Calculate the land-use impact of your diet

Agriculture is one of the leading causes of human induced land-use change globally. Our food consumption and production, especially in industrialised countries, is thereby damaging the planet. Over a third of the world’s total land surface area is used for agriculture and the food we eat has a major impact on the global water, nutrient and carbon cycles. Land use is determined by the number of people and livestock on the planet, the way food is produced, and by dietary preferences. However, accessible information on the effects of individuals’ food choices on land use for agriculture is limited.

To provide additional insight in the land-use impacts of specific diets Marije Hoff, Hugo de Boer and Floris van den Berg of Utrecht University have developed a website to determine the land use of different diets based on ten questions. The user can fill out a questionnaire on the website to find out what percentage of the global land surface area would be needed to feed the world’s population if everyone adhered to their diet. The questions are mainly targeted at the consumption of animal products: meat, dairy products and eggs. Their research shows that reducing the consumption of animal products, and therefore switching from a meat-eating to a vegetarian or vegan diet, reduces land requirements by two-thirds.

Currently, Hoff, De Boer and Van den Berg are investigating the impact of food choices on four other climate factors, namely greenhouse gas emissions, water use, and the nitrogen and phosphorous cycles.

Specific information on the methodology can be found in this publication: Hoff M, de Boer HJ., 'A Question-Based Method to Calculate the Human Appropriation of Land for Food (HALF) Index', Sustainability 12: 10597 (2020)