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Article

A Life Cycle Assessment Approach for Vegetables in Large-, Mid-, and Small-Scale Food Systems in the Midwest US

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Natural Resource Ecology and Management, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011, USA
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Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011, USA
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Horticulture, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011, USA
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Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Tripti Agarwal, Chubamenla Jamir and Durba Kashyap
Sustainability 2021, 13(20), 11368; https://doi.org/10.3390/su132011368
Received: 15 August 2021 / Revised: 7 October 2021 / Accepted: 11 October 2021 / Published: 14 October 2021
Although vegetables are important for healthy diets, there are concerns about the sustainability of food systems that provide them. For example, half of fresh-market vegetables sold in the United States (US) are produced in California, leading to negative impacts associated with transportation. In Iowa, the focus of this study, 90% of food is imported from outside the state. Previous life cycle assessment (LCA) studies indicate that food consumption patterns affect global warming potential (GWP), with animal products having more negative impacts than vegetables. However, studies focused on how GWP, energy, and water use vary between food systems and vegetable types are less common. The purpose of this study was to examine these environmental impacts to inform decisions to buy locally or grow vegetables in the Midwest. We used a life cycle approach to examine three food systems (large-, mid-, and small-scale) and 18 vegetables commonly grown in/near Des Moines, Iowa. We found differences in GWP, energy, and water use (p ≤ 0.001 for each) for the three food systems with the large-scale scenario producing more emissions. There were also differences among vegetables, with the highest GWP for romaine lettuce (1.92 CO2eq/kg vegetable) approximately three times that of leaf lettuce (0.65 CO2eq/kg vegetable) at the large scale. Hotspots and tradeoffs between GWP, energy, and water use were also identified and could inform vegetable production/consumption based on carbon and water use footprints for the US Midwest. View Full-Text
Keywords: food-energy-water systems (FEWS) nexus; climate change action; carbon footprint; water footprint; LCA approach; local vegetable production; environmental impact mitigation; vegetable supply chain food-energy-water systems (FEWS) nexus; climate change action; carbon footprint; water footprint; LCA approach; local vegetable production; environmental impact mitigation; vegetable supply chain
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MDPI and ACS Style

Stone, T.F.; Thompson, J.R.; Rosentrater, K.A.; Nair, A. A Life Cycle Assessment Approach for Vegetables in Large-, Mid-, and Small-Scale Food Systems in the Midwest US. Sustainability 2021, 13, 11368. https://doi.org/10.3390/su132011368

AMA Style

Stone TF, Thompson JR, Rosentrater KA, Nair A. A Life Cycle Assessment Approach for Vegetables in Large-, Mid-, and Small-Scale Food Systems in the Midwest US. Sustainability. 2021; 13(20):11368. https://doi.org/10.3390/su132011368

Chicago/Turabian Style

Stone, Tiffanie F., Janette R. Thompson, Kurt A. Rosentrater, and Ajay Nair. 2021. "A Life Cycle Assessment Approach for Vegetables in Large-, Mid-, and Small-Scale Food Systems in the Midwest US" Sustainability 13, no. 20: 11368. https://doi.org/10.3390/su132011368

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