What Is the Contribution of City-Scale Actions to the Overall Food System's Environmental Impacts? Assessing Water, Greenhouse Gas, and Land Impacts of Future Urban Food Scenarios

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Abstract

This paper develops a methodology for individual cities to use to analyze the in- and trans-boundary water, greenhouse gas (GHG), and land impacts of city-scale food system actions. Applied to Delhi, India, the analysis demonstrates that city-scale action can rival typical food policy interventions that occur at larger scales, although no single city-scale action can rival in all three environmental impacts. In particular, improved food-waste management within the city (7% system-wide GHG reduction) matches the GHG impact of preconsumer trans-boundary food waste reduction. The systems approach is particularly useful in illustrating key trade-offs and co-benefits. For instance, multiple diet shifts that can reduce GHG emissions have trade-offs that increase water and land impacts. Vertical farming technology (VFT) with current applications for fruits and vegetables can provide modest system-wide water (4%) and land reductions (3%), although implementation within the city itself may raise questions of constraints in water-stressed cities, with such a shift in Delhi increasing community-wide direct water use by 16%. Improving the nutrition status for the bottom 50% of the population to the median diet is accompanied by proportionally smaller increases of water, GHG, and land impacts (4%, 9%, and 8%, systemwide): increases that can be offset through simultaneous city-scale actions, e.g., improved food-waste management and VFT.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12035-12045
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Volume51
Issue number20
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 17 2017

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Greenhouse gases
Environmental impact
greenhouse gas
environmental impact
food
Water
Nutrition
Waste management
water
waste management
Vegetables
diet
Fruits
Gas emissions
food policy
land
city
vegetable
water use
nutrition

Cite this

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title = "What Is the Contribution of City-Scale Actions to the Overall Food System's Environmental Impacts?: Assessing Water, Greenhouse Gas, and Land Impacts of Future Urban Food Scenarios",
abstract = "This paper develops a methodology for individual cities to use to analyze the in- and trans-boundary water, greenhouse gas (GHG), and land impacts of city-scale food system actions. Applied to Delhi, India, the analysis demonstrates that city-scale action can rival typical food policy interventions that occur at larger scales, although no single city-scale action can rival in all three environmental impacts. In particular, improved food-waste management within the city (7{\%} system-wide GHG reduction) matches the GHG impact of preconsumer trans-boundary food waste reduction. The systems approach is particularly useful in illustrating key trade-offs and co-benefits. For instance, multiple diet shifts that can reduce GHG emissions have trade-offs that increase water and land impacts. Vertical farming technology (VFT) with current applications for fruits and vegetables can provide modest system-wide water (4{\%}) and land reductions (3{\%}), although implementation within the city itself may raise questions of constraints in water-stressed cities, with such a shift in Delhi increasing community-wide direct water use by 16{\%}. Improving the nutrition status for the bottom 50{\%} of the population to the median diet is accompanied by proportionally smaller increases of water, GHG, and land impacts (4{\%}, 9{\%}, and 8{\%}, systemwide): increases that can be offset through simultaneous city-scale actions, e.g., improved food-waste management and VFT.",
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