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Environmental Footprints of Food

Study objectives and scope

The objective of this study is to review and summarize existing literature regarding the environmental impacts of a variety of foods. The literature is focused on environmental life cycle analyses of foods. This information may be helpful to producers and purchasers working to reduce environmental impacts of foods.

The literature reviews were designed to identify, where possible:
  • Those activities in the life cycle that contribute significantly to environmental impacts (e.g., are most of the environmental impacts associated with fertilizer use, packaging, transportation, cold storage, or some other aspect of production or consumption?). This may aid in prioritization of voluntary environmental initiatives.
  • Relative environmental impacts of different practices (e.g., how different production, transport, processing, or packaging methods compare). This may aid in the evaluation of alternatives.
  • Limitations in the available literature. This may help users to avoid drawing conclusions that are incorrect, as well as to identify knowledge gaps that might benefit from further research.
The objective of this project is not to:
  • Conduct original life cycle analyses;
  • Evaluate production conditions specific to the Pacific Northwest;
  • Compare Pacific Northwest foods against foods produced elsewhere;
  • Inform, propose, or promulgate regulations.
The reports are part of a joint project with the Oregon Sustainability Board and were authored by a research specialist from the University of Michigan.

Study results

The life cycle of food products are complex and to review their environmental impacts DEQ researched a variety of different types of foods, some produced in whole or in part in Oregon, and some not produced here but consumed in significant quantities in Oregon. To understand the context and parameters of this project, begin your exploration with the project foreword.

In addition, DEQ’s literature review has also evaluated two issues that cut across multiple types of foods:

Background documents