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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Sustainability
Volume (Issue) 8
Page(s) 1294
Title of proceedings Sustainability
DOI 10.3390/su8121294

Open Access

URL http://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/8/12/1294/htm
Type of Open Access Publisher (Gold Open Access)

Abstract

Complying with the carrying capacity of local and global ecosystems is a prerequisite to ensure environmental sustainability. