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Sustainable Food Guide
Environmental Practice at Work © 2005 Link:EP@W Ltd Web Site



'The environment' means “everything that surrounds us, including ourselves” (according to A.Einstein).

'The environment' is often seen as a picture of the earth.

This image says:

  • "we have a limited earth"
  • "we can only pollute and plunder so much"
  • "we should be taking more care".

Ultimately, there are absolute limits on what the environment can do - sometimes called the "carrying capacity". The term 'Sustainability' means everybody living within the limits of this earth - so that we can do so forever. Otherwise, future generations - those we are thought to care about, won't enjoy their lives because of what we are doing now. And the two biggest global environmental concerns are Climate Change and its flipside - depletion of the most valuable resource, Oil.

graphic footrpint

The ecological footprint (EF) gives an estimate of the the total impact of our activities on the environment. Footprint North West (pdf)  works out the footprint of household food on a per capita basis. The total ecological footprint of North West Engalnd is 6.2 gha/cap - which is the same as the total footprint for the UK. Over a quarter of this total footprint is due to food production: Household food production, supply and consumption is the highest single component of the total ecological footprint at 1.4 gha (global hectares) per resident, plus 0.17 gha for catering and packaging 0.07 gha. We can call this the "food footprint".

When this  "food footprint" is translated into land, it means that UK food production and distribution requires about 5X the area of Britain - half because of land use directly, half due to energy consumption. For more on Food Footprint What Who WhyHow

A Life Cycle Analysis (DEFRA funded) into the environmental burdens and resource use in the production of agricultural and horticultural commodities shows that Nitrous oxide (N2O) is the single largest contributor to global warming potential (GWP) for all commodities except tomatoes. Summary of findings

The impacts on the environment can also be measured in terms of money. Estimated Costs of agriculture on environment (UK) The most comprehensive study of the environmental impacts of UK Food consumption is from Manchester Business School

Often 'the environment' is classed according to its physical elements, land, air and water. Using this, we have chosen 5 environmental issues of particular concern for food and these could be classified according to

Land - Organic, Air Climate Change, WaterFish, and a Mixture of all three – Energy Efficiency and Pesticide Use.


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