environmental studies

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Environmental impacts of food production

Introduction

The high rate of environmental degradation and the depletion of our ozone layer are some of the reasons supporters of Green Revolution are demanding that food production processes should be energy efficient (Gardner et al., 2008; Perman et al., 2003).

This report investigates and compares the possible environmental impacts of strawberry production in these two countries: Spain and UK. The approaches used in this study centre on 'goal definition and scoping' and 'inventory analysis', which are important components of full life cycle assessments (LCAs) that is significant in analysing the production impacts on the environment. This investigation takes place during the U.K's in-season production of strawberry: because out-of-season production would be time-consuming and is beyond the scope of this report.

All the information presented below about the product system is strictly in accordance with the standardization ISO 14041, which states that: "The systems should be adequately described in detail and clarity to allow another (LCA) practitioner to duplicate the inventory analysis," (Marinova et al., 2006).

Strawberry Production in the UK

Considering the goal and scope of growing strawberries in the UK, the following facts emerge in the course of this process:

Goal and Scope: The goal of undertaking life cycle assessment on strawberry production in UK to ascertain the level of Green House Gas (GHG) emissions, the possibility of understanding the benefits of the process and investigating if it is doable to engage in green marketing, eco-labeling and energy conservation. The scope is to define strawberry (product), its functional unit, product system and system boundaries.

  1. Product definition: Strawberries are traditionally grown in the UK to supply for local consumption. This is because they are mostly grown on small-scale fruit farming, producing only a small proportion of the entire quantity of strawberries consumed in the UK (Janick & Paull, 2008). It is helpful to define the kinds of processes required in producing strawberries in the UK.
  2. Product function: The main function of strawberry in the UK is to be used as fruit and food supplement that provide the needed nutrients for the body. Some of the nutrients that strawberry produces include but not limited to water, energy (30,000kcal), protein (0.610g), total fat (0.370), Calcium (14,000mg), Potassium (166,000mg), vitamin C (ascorbic) (56,700mg), Cholesterol (0000 mg) and so on. These nutrients are required by human bodies to function properly. And for the fact that strawberries have zero calorie and little fatty contents, they are helpful to maintain one's weight, no matter the quantity of the fruit that was consumed (Berdanier, 2002).
  3. Product functional unit: The product functional unit is 100g of UK strawberries, which approximately provide the needed nutrients and supplements outlined above.
  4. Product system: the product system for the growing of strawberries in the UK including the following processes: and they are expected to be in conformity with ISO 14041.
    • Growth: Preparation of the soil: choosing higher, frost-free soil which has the temperature above -2oC, and preparation of planting beds for optimum growth. Setting up Cloche or tunnel-protection to protect the strawberries from being damaged by frost during winter; and choosing sunny but least-winded areas for the planting of the strawberries. Final soil preparation is done a month before planting by mixing organic matter and some bonemeal with the soil. And a fertilizer like Growmore is applied to the soil a week before planting of the strawberry. The strawberries are planted in early September or April. The strawberries are protected from pests and diseases by using pesticides against aphids, red spider mite, slugs and powdery mildew. The strawberries are harvested in mid-April.
    • Processing: The harvested raw strawberries are processed using simple methods: They are cleaned, graded and stored in a safer situation so as to prevent them from drying up.
    • Packaging: The strawberries are packaged inside containers of different sizes and kinds. Though, the packaging materials are not expensive ones: they are those that would not make the strawberries' price shoot. Quite inexpensive packaging materials.
    • Transportation: The finished strawberry products are transported from the packaging unit to shops and stores where they would be delivered to the buyers. Also, transportation is needed to transport the waste materials back to the fruit farms.
  5. System boundaries: The system boundary for the growing of strawberries in UK consists of the following components: (1) Inputs composed of strawberry plantlets, fertilizer, organic matter, water, soil nutrients, pesticides, bonemeal etc; (2) output composed of strawberries, waste plant materials, and so on; (3) Sub-systems include the growth of the strawberries, its processing using some equipment, the packaging of the strawberries in different containers and the transportation of the finished products to the places of consumption.
  6. System Environment: The system environment is made up of those things outside the system boundary: in the case of growing strawberries in UK, they include the soil, the strawberry growers, the environmental conditions like weather and pests.

Summary of Growing Strawberries in UK

This approach above is chosen because it describes in detail the processes for growing strawberries in UK, taking into consideration all the inputs, subsystems, outputs and the environment. These procedures are graphical enough for any future LCA practitioners to digest and follow in repeating the same processes. Most importantly, the explanations of the processes are easily understandable and the materials used in the growing of UK strawberries are commonplace, not expensive and could be easily applied. There are no applications of very expensive technology that could discourage potential LCA practitioners from trying out these processes.

Strawberry Production in Spain

Looking at the goal and scope of growing strawberries in the Spain, the following facts are important to be considered:

Goal and Scope: The goal of carrying out life cycle assessment on strawberry production in Spain is to discover the level of Green House Gas (GHG) emissions, the possibility of understanding the benefits of the process and investigating if it is doable to engage in green marketing, eco-labeling and energy conservation. The scope is to define strawberry (product), its functional unit, product system and system boundaries (Handscombe & Handscombe, 2007).

