Environmental impacts of vegetables consumption in the UK

Angelina Frankowska, Harish Kumar Jeswani, Adisa Azapagic

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    A healthy diet depends on the daily intake of vegetables. Yet, their environmental impacts along the full supply chains are scarcely known. Therefore, this paper provides for the first time a comprehensive evaluation of the life cycle environmental impacts of vegetables consumed in UK. The impacts are assessed for 56 fresh and processed products produced domestically and imported from abroad, considering both the product and sectoral levels. At the product level, taking into account the market mix of fresh and processed vegetables for each vegetable type sold in the UK, asparagus has the highest per-kg impacts across most of the 19 impact categories considered, while cabbage, celery and Brussels sprouts are generally environmentally most sustainable. At the sectoral level, the annual consumption of 10.8 t of vegetables generates 20.3 Mt CO2 eq., consumes 260.7 PJ of primary energy and depletes 253 Mt eq. of water. The majority of the impacts are caused by potatoes since they account for 56% of the amount of vegetables consumed, with frozen chips contributing most to the total impacts. Importing vegetables grown in unheated greenhouses in Europe has a lower impact than UK vegetables cultivated in heated greenhouses, despite the transportation. The impacts of air-freighted fresh vegetables are around five times higher than of those produced domestically. Even processed products have lower impacts than fresh air-freighted produce. Packaging also contributes significantly to the impacts, in particular glass jars and metal cans used for processed vegetables. Other significant hotspots are open display cabinets at the retailer and cooking of vegetables at home. The results of this study will be useful for food manufacturers, retailers and consumers, helping to identify improvement opportunities along vegetables supply chains.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalScience of the Total Environment
    Early online date30 Apr 2019
    Publication statusPublished - 2019


    • Climate change
    • Energy
    • Food
    • Life cycle assessment
    • Sustainability
    • Water footprint


    Dive into the research topics of 'Environmental impacts of vegetables consumption in the UK'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this