Laura Batlle-Bayer


Bachelor’s Degree in Agricultural Technical Engineering (Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, UPC), Master’s Degree in Natural Resources Management (Wageningen University), as well as studying Environmental Management (International University Study Centre, IUSC) and Corporate Social Responsibility (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, UOC).

PhD candidate

Laura Batlle-Bayer is currently writing her PhD thesis, supervised by Dr Pere Fullana i Palmer, as part of the CERES-ProCon project. Her thesis, funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economic Affairs and Competitiveness within the EU’s Horizon 2020 Programme, aims to assess sustainability in food diets.

Professional and research activity

Laura Batlle-Bayer’s research activity focuses on projects linked to assessing sustainability in food diets. She previously worked as a consultant for Blonk Consultants, where she conducted environmental assessments of food products using LSA methodology. She also worked as a researcher on projects related to climate change and land-use change at Utrecht University and was awarded a one-year research grant to work at the International Soil Reference and Information Centre.

Selected publications

Dietary choices, a main driver of food production, play a significant role within the climate change arena. Consequently, there is a growing trend on publishing research assessing the environmental impacts of diets and dietary shifts, mainly following the life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology. However, several methodological issues still bring a challenge, especially in the definition of the function and the quantification of the functional unit (FU).
The FU is the reference unit of an LCA study, and it is the basis for allowing comparison among different systems. This short communication defines the function of diets as the supply of the daily required amount of calories and nutrients, and it proposes a novel FU that accounts for the energy intake and the nutritional quality of the diet. In order to compare the performance of the proposed FU to the most commonly ones used for diet LCAs (mass-based and isocaloric), dietary scenarios within the Spanish context are assessed. On the one hand, using a mass-based FU, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are underestimated, since the nutrition properties of food are not considered, and, on the other hand, the isocaloric substitution does not allow comparison among diets with different levels of energy intake. In contrast, the proposed caloric-and nutrient-corrected FU allows to compare diets that differ in energy and nutritional quality in a fairer way. Finally, it is recommended to use this FU for future diet LCAs.

Dietary change is a win-win opportunity to address the nexus of health and the environment. To prevent city dwellers from developing non-communicable diseases, in 2013, China updated the 2000 version of nutrition-based dietary reference intake (DRI) guidelines. However, whether the DRI guidelines have a positive effect on the environment is not well understood. Here, we explored the systematic effects of urbanization on China's health and environmental nexus based on survey data. Then, we optimized the diets of 18 age-gender groups to reduce carbon emissions, water consumption, and land use while meeting the healthy nutrition goals of both DRI guidelines. The results showed that the optimal diets based on the DRI 2013 outperformed these on DRI 2000 in improving China's environmental sustainability, although these diets did not always perform better at an individual scale. Our findings suggest that dietary changes can reduce carbon, water, and ecological footprints by 24%, 15%, and 22% in 2050, respectively; however, the differences in age-specific and gender-specific health goals cannot be neglected.

Reducing food losses (FL) has been identified as an essential means of increasing food security, while reducing pressure on natural resources. To assess the reliability of future strategies to reduce and manage FL along the food supply chain (FSC), not only their quantification but also the ‘qualification’ in both economic and nutritional terms must be considered. The methodology proposed in this work allows to quantify FL at the distinct stages of the FSC (agricultural production, postharvest and storage, processing, distribution, households and extradomestic consumption). In addition, economic and nutritional FL are estimated. A Nutritional Food Losses Footprint (NFLF) index is proposed to assess and balance the variables described. This index is used to define food recovery strategies focused on those food categories and stages of the FSC with lesser efficiency. NFLF distinguishes between food losses from cradle to gate (FL-ctog) and food losses from gate to grave (FL-gtog) depending on the scope of the analysis. The former provides information to producers, while the latter creates awareness among consumers. Furthermore, the potential for FL reduction is estimated through the quantification of avoidable and unavoidable FL.

Our study is focused on the Mediterranean region, in particular on Spain. Almost 20% of the national food production is estimated to be lost or wasted. Vegetables, fruits and meat result the food categories less efficient. Household consumption is the main responsible of FL generation, followed by agricultural production. Each Spanish citizen is estimated to throw away around 180€ per year, while a 76% could be saved.

