University of Twente Student Theses


The Water, Land, and Carbon Footprints of Different Human Diets in China

Song, Hang (2017) The Water, Land, and Carbon Footprints of Different Human Diets in China.

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Abstract:The demand for agricultural production is increasing significantly due to the growth of economic and population worldwide. The agricultural products have huge impact on water use, land use, and greenhouse gas emissions. This can be quantitatively expressed by three indicators: water footprint (WF), land footprint (LF), and land footprint (CF). While China is the most populated country in the world, the impact of the human food consumed in China is not only within the country but also in other parts of the world where food is imported. In this research, the water, land, and carbon footprints of consumption (Fcons) in China are analyzed for five different diets: the current diet (REF) from the statistics of FAO; a healthy diet (CDG) based on the recommendations by Chinese Nutrition Society; a pesco-vegetarian diet (PES), which includes fish, eggs, and dairy; an ovo-lacto vegetarian diet (OLV), which includes eggs and dairy; and a vegan diet (VEG), which excludes all animal products. While REF has a higher intake of kcal and protein per day than CDG, the other three diets are chosen such that the kcal and protein intake per day equals that of CDG. Meat has a bigger water, land, and carbon footprint per unit of weight than most other food products (with the meat consumed in China having a weighted average WF of 4778 m3/tonne, an LF of 13.6 m2/kg, and a CF of 8.52 kg CO2eq/kg). Potatoes and other root products are amongst the product categories with smallest footprints. The alternative diets in China result in substantial reductions of the water footprint (13.7% for CDG, 21% for PES, 24.7% for OLV, and 40.6% for VEG), land footprint (19.7% for CDG, 33.3% for PES, 37.4% for OLV, and 49.0% for VEG), and carbon footprint (10.9% for CDG, 23.3% for PES, 35.3% for OLV, and 68.8% for VEG). These reductions considerably contribute to mitigating the issues of water scarcity, agricultural land stress, and global warming both within China and other parts of the world.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:ET: Engineering Technology
Subject:56 civil engineering
Programme:Civil Engineering and Management MSc (60026)
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