Sustainable Consumption & Production

The United Nations created 17 Sustainable Development goals (SDG) in 2015 in order to address global challenges such as poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice. 

I recently created a workshop about SDG #12: Sustainable Consumption & Production. 

The workshop focused on three environmental costs of different food products: 

  1. Carbon emissions
  2. Water usage
  3. Capacity to feed a growing number of humans

Below, you’ll find graphic representations of these costs for different food products. Hover over the bars in each graph for more detail

Not surprisingly, animal products have the highest negative environmental impact. 
The United Nations has stated that food is “key to curbing climate change” and as part of their Act Now Campaign have been encouraging people all over the world to eat less meat. 





* These numbers were estimated using the average size of farms in the U.S. for plant food products and free-range animal products (442 acres), as well as the average size of farms for animal products (1,000 animals per farm). 

At this workshop, several of us voiced the concern about whether or not our actions actually made a difference. Can cutting back on animal products really curb climate change? 

It may seem discouraging at times, but many of us also talked about how we had adopted sustainable habits because of our peers. I’m always surprised by the number of people who come up to me to tell me that they’ve been eating more veggies and less meat since meeting me. 

I’ve also reflected on my most recent new habits, like shopping at thrift stores and using reusable produce bags. These new habits started because I saw a friend doing them. 

While it’s true that our culture can drive us to do what’s considered “normal”, like eating at fast food places, it is also true that our friends can influence us to create a new, more sustainable culture. 

If we adopt one new habit and inspire three other people to make a similar change, this in itself is a marvelous victory.

What new habit will you create and how will you overcome any obstacle that might stand in your way? 

Work Cited

Agricultural marketing resource center. (2019). Strawberries. Retrieved from

Biggers, S. (2010). Putting the pigs out to pasture [blog post]. Grit: Rural American Know-How. Retrieved from

Center for Sustainable Systems. (2018). Carbon footprint factsheet. No. CSSS09-O5. Retrieved from University of Michigan website

Clauer, P. (2012). Modern meat chicken industry [blog post]. PennState Extension. Retrieved from PennState University website

Evgenii. (n.d.). Water footprint. Retrieved from

GreenEatz. (n.d.). Food’s carbon footprint. Retrieved from:

Jeffries, W. (2007). How much land per pig?. Sugar Mountain Farm. Retrieved from

Kenosha Potato Project. (n.d.). Potato Production in USA. Retrieved from

Kyle, K., Schleuss, J., Krishnakumar, P. (2015). 853 gallons of water were used to make this plate. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from

Nassos, S., Guibourg, C., Briggs, H. (2018). Climate change food calculator: What’s your diet’s carbon footprint?. BBC News. Retrieved from

Natural Resources Conservation Service. (2009). Balancing your animals with your forage. Retrieved from

Osborne Livestock Equipment. (2018). Average market pig weight 2018. Retrieved from

Plamondon, R. (2016). FAQ: free range and yarding for chickens [blog post]. Practical Poultry Tips. Retrieved from

Saddle Ridge Farm. (n.d.). Cost to process a whole hog [blog post]. Retrieved from

Scarborough, P., Appleby, P.N., Mizdrak, A., Briggs, A.D.M., Briggs., Travis, R.C., Bradbury, K.E., Key, T.J. (2014). Dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters, vegetarians and vegans in the UK. Clim Change. 125 (2). Retrieved from

Time for Change. (n.d.). Eat less meat: CO2 emission of our food.

United States Department of Agriculture. (2019). United States department of agriculture national agriculture statistics service delta regional office: Arkansas. Retrieved from

University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. (n.d.). Dairy Facts. Retrieved from

USDA. (n.d.). Animal feeding operations (AFO) and concentrated feeding operations (CAFO). Natural Resources Conservation Service. Retrieved from

USDA. (n.d.). FoodData central. Retrieved from

Water Footprint Network. (n.d.). Water footprint of crop and animal products: a comparison. Retrieved from

Water Footprint. (n.d.). Products. Retrieved from

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