The big challenge of the next decades is meeting the global nutritional demand, while reducing the pressure on food resources and the GHG emissions. In this regard, the overall goal consists of redesigning the food systems and promoting sustainable dietary patterns is a crucial aspect. This article focuses on reviewing the state-of-the-art of the combined Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and the Water–Energy–Food (WEF) Nexus approach in assessing the effects of diet transitions. Diet LCAs differ in methodology, design, and assessed environmental impacts. The WEF nexus, which aims at finding synergies and trade-offs between the water, energy, and food resources systems, has been applied to different contexts and levels. However, a limited number of nexus methods have been developed at the food and diet levels, and no commonly recognizable methodology for the nexus assessment has been achieved. An integrated LCA and WEF Nexus approach can be a decisive tool to improve the understanding of the interconnections in the nexus, as it enables the consideration of entire supply chains.

This study assesses the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and the nutritional quality of the current food consumption and losses of an average Spanish citizen, and compares them with two alternative diets: one following the Spanish dietary guidelines (The NAOS Strategy; NAOS), and another one based on the Mediterranean (MED) diet. The diet-related GHG emissions of current eating patterns would be reduced by 17% and 11%, when shifting to the NAOS and MED diets, respectively, and even more (42% and 35%) when diets' nutritional qualities are considered within the functional unit. In addition, food losses contribute 21% to diet's emissions. Our results suggest that national dietary guidelines (NDGs) can be a good policy tool, not only to lead to a healthier condition, but also to promote a shift towards a lower-carbon diets. Finally, it is recommended that life cycle-based indicators are added within the NDGs, to better communicate the environmental impacts of dietary choices, and ultimately enhance knowledge and awareness of consumers.

Food losses and waste (FLW) tend to be referred to in terms of mass, occasionally in economic terms, disregarding the nutritional-cost nexus of such losses. This work aims to estimate the nutritional food losses and waste (NFLW) of the Spanish agri-food system in terms of energy, macronutrients, fibre, and vitamins and minerals along the entire supply chain. Nutritional food losses (NFL) occurring prior to the distribution level, and nutritional food waste (NFW) at the retail and consumption stages, were distinguished, and 48 representative food commodities and 32 nutrients were characterised. To provide insight into the extent of these values, the results are compared to the equivalent recommended daily intake. In addition, the NFLW for an average Spanish citizen is compared to that for other representative diets: Mediterranean, lacto-ovo-vegetarian, and vegan along with the Spanish recommended guidelines. Finally, a nutritional cost footprint (NCF) indicator combining nutritional and economic variables is proposed to define recovery strategies. The results suggest that 4251 kj (1016?kcal), 70.7?g proteins, 22?g dietary fibre, 975?μg vitamin A, 117?mg vitamin C and 332?mg calcium daily per capita are embedded within Spanish FLW. Agricultural production accounts for 40% of NFLW, and fruits and vegetables are the categories with the largest potential for nutritional and economic food wastage mitigation. Results from this paper provide NFLW data and analysis to strengthen and simplify the decision-making process of FLW management strategies.

Feeding the world’s population sustainably is a major challenge of our society, and was stated as one of the key priorities for development cooperation by the European Union (EU) policy framework on food security. However, with the current trend of natural resource exploitation, food systems consume around 30% of final energy use, generating up to 30% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Given the expected increase of global population (nine billion people by 2050) and the amount of food losses and waste generated (one-third of global food production), improving the efficiency of food systems along the supply chain is essential to ensure food security. This study combines life-cycle assessment (LCA) and data envelopment analysis (DEA) to assess the efficiency of Spanish agri-food system and to propose improvement actions in order to reduce energy usage and GHG emissions. An average energy saving of approximately 70% is estimated for the Spanish agri-food system in order to be efficient. This study highlights the importance of the DEA method as a tool for energy optimization, identifying efficient and inefficient food systems. This approach could be adopted by administrations, policy-makers, and producers as a helpful instrument to support decision-making and improve the sustainability of agri-food systems

Copyright © 2020
All rights reserved.
UNESCO Chair in Life Cycle and
Climate Change ESCI-UPF

Passeig Pujades 1, 08003
Barcelona, España
(+34) 93 295 4710