How does the production of tomatoes affect the environment? Or of a piece of steak? How is food waste linked to the degradation of our planet’s environment?
To find out about this we need to understand that all the food we eat has its own particular “life cycle”, from production to consumption. The food industry consumes resources and emits greenhouse gases. This whole process has a deep impact on the environment which is exacerbated when the food which is wasted.
Whether or not we follow a diet, we have all checked out the calorie and nutrition figures shown on food labels at least once. Nowadays, all food products have a nutrition facts label that provides detailed information about the nutrients contained in a particular product. But it is not so simple to assess the environmental impact of different food items such as fish, meat, milk and dairy products, fruits and vegetables. The WWF Virtual Shopping Cart seeks to provide an assessment of the impact of foodstuffs and food waste by using two indicators (the Water and Carbon Footprints), which respectively represent water consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
From the environmental point of view, the sustainability of a food product is, in fact, a complex issue. This can be measured in several ways, depending on the factors taken into consideration: emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases; pollutants in the soil, water or atmosphere; waste produced and depletion of ecosystems. Furthermore, the sustainability of a food product is also influenced by many variables, which include the process of production and industrialization, as well as the travel distance of the product and, in the case of fruit and vegetables, the season in which they are produced.
The shopping cart with its “environmental receipts” seeks to raise awareness on the environmental impact of our behavior and choices. The “sustainable diet” can help us reduce our impact on the environment, respect the limits of the world’s ecosystems, while also adopting healthier dietary habits.