Climate change, pollutions, loss of diversity, lack of successors, unfair trade, obesity… though we have heard various issues surrounding sustainability, we barely get to know how these issues are linked to our daily lives. We might be aware that these problems are caused by our modern, convenient and comfortable lifestyles, but how and to what extent are they linked?
Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a technique developed for assessing the potential environmental impacts associated with a product/service throughout its life cycle (from extraction of raw material to final disposal). Through this analytical technique, now we can know what impact a product/service may have on the environment in its life cycle from various aspects, such as how much energy/water is demanded, the amount of GHG emission, acidification/eutrophication potential, toxicity, and land use change.
FEAST project’s WG5 is working on developing a smartphone app to provide the LCA data of groceries for greater “food chain transparency”. In particular, the app enables consumers to check the environmental impact of groceries and compare those impacts with other products when they are at supermarket. Though this kind of app is already available in Europe and the United Statas for consumers to access on an everyday basis, we don’t have such apps in Japan. Therefore, Prof. Atsushi Inaba from Kogakuin University as WG5 Chair, various professionals of LCA, representatives of consumer’s cooperative/supermarkets and FEAST HQ members have met several times since January 2016 in order to discuss, for example, how to classify grocery items, when consumers use the app, how to establish data consistency while appropriately reflecting data of the locally grown items, what kind of information should be available so that consumers can access it easily and make use of it.
The second meeting of this fiscal year was held at Kogakuin University in Shinjyu-ku, Tokyo on August 18. At this meeting, the discussion was on WG5 research plan, research progress and what to do next. Some of the questions that came up were: How to get/deal with/ create data of categories which LCA data have not been developed so far? How is environment impact of a new package technology which makes meat/fish look like fresh and how should we consider it?
At the meeting, Prof. Keiichiro Kanemoto at Shinshu University, who leads one of RIHN’s IS Project (“Mapping the environmental impact footprint of cities, companies, and households”), introduced his project’s research activity, and the participants asked questions related to his calculation method or data utilization. For the first time, I got to understand when we can apply “inverse matrix” learned in school in actual practice!
FEAST project sees that issues of food and agricultural sustainability are absent from our current food system structure. In this system, we might be making unsustainable choices without knowing it. We would like to find out more detailed information on our food system through our research, and for now we’re looking forward to the app design plans!
(Photos: Yuko Matsuoka)