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European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency
News article13 October 2023European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency3 min read

Preserving water, nourishing life: How the LIFE Programme encourages responsible water consumption via healthier diets

Current food practices can significantly contribute to climate change. On World Food Day, the SU-EATABLE LIFE project shows how we can create sustainable, eco-friendly food systems which are good for us - and good for the planet. 

Canteen at the University of Parma in Italy taking part in pilot initiatives of the SU-EATABLE LIFE project.
© LIFE16 GIC/IT/000038. All rights are reserved. Licensed to the European Union under conditions

Modern food systems pose complex challenges. The EU food chain is carbon-intensive, accounting for about 30 per cent of all European CO2 emissions. Yet the food industry has made little progress in reducing its environmental impact. Our food systems struggle to address climate change, while malnutrition and overnutrition persist in many countries.  

The good news, however, is that solutions already exist. The EUR 1.6 million SU-EATABLE LIFE project, for example - spanning Italy, the Netherlands and the UK - aims to address a critical issue: the enormous impact of our food choices on climate and water resources. 

Did you know that around one-third of all global greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change come from our food systems? Or that, on average, it takes up to 6,000 litres of water to produce the amount of food we each consume every day? 

Diagram from SU-EATABLE LIFE showcasing the amount of water needed to produce the food we eat.
©LIFE16 GIC/IT/000038. All rights are reserved. Licensed to the European Union under conditions

SU-EATABLE LIFE’s primary goal is to promote healthier diets and more sustainable food habits. This, in turn, will lead to a substantial reduction in CO2 emissions and water consumption across the EU. The project identified eight key principles based on medical and scientific literature to guide individuals towards healthier and more sustainable food choices: 

  • Eat more vegetables, fresh and dried fruit, pulses and whole grains. 

  • Choose seasonal, local or traditional ingredients. 

  • Favour fresh, minimally processed food in your diet. 

  • Drink plenty of tap water and avoid wasting it. 

  • Reduce packaging, reuse and recycle. 

  • Cut back on meat consumption, especially red and processed meats. 

  • Moderate consumption of dairy products. 

  • Avoid food waste by considering portion size. 

Over four years, SU-EATABLE LIFE achieved remarkable progress. It engaged 6,557 participants in pilot activities across Italy and the Netherlands, leading to a daily savings of approximately 1.7 kg of CO2 equivalent and 1,670 litres of water per person. Provided sustainable diets were adopted by participants, the project calculated it could save more than 4,500 tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions and 4.23 million m3 of water every year. 

‘We believe we’ve created a programme that will demonstrate it is possible to effect significant changes in eating habits with positive outcomes for canteen and workplace restaurant users and the planet,’ says Andrew Stephen, a former Chief Executive of the Sustainable Restaurant Association, one of the project’s partners. ‘We are confident that we will also learn the most effective ways of achieving these changes to eating habits, which offers huge potential for wider impact, creating delicious solutions to climate change.’ 

As we celebrate World Food Day, SU-EATABLE LIFE shows that sustainable diets and a holistic approach to food can help safeguard the health of our planet and ensure a better future for generations to come. Although SU-EATABLE LIFE came to an end in 2022, it lives on through LIFE Climate Smart Chefs, a EUR 1.75 project covering Italy, Finland and Ireland. 

Life Climate Smart Chefs supports the EU Climate Policy and Farm to Fork (F2F) Strategy by actively involving European chefs to promote low emission, nutritious and affordable diets. The choices we make on our plates today will shape the world we live in tomorrow. 

Learn more about how the LIFE Programme contributes to a resilient and future-proof food system with projects such as LIFE YEAST, LIFE-FOODWASTEPREV, Flaw4Life, and LIFE Waste2Protein in this infographic



COM(2012)673 -"A Blueprint to Safeguard Europe's Water Resources" 

Directive 75/442/EEC -"Waste framework directive" (15.07.1975) 

COM(2014)15 - Policy framework for climate and energy in the period from 2020 to 2030 (22.01.2014) 

COM(2011)112 - "A Roadmap for moving to a competitive low carbon economy in 2050" (08.03.2011) 


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