surprise, as it accounts for less than 10% for most food products.
Overall, animal-based foods tend to have a higher footprint than plant-based. By choosing what to eat and what to cut back on, we can reduce the carbon footprint of our food, as well as the water footprint. Sometimes it can be difficult to measure climate impact since there are many steps between the farm and our house.
To learn more about how food production and consumption impact the environment and how we can include environmental considerations in our diet, we can consult a lot of reports, studies and blog post from environmental organizations and initiatives such us FAO, UNEP (UN), EIT Food or the European Commission – DG Env and DG SANTE.
By adopting sustainable diets and preventing food waste, we’ll also contribute to reach the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12 defined by the UN: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.
Beef, chocolate, rice, tomatoes, avocados, cereal
People across the world are becoming increasingly concerned about climate change and this has resulted in a growing awareness about the impact of our diet and food choices on the environment.
However, there is still a need for raise awareness on the long-term effects on the environment caused by food production and consumption. Moreover, sometimes the information on sustainable choices is hard to collect and track. Another key aspect to take into account is the availability and price of sustainable food.
The EU, with the goal of addressing this problem, has created several initiatives such as the EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste or the Farm to Fork Strategy which, at the heart of the European Green, aims to accelerate our transition to a sustainable food system. Main elements of this strategy include improving consumer information, strengthening sustainable food procurement and encouraging adoption of fiscal measures that support sustainable food consumption.
FAO. 2011. Global food losses and food waste: https://www.fao.org/3/i2697e/i2697e.pdf
FAO. THE STATE OF THE WORLD’S H LAND AND WATER RESOURCES FOR FOOD AND AGRICULTURE. https://www.fao.org/3/i1688e/i1688e.pdf
Environmental impacts of food production and consumption:
EC. Farm to Fork strategy:
EC. EU actions against food waste: