Life cycle inventory and carbon and water FoodPrint of fruits and vegetables: application to a Swiss retailer

Environ Sci Technol. 2012 Mar 20;46(6):3253-62. doi: 10.1021/es2030577. Epub 2012 Mar 1.


Food production and consumption is known to have significant environmental impacts. In the present work, the life cycle assessment methodology is used for the environmental assessment of an assortment of 34 fruits and vegetables of a large Swiss retailer, with the aim of providing environmental decision-support to the retailer and establishing life cycle inventories (LCI) also applicable to other case studies. The LCI includes, among others, seedling production, farm machinery use, fuels for the heating of greenhouses, irrigation, fertilizers, pesticides, storage and transport to and within Switzerland. The results show that the largest reduction of environmental impacts can be achieved by consuming seasonal fruits and vegetables, followed by reduction of transport by airplane. Sourcing fruits and vegetables locally is only a good strategy to reduce the carbon footprint if no greenhouse heating with fossil fuels is involved. The impact of water consumption depends on the location of agricultural production. For some crops a trade-off between the carbon footprint and the induced water stress is observed. The results were used by the retailer to support the purchasing decisions and improve the supply chain management.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture
  • Carbon Dioxide*
  • Decision Making
  • Electricity
  • Environment*
  • Fertilizers
  • Food Industry
  • Fruit*
  • Pesticides
  • Switzerland
  • Transportation
  • Vegetables*
  • Water*


  • Fertilizers
  • Pesticides
  • Water
  • Carbon Dioxide