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The environmental footprint: a method to determine the\ud environmental impact of agricultural production

By Robert Lillywhite


The environmental impact of producing agricultural commodities is an increasingly important topic at a time when climate change, an increasing population and competing demands for food, fibre and fuel are placing heavy demands upon the environment. There are already various methods available for quantifying environmental impact; however, none of them are flexible enough to account for multiple indicators while producing a simple, easy to comprehend result. Life cycle assessment (LCA) can be used to quantify every aspect of a production process and in agriculture has proved valuable in quantifying the inputs and outputs of resources and pollutants that are associated with the production of food commodities. However, the amount of detail that makes the LCA such a valuable tool can also make the results difficult to interpret. Carbon dioxide equivalents (carbon footprints) can be used to quantify the greenhouse gases emitted during a production process and have the advantage, in comparison to the LCA, of presenting the results as a single figure. This approach, as used in the forthcoming PAS 2050, is ideally suited to the retail market but is too simplistic to account for all the environmental burdens that agricultural production entails. This paper introduces a hybrid method, the environmental footprint, which incorporates four environmental indicators (pesticides, greenhouse gas emissions, eutrophication and acidification, and water use) and presents the result as a single figure on a per hectare basis

Topics: S1
Publisher: Association of Applied Biologists
Year: 2008
OAI identifier:

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