Quotation Helander, Hanna, Bruckner, Martin, Leipold, Sina, Petit-Boix, Anna, Bringezu, Stefan. 2021. Eating healthy or wasting less? Reducing resource footprints of food consumption. Environmental Research Letters. 16 (5), 054033




To feed future populations on ever-scarcer natural resources, policy initiatives aim to decrease resource footprints of food consumption. While adopting healthier diets has shown great potential to reduce footprints, current political initiatives primarily address strategies to reduce food waste, with the target of halving food waste at retail and consumption levels by 2030. Using Germany as a case study, we compare the resource-saving potential of this political target with three scenarios of nutritionally viable, plant-based dietary patterns and investigate interactions and trade-offs. By using the food and agriculture biomass input-output model, we capture biomass, cropland, and blue water footprints of global supply chains. The results show that dietary changes are particularly effective in reducing biomass and cropland footprints, showing a decrease of up to 61% and 48% respectively, whereas halving food waste decreases biomass and cropland footprints by 11% and 15% respectively. For blue water savings, halving food waste is more effective: water use decreases by 14% compared to an increase of 6% for dietary change with the highest water consumption.Subsequently, a combination of the scenarios shows the highest total reduction potential. However, our findings reveal that despite reduced footprints, a dietary shift can lead to an increased amount of food waste due to the rising consumption of products associated with higher food waste shares. Therefore, policy strategies addressing both targets might be contradicting. We conclude that international and national policies can be most effective in achieving higher resource efficiency by exploiting the reduction potentials of all available strategies while simultaneously considering strategy interactions.


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Publication's profile

Status of publication Published
Affiliation WU
Type of publication Journal article
Journal Environmental Research Letters
Citation Index SCI
Language English
Title Eating healthy or wasting less? Reducing resource footprints of food consumption
Volume 16
Number 5
Year 2021
Page from 054033
URL https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/abe673
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/abe673
Open Access Y
Open Access Link https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/abe673


FINEPRINT (Spatially explicit material footprints: Fine-scale assessment of Europe's global environmental and social impacts)
Bruckner, Martin (Details)
Bringezu, Stefan (University of Kassel, Germany)
Helander, Hanna (University of Freiburg, Germany)
Leipold, Sina (University of Freiburg, Germany)
Petit-Boix, Anna (University of Freiburg, Germany)
Institute for Ecological Economics IN (Details)
Research areas (Ă–STAT Classification 'Statistik Austria')
2944 Human ecology (Details)
2959 Sustainable development, sustainable economics (Details)
4119 Regenerable raw materials (Details)
4907 Interdisciplinary agricultural and forestry science (Details)
4924 Sustainable development, sustainable economics (Details)
5353 Environmental economics (Details)
5368 Sustainable development, sustainable economics (Details)
5914 Environmental research (Details)
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