Sustainability Projects

Application-related sustainability and life cycle assessment projects

Organic FoodPrint

Organic FoodPrint - is an applied research project that compares the climate and environmental impacts of organic foods with that of conventional foods. The aim is to develop indicators and instruments to easily optimize the environmental impact of meals. Research findings will be made publicly available and can be integrated into the work of restaurants, individuals and organizations.

A sustainability standard for restaurants

31% of greenhouse gases originate from the production and consumption of food. Currently, consensus on methodology and underlying assumptions of carbon footprint-calculations on organically produced foods is lacking.

Life cycle assessments do not necessarily capture all environmental aspects. Which additional factors apart from carbon emissions should be considered in a sustainability standard for meals? And how can this be easily adapted in restaurants and by individuals?

Together with scientific partners and a broad range of stakeholders we further investigate these questions. By collaborating with experts and stakeholders we target for broad consensus and easy applicability in restaurants.

Project goals

  • Identification of most important factors and assumptions influencing the climate and environmental impact of organic and conventional foods. Extension of our CO2-database with improved calculations for organic ingredients.
  • Identification of climate and environmentally relevant regulations of different organic standards and labels.
  • Quantification of the potential climate and environmental impacts of different organic standards and labels using the LCA method.
  • Develop practical recommendations and instruments for restaurants and the general public.
  • Adaptation and improvement of analysis, methodology and developed applications by having stakeholder reviews and organizing discussion groups and exchange workshops.

Project leader: Isabel O'Connor, Eaternity in Zurich, Switzerland; www.eaternity.org; Dr. Deborah Scharfy (ehem. ZHAW)

Project funding: Engagement Migros development fund

Project period: 01.05.2015 - 31.01.2017

More information: http://www.eaternity.org/foodprint/organic

Life Cycle Assessment for South African Food & Agriculture Reduced Impacts

Very good work has already been done by producers, producer associations, processors, retailers, government and NGOs to better understand environmental impacts of South African food production and to lower them. Limited attempts to use life cycle assessment have demonstrated the value of this science-based tool. It can quantify a range of environmental impacts well beyond carbon and water footprints, but indicators need to be appropriate to the SA context and understandable for quantifying the benefits of cleaner technologies and better practices.

Project Objectives

  • Identification of environmental hotspots in the life cycle of most relevant agriculturally produced food products in South Africa.
  • Quantification of environmental mitigation potentials from applying green and clean technologies in these agri-food product life cycles.
  • Development and dissemination of sustainable practise recommendations for public authorities and the agri-food industry.
  • Preparation of agri-food inventory datasets for the ecoinvent database

South African maize production: mitigating environmental impacts through solar powered irrigation

Agriculture is among the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. Particularly emerging economies are used to irrigate their crop with fossil fuel based energy. Clean technologies, such as renewable energies, can significantly reduce the environmental impacts of agriculture. A joint research project is aimed at quantifying the environmental impact and the potential for improvement in the South African maize production by mean of life cycle assessment (LCA). The study focused on maize, since it is the most important South African staple and the major feed grain for animals. South African maize production is estimated to 11'240'600 t/year and it is spread over an area of 2'624'000 ha.

Ayrshire vs. Holstein: Environmental impact of South African milk from two breeds

As in most emerging economies, livestock is one of the fastest growing sectors of the agricultural economy in South Africa (DAFF, 2013). Over the past ten years, milk production increased by 26%. The most common dairy breeds in South Africa are Holstein, Jersey, Guernsey and Ayrshire (DAFF, 2015). Due to a high butterfat content, Ayrshire milk is advertised as having a superior taste by one of South African largest retail stores. This study analyses and compares the environmental impact of processed milk from Holstein and Ayrshire cows on a weight basis, a fat and protein corrected milk (FPCM) weight basis and on a price basis.

Project members: University of Cape Town (UCT), Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW), University of Stellenbosch (US), The Green House (TGH).

Principle investigators: Professor Harro von Blottnitz (UCT); Dr. Deborah Scharfy (ehem. ZHAW) & Matthias Stucki (ZHAW)

Project funding: SNF - Swiss South African Joint Research Programme (SSAJRP)

Project period: 2014 - 2017

More information: Harro.vonBlottnitz@uct.ac.za; Matthias.Stucki@zhaw.ch

Ecological and social sustainability of tomatoes

(only available in German)

Project leader: Dr. Deborah Scharfy (ehem. ZHAW)

Project member: Tom Bischof

Project funding: Verband Schweizer Gemüseproduzenten (VSGP); Stiftung Gartenbau

Project period: 2014 - 2016