Acting against climate change starting from your table

Through the adoption of a healthy and sustainable diet we can act against climate change and limit global warming: choosing what to eat can make a difference, because every food has a footprint on the environment.

The food footprint

Which is the impact of our food choices on the environment?

Every food has its own life cycle, from the field to the table. The food industry uses increasingly scarce resources, such as land and water, and emits pollutants and greenhouse gases during the production, processing, packaging, transportation, as well as the wholesale and retail distribution of the food we eat.

For example, the cultivation of raw materials for human consumption or to be used as feed for livestock farming requires the use of water, fertilizers, agrochemicals and diesel fuel for agricultural operations, and is often the cause of major deforestation. The relevance of these factors on the overall impact varies greatly depending on different crops, areas and cultivation techniques used. For example, raw materials grown out of season have greater environmental impacts caused by the use of heated greenhouses that consume energy.

The processing of raw materials into finished products involves the use of water and energy to make the production lines work and to ensure proper food refrigeration, when required. The more complex the production chain, the more the raw materials undergo handling and processing before reaching the consumer, and the more the impact grows. Conversely, food that needs minimal processing, such as vegetables or fruit, normally have a minor impact.

Even the packaging of finished products causes an impact associated with the production of the packing itself and its final disposal, which requires complex management and is often an inefficient process. 25% of the plastic material that ends up and pollutes the environment consists of food packaging.


Finally, the transportation of packaged products from processing plants to distribution and sales points can have a different impact depending on the means of transport used and the number of kilometers traveled. 

The whole process has a heavy impact on the environment, which is even greater if the food produced and purchased is wasted.

All these stages in the food life cycle contribute to the food footprint. In particular:

the carbon footprint of a food indicates the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change connected with its production, measured in CO2 equivalent mass;

the water footprint of a food indicates the quantity and type of water (e.g., fresh, rainwater) used directly or indirectly, lost or polluted along the various stages of the food supply chain, measured in cubic liters or meters;

the ecological footprint of a food indicates the land or sea biologically productive area needed to provide resources and absorb the emissions associated with its production, measured in square meters or global hectares.  

Choose what to eat to save the Planet

To adopt a sustainable diet every day, you can follow some key tips.

5. Not all foods have the same environmental footprint, i.e. the same impact. Choosing low carbon and low water impact foods such as vegetables, pulses, fruit and whole grains, and limiting the consumption of animal-based foods such as red meat and dairy products, can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect water resources. 

6. Low impact foods also have a beneficial effect on our health. These foods are in fact good not only for the Planet but also for our health and longevity, because they allow us to follow a more balanced diet.

7. Reducing food waste means reducing the impact of what has been unnecessarily produced. Buying only the food you need, storing it properly, checking the expiration dates and preparing food in the right quantities means eliminating the impact of the uneaten food, which would otherwise become waste.

8. Choosing what to buy and how to prepare food allows you to reduce the consumption and waste of resources and materials. Choosing foods with little or no packaging means reducing the use, and therefore the disposal, of materials such as plastic, paper, cardboard and glass. The way we prepare food can also help preserving resources, for example by reducing the water used.