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The carbon footprint of Danish diets

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  • Morena Bruno
  • ,
  • Marianne Thomsen
  • Federico Maria Pulselli, University of Siena
  • ,
  • Nicoletta Patrizi, University of Siena
  • ,
  • Michele Marini
  • ,
  • Dario Caro

The Danish diet is characterized by a high content of sugar, fat dairy products and red meat, and a low content of fruits and vegetables. As it is considered unhealthy and environmentally unfriendly, various alternatives to the standard Danish diet have been investigated and promoted in Denmark, such as the New Nordic Diet. By using a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), this study estimates the carbon footprint (CF) of four different diet scenarios in Denmark: standard, carnivore, vegetarian and vegan. The LCA is applied to build a dataset of the 47 most widely eaten food and beverage products, which represent the average Danish eating habits and grouped into six food categories. Unlike most past LCA-based studies, where system boundaries are limited to the farm gate, this study covers all activities and relative use of materials and energy, from the food production phase to the final consumption (namely ‘from-cradle-to-fork’). We find that the highest CF value is associated with the carnivore diet, which has the highest impact (1.83 t CO 2eq person −1 year −1). The vegan and vegetarian diets record the best profiles (0.89 and 1.37 t CO 2eq person −1 year −1, respectively), whereas the standard Danish diet has a CF value of 1.59 t CO 2eq person −1 year −1. We find that the food production phase is the most significant in terms of CF (65–85%). This study confirms that dietary preferences are a strong driver of CF. A comparison with CF associated with other diets suggests that a further research could provide a guidance to promote healthy eating patterns with adequate nutritional values and better environmental performances.

Original languageEnglish
JournalClimatic Change
Pages (from-to)489-507
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019

    Research areas

  • Carbon footprint, Danish diet, LCA, CO2 footprint, Food, Vegan, vegatarian, carnivore, average danish diet

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