In our previous sustainability series (see part1 and part 2), we defined agricultural sustainability and highlighted the importance of agriculture in combating climate change. In this article, we will talk about our vision for increasing consumer awareness regarding the environmental footprint of food and why that is a critical step for making agricultural sustainability a reality.
But first, allow us to do a quick recap of what we talked about in our previous sustainability articles. According to the most recent United Nations report, our food system emits 37 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and is the single largest source of emissions. Yet, it remains the most challenging industry to decarbonize. Among several barriers to our food system decarbonization, the disconnect between the farm and the end consumer plays the biggest role. According to research results published by the NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business, consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable products (sustainable-marketed products on average cost 39.5% more than conventional alternatives). Despite a global pandemic, the dollar sales of sustainable marketed products have increased 56 percent in just the first half of 2020. However, when it comes to food choices, the environmental footprint of our food is often overlooked mainly due to the lack of data and information. As a result, consumers are left with little information to make decisions.
To date, little work has been done to quantify and communicate the environmental footprint of our food. Some brands have attempted to put CO2 labels on their products, but the food industry has not widely adopted that practice. Existing attempts at quantifying the environmental footprint of our food are limited to using Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) databases. However, LCA databases have mostly stayed in the hands of researchers and consultants. There is no commercially available tool that allows food companies or consumers to assess the environmental footprint of food products quickly. LCA research (see some examples of almond LCA…