Eating healthy or wasting less? Reducing resource footprints of food consumption

Helander, Hanna ORCID: and Bruckner, Martin ORCID: and Leipold, Sina and Petit-Boix, Anna ORCID: and Bringezu, Stefan (2021) Eating healthy or wasting less? Reducing resource footprints of food consumption. Environmental Research Letters, 16 (5). 054033. ISSN 1748-9326

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To feed future populations on ever-scarcer natural resources, policy initiatives aim to decrease resource footprints of food consumption. While adopting healthier diets has shown great potential to reduce footprints, current political initiatives primarily address strategies to reduce food waste, with the target of halving food waste at retail and consumption levels by 2030. Using Germany as a case study, we compare the resource-saving potential of this political target with three scenarios of nutritionally viable, plant-based dietary patterns and investigate interactions and trade-offs. By using the food and agriculture biomass input-output model, we capture biomass, cropland, and blue water footprints of global supply chains. The results show that dietary changes are particularly effective in reducing biomass and cropland footprints, showing a decrease of up to 61% and 48% respectively, whereas halving food waste decreases biomass and cropland footprints by 11% and 15% respectively. For blue water savings, halving food waste is more effective: water use decreases by 14% compared to an increase of 6% for dietary change with the highest water consumption.Subsequently, a combination of the scenarios shows the highest total reduction potential. However, our findings reveal that despite reduced footprints, a dietary shift can lead to an increased amount of food waste due to the rising consumption of products associated with higher food waste shares. Therefore, policy strategies addressing both targets might be contradicting. We conclude that international and national policies can be most effective in achieving higher resource efficiency by exploiting the reduction potentials of all available strategies while simultaneously considering strategy interactions.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Accepted Manuscript is ‘the version of the article accepted for publication including all changes made as a result of the peer review process, and which may also include the addition to the article by IOP of a header, an article ID, a cover sheet and/or an ‘Accepted Manuscript’ watermark, but excluding any other editing, typesetting or other changes made by IOP and/or its licensors’.
Keywords: resource footprints, food waste, diets, policy
Divisions: Departments > Sozioökonomie > Ecological Economics
Version of the Document: Accepted for Publication
Depositing User: Gertraud Novotny
Date Deposited: 11 Mar 2021 11:11
Last Modified: 11 May 2021 14:34
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