Calculating the environmental impact for meals

Joe Livingstone, Paul Brereton, Beatrice Smyth, Vasilis Grigoriadis, Anne Nugent, W George Hutchinson, Jelena Vlajic, Francisco Areal , Orla Collins, Novieta Sari, Rao Fu, Lynn Frewer

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review

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The aim of this work is to assess the environmental impact of various restaurant and quick service meals. It will also outline different methods of environmental impact assessment, highlighting key limitations and implications for standardisation.
The environmental impact of different meals was assessed using life cycle assessment techniques. The scope and boundary of this life cycle assessment were co-created based on stakeholder inputs and scientific evidence. This resulted in an agreed system boundary of farm-to-shelf for the ingredients included in each meal, i.e. environmental impacts resulting from transport between local distribution centre and restaurant or home were not included. Where required, secondary data was used as inputs for the assessment. Environmental impact was assessed using the global warming potential (GWP) metric and Envrioscore. Enviroscore is a 5-scale label that relativizes the environmental impact of a given product based on the Product Environmental Footprint methodology. This work applies Enviroscore to complete meals for the first time.
A variety of meals, including meat based and vegetarian dishes were assessed using the GWP and Enviroscore metrics. Meals were ranked based on their GWP and also based on an Enviroscore label, ranging from A (very low environmental impact) to E (very high environmental impact). Results of the GWP and Enviroscore were then compared to determine any discrepancies between the two impact assessment techniques.
In general and as expected, vegetarian meals have a lower environmental impact than meat-based meals, however, this depends greatly on the means of production used for each ingredient assessed. In terms of impact assessment method, the Envirscore provides a more holistic approach with 13 different environmental impact metrics considered. However, there is much more data available to use when assessing the global warming potential. A detailed comparison of GWP vs Environscore when applied to a range of quick service meals will be presented.
Both the global warming potential and Enviroscore are effective ways to assess the environmental impacts of meals. However, their impact will depend greatly on the availability of accurate and detailed information. A key limitation going forward will be the availability and quality of data used for meal inputs.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 06 Nov 2023
Event37th EFFoST International Conference 2023: Sustainable Food and Industry 4.0: Towards the 2030 Agenda - Valencia, Spain
Duration: 06 Nov 202308 Nov 2023
Conference number: 37


Conference37th EFFoST International Conference 2023
Internet address


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