Tracing distant environmental impacts of agricultural products from a consumer perspective
Globally, trade flows of agricultural products are increasing. While value is typically added along the whole production chain, certain environmental impacts, such as land and water use, biomass appropriation, and soil degradation, are intrinsically linked to where the primary products originate from. When taking a consumer oriented approach on environmental problems, bilateral trade statistics can help in providing a clearer picture about the location of impacts caused by consumption elsewhere. However, in today's increasingly globalized world, consumer goods are often imported from countries other than where the primary product originated from. For instance, soybeans are transported from Brazil to the Netherlands, where they are processed into soy oil, which is shipped to Austria, where it is consumed. Utilizing bilateral trade matrices and matrix algebra, we present a method that allows to clearly link consumption patterns to the origin of primary products. In this, the method can help to provide information about consumption related, distant environmental impacts. We employ the case of land and water use linked to Austria's soy product consumption to demonstrate the approach's relevance. Finally, we outline some possible applications of this method to show its potential in enhancing understanding for informed consumer based environmental decision making.
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