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The environmental footprint calculator has one major flaw that we need to discuss.

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Are you one of more and more people seeking to minimize the environmental damage caused by producing the food you eat? In that case, you can use the common “environmental footprint” method to decide what to buy.


Environmental footprint To measure Environmental damage Caused by the product throughout its life. In the case of food, this includes the effects of growing crops and livestock, and producing necessary inputs such as fertilizers. Includes packaging and shipping.

But unfortunately, the environmental footprint often doesn’t tell a complete story. When consumers switch to foods that are considered more environmentally friendly, their production expands at the expense of other products. This has the consequence that the environmental footprint is not taken into account.

Environmental footprint calculators may promise to help consumers lead a more environmentally friendly life. However, in reality, it may encourage choices that are not beneficial to the environment and can even be harmful.

Problematic assumptions

We are experts in assessing the effectiveness of climate change mitigation for agricultural systems. We regularly provide policy advice to governments, UN agencies and other organizations.

Environmental footprint Calculator design is internationally guided Standards body And policy makers, European Union.. This tool is usually found on the websites of environmental groups, government agencies, companies and other organizations.

Calculators aim to guide consumer choice by assessing the environmental impact of current production. But this is a problem.

The currently calculated product footprint assumes that production is constant as production is scaled up or down, which is often not the case. As product demand changes, this naturally has a knock-on effect.It may make more sense Agricultural land Need or River water Used to irrigate a variety of crops.

In the following, we will consider three ways in which the environmental footprint provides misleading images of the true impact of the product.

1. Land use

Agriculture contributes significantly to Greenhouse gas emissions— Mainly due to animal belching, but also due to the production and use of synthetic fertilizers.

Organic farming primarily does not use synthetic fertilizers, which helps reduce agricultural emissions.However, some studies suggest converting to Organic farming Production can also exacerbate greenhouse gas emissions.

one study In England and Wales, we looked at what would happen if all food production was converted to organic farming.I got you Global greenhouse gas emissions From food production About 60%..

This is because the production of organic systems is low and more crops and livestock need to be produced abroad to make up for the shortfall. Creating this farmland means cleaning the vegetation. carbon dioxide When it disassembles.

Also, when grassland is converted to arable land, the organic carbon in the soil is also lost. The increase in soil carbon storage from organic farming offsets only a small portion of the increase in emissions from abroad.

The type of farmland used is also important when considering the consequences of switching from one food to another.

Approximately 325 million hectares of land in Australia Raise cows Produce Red meat..This land is often It can not be used You can’t grow crops because they are too dry, steep, vegetated, and rocky.

When consumers switch from lean meat to a plant-based diet, more land suitable for growing crops, either in Australia or abroad, to produce alternative proteins such as legumes and plant-based meat. will become necessary.

In Australia, existing arable land is already being used to supply crops to domestic and global markets.Therefore, the new land should be suitable for produceBy cultivating grazing land or logging. Alternatively, you can increase crop production by using more fertilizers and other inputs.

Emissions associated with these shifts are not included in the carbon footprint of plant-based protein production.

2. Water

It is generally Assumption Choosing a smaller product water The footprint increases the water of rivers and lakes that replenish the environment. However, in Australia, policies and markets determine how water is used.

Irrigation water can be exchanged between users. When water-intensive crops, such as rice, are no longer cultivated, farmers most often use water to grow or replace other crops. In such a scenario, the water is not returned to the environment.

Similarly, lower lean meat production does not necessarily mean more water for the environment.

Farmers whose land is adjacent to rivers and other bodies of water Can take Water for livestock to drink. The less livestock, the more water available in the river, research In Australia, it suggests that this water is extracted for household use, especially in dry years.

3. Products produced together

Many produce is produced along with other produce. For example, cows slaughtered for lean meat also produce leather, meat-and-bone meal, and tallow. Similarly, sheep can produce wool when they are alive and other products when they are slaughtered.

Therefore, if consumers avoid lean meat due to high carbon dioxide emissions, the relevant products will also need to be replaced, which has an impact on the environment.

For example, if synthetic materials replace wool and leather, the demand for petroleum can increase. Alternatively, replacing wool with bio-based products such as cotton and linen will increase the demand for agricultural land.

One way to reduce livestock emissions has been to increase the milk yield per cow and reduce the number of cows.But research It suggests that you may not get the results you intended.

The smaller the number of cows, the smaller the number of calves used to produce calves. Studies show that the less veal you have, the more lean meat you need to produce elsewhere, and there is no overall reduction in emissions.

It is realistic to assume that more lean meat will be needed.Although per capita beef consumption has declined in some areas Western countriesThe global demand for beef 2030 As the wealth of developing countries increases and the world’s population grows.

Towards a healthier planet

We and other professionals are trying more and more Raise awareness of simplification The nature of the environmental footprint.

It is important to recognize the limitations of current methods and create tools to fully assess the outcome of consumer decisions.

The development of these tools challengeDue to the many uncertainties involved, and will require considerable research investment.

But it will lead to better environmental policies, less unintended consequences, and a healthier planet.


European diet needs to be changed to reduce climate impact


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Quote: The Environmental Footprint Calculator was obtained from https://phys.org/news/2022-02-environmental-footprint-big-flaw.html on February 17, 2022 (February 17, 2022). There is one major flaw that needs to be discussed.

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The environmental footprint calculator has one major flaw that we need to discuss.

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