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Agricultural practices have developed immensely to feed a globally growing population. As our agricultural systems have grown for more globalized food systems, many practices have been implemented without considering the sustainability of these actions. Annually, approximately one-third of food globally produced for human consumption is lost or wasted, contributing to 19%-29% of our global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, finding a balance between the environment, society, and economics is of utmost importance for our growing agricultural needs. Environmental, social, and economic advantages and disadvantages can be assessed through Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to better understand and improve our current food systems. This dissertation proposal conducts a combination of four different environmental and social LCAs and advances LCA methodology. The environmental impacts of fresh tomatoes produced in California are assessed in the first chapter and the second chapter proposes a methodology to assess social implications of the strawberry system in California. Lastly, the third chapter includes a combination of addressing environmental and social implications of large-scale pineapple farming in the northern area of Costa Rica. The E-LCA methodology is advanced through the inclusion of quantified farm level food loss as Life Cycle Inventory (LCI). Similarly, S-LCA framework is improved upon through the refining of the 2020 United Nations Environment Program’s methodology and demonstrating concrete examples of abstract social performance. California and Costa Rica were chosen as case study areas because of the role agriculture plays in their economy and their increasing importance on environmental conservation. The goal of this dissertation proposal is to address environmental and social implications of agricultural products and improve LCA methodology and inform participating growers and consumers of the sustainability of our food systems.



Ana Grace Alvarado grew up in Minnesota and Costa Rica. She received B.A.’s at the College of Saint Benedict & Saint John’s University in Chemistry and Hispanic Studies. She has enjoyed assessing the environmental and social impacts of agricultural products in her research at UC Merced and playing a positive and helpful role in having sustainable food systems nationally and globally. She is proud of her role on the board of Bricks to Bread (501(c)(3)).

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