Sustainability is balancing the needs of people, profit, and the planet for a positive impact.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations describes a sustainable food system as one that delivers food security and nutritious foods for populations in a way that does not impact future generations [1].

The FAO describes the components of sustainable diets as multifactorial, yet accessible (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Components of a sustainable diet [2]

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has identified that population-level dietary shifts towards balanced, sustainable and healthy diets is an important solution for climate change.

Water, energy, land use, loss of biodiversity and a range of other impacts must all be considered to fully understand environmentally-sustainable food systems.

Some common environmental indicators include:

  • Carbon footprint – measured by emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG)
  • Land footprint – characterised by land use and stress
  • Water footprint – characterised by water scarcity.

The nut industry aspires to lead nut farming and production into a sustainable future for the planet, by continuing to give people access to healthy, nutritious, and safe nuts and nut products.

Fast facts

  • Food and agriculture impact the environment. The food supply chain is responsible for around a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, and uses about 70% of the world’s freshwater supplies and nearly 40% of global land [3].
  • Eating in line with the Australian Dietary Guidelines could result in a 42% lower climate footprint, compared to the current average Australian adult [4].
  • The largest food-related GHG emissions per capita come from high-income countries, such as the United States, Canada, and Australia [5].
  • If global food waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, behind the United States and China [6].
  • Australians throw away >$10 billion worth of edible food (20% of groceries) every year [7]. And food waste is estimated to contribute 6% of Australia’s total food-related GHG emissions [8].
  • Australia uses around 2,600 gigalitres of water (that’s five times the volume of water in the Sydney Harbour) to grow food that is then wasted [9].
  • Around one third (27-33%) of the total food-related greenhouse gas emissions in Australia and New Zealand are due to discretionary foods [5].
  • Discretionary foods contribute the most, at around 25%, to the total ‘water scarcity footprint’ of Australian adult diets [10].
  • The Planetary Health Reference Diet, developed by the EAT-Lancet Commission, recommends plant-based foods, such as nuts and legumes, make up 80% of the total amount of the ‘protein’ food group [11].
  • Red meat and animal-based alternatives (poultry, fish/seafood, and eggs) contribute 87% to the total servings consumed within the ‘protein’ food group of the current Australian Dietary Guidelines. Plant foods (nuts and legumes) contribute just 13% [12].
  • The Mediterranean diet, which includes nuts, has been described as an achievable dietary pattern for Australians, with health and environmental benefits [13].


  1. FAO and WHO. 2019. Sustainable healthy diets – Guiding principles. Rome.
  2. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Sustainable Diets and Biodiversity - Directions and Solutions for Policy, Research and Action. Burlingame, B., Dernini, S., Nutrition and Consumer Protection Division, Eds.; FAO: Rome, Italy. 2012.
  3. Poore, J. and T. Nemecek, Reducing food's environmental impacts through producers and consumers. Science, 2018. 360(6392): p. 987-992.
  4. Ridoutt, B., D. Baird, and G.A. Hendrie, Diets within Environmental Limits: The Climate Impact of Current and Recommended Australian Diets. Nutrients, 2021. 13(4): p. 1122.
  5. Forbes, S., et al., A Rapid Review of the Environmental Impacts Associated with Food Consumption in Australia and New Zealand. Current Nutrition Reports, 2021. 10(4): p. 334-351.
  6. Sabaté, J. and T. Jehi, Chapter 10 - Determinants of sustainable diets, in Environmental Nutrition, J. Sabaté, Editor. 2019, Academic Press. p. 181-196.
  7. Food Innovation Australia Limited (FIAL) for the Australian Government: A Roadmap for reducing Australia’s food waste by half by 2030. Accessed 5 April 2022. 2020; Available from:
  8. Reutter, B., et al., Food waste consequences: Environmentally extended input-output as a framework for analysis. Journal of Cleaner Production, 2017. 153: p. 506-514.
  9. End Food Waste - Australia. Available from:
  10. Ridoutt, B.G., et al., Diet Quality and Water Scarcity: Evidence from a Large Australian Population Health Survey. Nutrients, 2019. 11(8).
  11. Willett, W., et al., Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT-Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems. The Lancet, 2019. 393(10170): p. 447-492.
  12. Hendrie, G.A., et al., Towards healthier and more sustainable diets in the Australian context: comparison of current diets with the Australian Dietary Guidelines and the EAT-Lancet Planetary Health Diet. BMC Public Health, 2022. 22(1): p. 1939.
  13. Allenden, N., et al., What should we eat? Realistic solutions for reducing our food footprint. Sustainable Production and Consumption, 2022. 32: p. 541-549.

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