Blue water use of the Dutch diet: water scarcity and origin
Agriculture is responsible for approximately 70% of global water withdrawal, making it the largest consumer of freshwater. In addition to the amount of water used for food production, the location of water use is also of importance to identify local water scarcity. In this article, the Dutch LCA database is used to measure the daily average blue water use per person for the average Dutch diet of the adult population aged 19-79 years. The average daily blue water use was 57m3/year for men and 56m3/year for women. Compared with a household waste container, this is ca. 30-40 L more than a filled 120 L container. Dutch food consumption is responsible for water scarcity in, among others, Spain, the Netherlands itself, South Africa, Chile, India and the US. These countries often already suffer from water scarcity.
Environmental impact of the Dutch diet
This study used the LCA database to evaluate Dutch food consumption patterns for environmental (greenhouse gas emissions and blue water use) and health aspects (Dutch healthy diet index 2015), according to age, gender and consumption moments. There is some variation in environmental impact between age and gender. For GHG emissions, the highest contribution is due to meat, dairy and beverages. For blue water, the highest contribution is due to beverages, nuts and fruit. Finally, healthier diets were associated with lower GHG emissions and higher blue water use.
Are our diets getting healthier and more sustainable?
Insights from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition – Netherlands (EPIC-NL) cohort
In this study, the LCA database was used to identify differences in dietary greenhouse gas emissions. The EPIC-NL study followed 40,000 Dutch adults born between 1993-1997 for a period of 20 years. Differences in dietary quality and food consumption over 20 years in a Dutch cohort study were identified. GHG emissions increased by 5% in men per 1,000 kcal and were similar in women. This was due to increased consumption of fish and seafood, nuts/seeds/nut paste, poultry and more GHG emission intensive red meats such as beef. The GHG emission of total plant-based foods consumption increased slightly but statistically significantly in men and women. The study concluded that lower consumption of animal-based foods is needed to achieve healthier as well as environmentally friendly diets.
Healthy diets with reduced environmental impact?
The greenhouse gas emission of various diets adhering to the Dutch food-based dietary guidelines
In this study, the LCA database was used to determine the differences in the environmental impact of the Dutch diet in 2007-2010 (DNFCS) and healthy diets with lower GHG emissions. The effect on GHG emissions of changing the current Dutch diet to a diet according to the so-called Wheel of Five (Schijf van Vijf) ranged from -13% for men aged 31-50 years to +5% for women aged 19-30 years. Replacing meat in a diet according to the Wheel of Five and/or consuming only foods with relatively low GHG emissions resulted in average GHG emission reductions varying from 28-46%. In conclusion, omitting meat from Wheel of Five diets or consuming only foods associated with relatively low GHG emissions both resulted in a GHG emission reduction of around a third.
Educational differences in environmental sustainability among Dutch adults
In this study, the LCA database was used to assess the differences in environmentally sustainable food consumption by education level among Dutch adults aged 19-69. Overall, the average GHG emission for both men and women did not differ between low, moderate or high educational levels. The food groups contributing the most were mainly animal-based products, including meat products, dairy products, fish and eggs. Besides, the sources of GHG emission are different between education groups. The average GHG emissions from consumption of vegetables and fruiting vegetables were approximately 25% higher among those with a higher education level compared with lower educated participants.