Towards a More Sustainable Urban Food System: Carbon Emissions Assessment of a Diet Transition with the FEWprint Platform

P.N. ten Caat*, M.J. Tenpierik, A.A.J.F. van den Dobbelsteen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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The production, processing, and transportation of food, in particular animal-based products, imposes great environmental burden on the planet. The current food supply system often constitutes a considerable part of the total carbon emissions of urban communities in industrialised cities. Urban food production (UFP) is a method that can potentially diminish food emissions. In parallel, a shift towards a predominantly plant-based diet that meets the nutritional protein intake is an effective method to curtail carbon emissions from food. Considering the high land use associated with the production of animal-based products, such a shift will prompt a community food demand that is more inclined to be satisfied with local production. Therefore, during the design process of a future low-carbon city, the combined application of both methods is worth exploring. This work introduces, describes, and demonstrates the diet shift component of the FEWprint platform, a user friendly UFP assessment platform for designers that is constructed around the broader three-pronged strategy of evaluation, shift, and design. For three neighborhoods, in Amsterdam, Belfast, and Detroit, the contextual consumption and country-specific environmental footprint data are applied to simulate a theoretical community-wide diet shift from a conventional to a vegan diet, whilst maintaining protein intake equilibrium. The results show that in total terms, the largest carbon mitigation potential awaits in Detroit (−916 kg CO2eq/cap/year), followed by Belfast (−866 kg) and Amsterdam (−509 kg). In relative terms, the carbon reduction potential is largest in Belfast (−25%), followed by Amsterdam (−15%) and Detroit (−7%). The FEWprint can be used to generate preliminary figures on the carbon implications of dietary adaptations and can be employed to give a first indication of the potential of UFP in urban communities.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1797
Number of pages28
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • diet assessment
  • carbon accounting
  • sustainable cities
  • FEW nexus
  • diet transition
  • sustainable urban planning
  • protein intake
  • CO2 emissions
  • plant-based diet


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