Comparing the usefulness of assessment tools for environmental impacts evaluation of organic greenhouse horticulture

L. Foresi, A. Antón, U. Schmutz
Organic farming is primarily meant to be sustainable; however, evaluating the sustainability of farming systems in a complete way is a complex issue. In recent years, a high number of sustainability assessment tools has been developed and used worldwide; nevertheless, even if they differ in terms of analysis depth, none of them seems comprehensive enough. Amongst all the existing tools we have chosen two of them, Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and Public Goods Tool (PGT). In the case of specific farming systems such as organic greenhouse horticulture, a comparison between LCA and PGT has been done to evaluate the potential integration between both sets of results so that a single holistic assessment method could be obtained. This could help to understand which sustainability aspect these methods should focus on and which type and depth of data would be desirable. This paper mainly highlights the methodological differences and potential common points between the tools, referring to a chosen case study (Tolhurst Organic, a stockfree horticultural unit located near Reading, UK) that has been assessed with both, and then gives suggestions for future research. An updated and improved version of the LCA Excel tool, initially developed by the EUphoros project (2008-2012) and then integrated with data from PGT, was the main outcome of the comparison. While LCA gives quantitative results on impacts on key environmental categories, PGT shows ways to improve farming practices regarding a set of social, economic and environmental aspects through a simple scoring system. In this sense, trying to combine results from different assessment tools might be difficult because it highlights the lack of overall complementarity between them, but at the same time it could be a useful starting point for an integrated discussion on production, use of natural resources and improvements of practices among decision-makers.
Foresi, L., Antón, A. and Schmutz, U. 2017. Comparing the usefulness of assessment tools for environmental impacts evaluation of organic greenhouse horticulture. Acta Hort. (ISHS) 1164:485-492
organic farming, vegetable production, protected crops, sustainability evaluation, life cycle assessment, public goods

Acta Horticulturae