The environmental impacts of producing and consuming food has been investigated over the last decade using techniques such as environmental life cycle assessment (LCA).
It gives a reasonable picture of the environmental challenges and the influencing factors that need to be tackled. The presentation will introduce what we currently know from past LCA research, but probably more importantly what questions still need to be answered from the perspective of both the researcher / policy maker and the consumer.
This background knowledge, combined with maturing data availability, lays a solid foundation for researching solutions for more environmentally sustainable food systems in Australia. However, there are challenges for progressing research in this space, which will be explored. They relate to:
i) navigating the diversity of the supply chains that make up food systems, which makes it difficult to generalise solutions (managing complexity),
ii) juggling the multiple environmental values that food systems influence, and the trade-offs that solutions invariably present (necessitating understanding of social priorities),
iii) considering environmental solutions in the context of ‘diets’ rather than individual food groups (understanding the nutritional functionality of food).
These challenges highlight the need for environmental research to be informed by other disciplines.
ABOUT THE SPEAKER:
Dr Marguerite Renouf is a Research Fellow with the Water-Energy-Carbon Research Group in the School of Chemical Engineering. Her research evaluates the environmental impacts of society’s production and consumption of goods and services, and aims to conceive more sustainable systems. As past Director of the Working Group for Cleaner Production in the Food Industry, she worked with Queensland food manufacturers to introduce more eco-efficient processes. More recently her PhD on sugar supply chains led to industry tools for guiding best environmental practice in sugarcane growing and sugarcane bio-energy. She is currently funded by the CRC for Water Sensitive Cities to examine sustainable water systems in cities.