Material Footprint of a Sustainable Nutrition System in 2050 – Need for Dynamic Innovations in Production, Consumption and Politics

The field of nutrition is facing numerous social, ecological and economic challenges in the coming decades. The food industry belongs to the most significant economic sectors worldwide and the increasing population of 9 billion in 2050 will cause a growing demand on food. So far, changing lifestyles, especially the global rising consumption of meat and dairy products are increasing environmental damage. Moreover our health and wellbeing are the direct result of healthy or unhealthy nourishment and influence follow-up indicators like individual and public health, the expense of the health sector and work productivity. The material footprint is a tool to measure and optimize the resource consumption of both products and their ingredients and the production processes along the whole value chain. It covers the whole life cycle of the products, from the extraction of raw materials to the processing industry, distribution, consumption, recycling, and disposal. In order to decrease resource consumption to a level in line with the planetary boundaries, the material footprint of household consumption should achieve a level of six to eight tonnes per capita in a year by 2050. This means a reduction in natural resource consumption by a factor of 5 to 10 in Western European countries. In order to ensure a decent lifestyle for all people in 2050, also the material footprint of nutrition has to be reduced significantly by 2050. The paper shows the relevance and role of nutrition in the overall material footprint of households on the basis of existing studies on the overall resource consumption caused by household consumption. Quantified meal and diet examples are given. It also discusses the causes of food waste and raises the question how a reduction of food waste is possible and can help decreasing the resource consumption in the food sector. On the basis of this, requirements are developed nutrition has to meet in 2050 in order to achieve a sustainable level of natural resource use. E.g. by eating 600 kg of food with an average material footprint of 5 kg/kg a food-related resource consumption level of three tonnes per capita in a year could be achieved. The paper discusses options to achieve these requirements as well as dynamics and innovations that are needed from the perspective of production, consumption and politics. It discusses practical implications of a sustainable resource use in nutrition and gives recommendations on how to proceed towards it. Resource efficiency and waste prevention potentials in food chain as well as other requirements for a sustainable level of resource use in nutrition are discussed.

Schiefer, Gerhard
Rickert, Ursula
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Conference Paper/ Presentation
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ISSN 2194-511X (Other)
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 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2020-10-28

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