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

Michael Lettenmeier, Christine Göbel, Christa Liedtke, Holger Rohn, Petra Teitscheid


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.

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ISSN 2194-511X


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