Past research projects

Perceptions of barriers and opportunities for a sustainable diet in the London Borough of Sutton

Cranfield University, MSc Thesis, 2012. Student: Michaela Skudova. Download (pdf).

The aim of this study was to determine what is the public perception of “a sustainable diet” and what might be the barriers and opportunities for such diet in the London Borough of Sutton. The research is achieved through a qualitative and quantitative analysis of a questionnaire survey, carried out in two different ways: web-based and face-to-face in the streets of Sutton in July 2012.

Results, found in the two types of surveys, showed a difference in familiarity and understanding of the concept of sustainable diet. Price and availability of products are the main barriers identified. Further results showed that the barrier may not be the price itself, but the perception of organic vegetables is automatically assumed to be very expensive. The motivation to eat sustainably was high in both web-based and face-to-face samples. Three statements were provided by BioRegional to determine the motivation of respondents to participate in a sustainable diet irrespective of the price. The results suggest that the main motivation to eat more sustainably in the future is due to the benefits that they would positively affect both community and local economy.

Economic impacts of health and food

Cranfield University, MSc Thesis, 2012. Student: Patricia Hernando. Download (pdf)

In the UK, poor diet, associated with high levels of meat, dairy, and sugar consumption, has led to a doubling in the number of people who are overweight or obese in the past 25 years. The aim of this study was to determine 1) the economic impacts of healthy food habits by reviewing the burden of food related ill health in the UK and 2) the environmental implications of these diets.

The first objective was achieved by carrying out an analysis of the costs that the diet-related illnesses pose to the NHS. The analysis showed that £5.6 billion are spent each year on diseases arising as a direct consequence of obesity and overweight, such as cardiovascular diseases, stroke, diabetes and some types of cancer.

The second objective focused on the two main contributors to the GHG emissions of the UK food system: food transport and agricultural practices. The transport of fruit and vegetables was found to be responsible for 0.55 per cent of UK total GHG emissions. Regarding agricultural practices, the carbon footprint of UK agriculture is dominated by emissions from the livestock sector. It was found that a 50 per cent reduction in livestock product supply in conjunction with an increase in plant commodities in the diet would result in a 19 per cent reduction in emissions, equal to a saving of £825 million.

Use of Life Cycle Assessment to Estimate Reduction of Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Food through Community-supported Urban Agriculture

Cranfield University, MSc Thesis, 2012. Student: Michal Adam Kulak. Download (pdf)

Currently the production and supply of food is thought to account for as much as 20-30 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions in the UK.

This study used Life Cycle Assessment to estimate the potential savings of food-related greenhouse gas emissions that may be achieved with the implementation of an urban community farm and identified strategic elements of the local food production system that could be used to maximise reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.

The results showed the local food production and distribution scheme in the urban fringe could bring considerably diversified reductions depending on the crop. The greatest reduction was by crops providing the highest yields and supplied to shops throughout the year from energy-intensive production systems such as greenhouses.

As monocultures on the community farm are not envisaged, mixed cropping scenarios were also examined as well as the possibility for the further development of the scheme over the local, derelict land. These showed that a pattern of land use that aimed to optimise greenhouse gas reductions within local market requirements resulted in a reduction of 85 t CO2e ha-1 a-1.

Determining the environmental, social and economic impacts of a local food market stall: a case study of the Veg Van

Cranfield University, MSc Thesis, 2010. Student: Eva Rusnakova. Download (pdf)

The aim of this study was to determine the environmental and socio-economic impacts of the Veg Van – a renovated milk float that sells locally produced fruit and vegetables. This was achieved through a survey of the Veg Van’s customers and interviews with the Veg Van staff, project manager and its suppliers over a three-week period in July and August 2010. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the Veg Van and its customers shopping trips were calculated and an economic local multiplier LM3 method was used to estimate local economic impacts.

Social interaction between customers and producers increased because of the Veg Van and was stated as highly important for both customers and stakeholders. Also, there was a perceived increase in the healthiness of diets through increased access to fresh produce. The GHG emission related to the Veg Van was relatively low compared with other vendors of fruit and vegetables, as a result of a low-carbon delivery system and the Veg Van’s convenient location. The Veg Van had significant positive effects on the local economy because the majority of money spent by the Veg Van was spent locally. The results from the local multiplier LM3 model showed that every £1 spent in the Veg Van would generate an additional £1.6 in the local economy, compared with just £0.4 when the same amount was spent in a supermarket.