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Sustainable patterns of main agricultural products combining different footprint parameters

Borsato, Eros, Tarolli, Paolo, Marinello, Francesco
Journal of cleaner production 2018 v.179 pp. 357-367
animal products, animal welfare, ecological footprint, energy, environmental management, greenhouse gas emissions, human nutrition, issues and policy, livestock, natural resources, pollution, social welfare, sustainable agriculture, vegetable products, wastes
The world population is increasing, and the human diet is becoming of considerable concern for human welfare. Furthermore, natural resources are overexploited, and governments need policies for the proper management of the environment. Sustainable agriculture can provide some solutions, as it minimizes inputs, wastes or pollution. The aim of the present study is to provide a combined analysis of different footprint approaches to allow comparison of different agricultural and livestock products regarding the efficiency of resource exploitation. Water consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and energy indexes are included in this study as footprint indicators. The study takes advantage of indexes collected from an extensive bibliography focused on different fresh agricultural products; the target is the definition of a timetable of footprints for agricultural products. Starting from a top-down perspective, an analysis of the environmental footprint for different products is an approach to understanding which products can be more sustainable for the human diet. For this reason, this study distinguishes different clusters in different sub-clusters of vegetable products and animal products. The comparison of the footprint indicators of water consumption regarding yield, greenhouse gas emissions equivalent, and energy provide a ranking of sustainability for a given product. Ultimately, this work seeks to propose an original pattern of food sustainability, allowing an adequate quantitative comparison of agriculture products for a more conscious human diet.