  1. Product definition: Strawberries are locally produced in the Spain to supply for local consumers and for the export markets. This is because they are mostly grown on both large- and small-scale fruit farming, producing a large proportion of the quantity of strawberries consumed in Spain and many other countries in the world, including USA and UK. (Janick & Paull, 2008). It is helpful to define the kinds of processes required in producing strawberries in Spain.
  2. Product function: The main function of strawberry in Spain is to be consumed as fruit and food supplement that will provide the required nutrients for the body. Some of the nutrients that strawberry offers include but not limited to water, energy (30,000kcal), protein (0.610g), total fat (0.370), Calcium (14,000mg), Potassium (166,000mg), vitamin C (ascorbic) (56,700mg), Cholesterol (0000 mg) and so on. These nutrients are required by human bodies to function properly. And for the fact that strawberries have zero calorie and low fatty contents, they are helpful to maintain one's weight, no matter the quantity of the fruit consumed (Berdanier, 2002). They are also used as jams and preserves.
  3. Product functional unit: It requires about 150 g of Spanish strawberries to absorb the required quantity of nutrients and supplements that human bodies needed to function properly. Although this minimum quantity may change for different kinds of Spanish strawberries. But the commonly used average amount for Spanish strawberry's functional unit is 100g (Handscombe & Handscombe, 2007).
  4. Product system: the product system for the growing of strawberries in Spain involves the following processes: and they are executed in accordance with ISO 14041.
    • Growth: Majority of Spanish strawberries are grown in the South Western part of the country, in the Huelva Region. The fruit farms are made up of small-scale gardens owned by individual farmers, and a large-scale farms formed by consortium among many Spanish fruit growers (Medina, 2005). Spanish strawberries are of high grade, and they are planted with fertilizers, organic matter and other growth-enhancing substances. Because of their high quality, Spanish strawberries known as "Aguedilla" are always in high demand in Europe, including in the United Kingdom. The area where Spanish strawberries are grown has a hot summer and longer sunshine. These weather conditions help strawberries to be grown in large quantity.
    • Processing: The raw Aguedilla are made to pass through the processes of cleaning, grading and storing. The Spanish strawberries are of high quality, and this is why it is marketable all the year round.
    • Packaging: The next process in the production of Spanish strawberries is the packaging: the processed strawberries are packaged in different containers of different sizes.
    • Transportation: since Spanish strawberries are consumed both locally and at overseas. This requires a great deal of transportation. Hence, much energy is used in delivering the finished products to the consumers and buyers. Spanish strawberries are not only marketable in Europe, but also in the United States (Baughen, 2007). This helped the strawberry business in Spain to expand, employing over 30,000 workers for a season (Handscombe & Handscombe, 2007).
  5. System boundaries: The system boundary for the growing of strawberries in Spain consists of the following components: (1) Inputs composed of strawberry plantlets, fertilizer, organic matter, water, soil nutrients, pesticides, bonemeal etc; (2) output composed of strawberries, waste plant materials, and so on; (3) Sub-systems include the growth of the strawberries, its processing using some equipment, the packaging of the strawberries in different containers and the transportation of the finished products to the places of consumption.
  6. System Environment: The system environment is made up of those things outside the system boundary: in the case of growing strawberries in Spain, they include the soil, the strawberry growers, the environmental conditions like weather and pests, and the competitors. Fruit farming in Spain is competitive because many growers are involved in the process. The economy of the South West region of Spain totally depends on these farming activities (Medina, 2005).

Summary of the Strawberry Production in Spain

The processes of producing strawberry in Spain are similar to any other countries, but what is different is that the magnitude of production in Spain is bigger than any other countries. Hence, more energy is consumed and more wastes are disposed of. The culture of growing strawberries in Spain has become improved of recent, and there are more local growers competing for the markets: some are even forming alliances with one another to mass-produce strawberries. And for the fact that there are markets in Europe and the North

America for Spanish strawberries, there is every possibility that the business would continue to grow in Spain, most importantly the area of the country that depends on it for economic miracle. Nowadays, Spanish growers experiment with using special equipment to improve their production activities.

Differences between Strawberry Production in UK and Spain

Though the methods of producing strawberries in both UK and Spain appear similar, but there are some great differences between them. Some of these differences are highlighted below:

  • Strawberries in the UK are mostly grown under heated greenhouses or polytunnels; but they are only grown in polytunnels in Spain.
  • Strawberries are available all-year round in Spain, while it is seasonal in the UK (summer only).
  • The amount of labour used by strawberry growers in Spain in far greater than those used in the UK.
  • Strawberry growing in Spain uses a lot of water and land (polytunnels), while in UK more heating energy is required to protect the strawberries.
  • More energy is used in the transportation of strawberries in Spain than in the UK.
  • Spain generates more wastes than the UK in the entire strawberry production processes.
  • Growing strawberry in the UK is environmentally friendlier than doing the same in Spain.
  • There is more competition in Spain than in the UK; hence, this could lead to adulteration of strawberries through sharp practices to reduce costs.

References

  • Baughen, S. (2007). International trade and the protection of the environment. London: Routledge-Cavendish.
  • Berdanier, C.D. (2002). Handbook of nutrition and food. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press.
  • Gardner, G., Prugh, T., Starke, L. & Worldwatch Institute (2008). State of the world 2008: innovation for a sustainable economy. London: Earthscan.
  • Handscombe, C. & Handscombe, D. (2007). Growing healthy fruit in Spain: From strawberries to oranges and watermelons. Malaga, Spain: Santana Books.
  • Janick, J. & Paull, R.E. (2008). The encyclopedia of fruit and nuts. Oxfordshire, United Kingdom: CABI.
  • Marinova, D., Annandale, D. & Phillimore, J. (2006). The international handbook on environmental technology. London: Edward Elgar Publishing.
  • Medina, F.X. (2005). Food culture in Spain. Santa Barbara, California: Greenwood Publishing Group.
  • Perman, R., Ma, Y., Common, M. & McGilvray, J. (2003). Natural resources and environmental economics. 3rd Edition. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education.

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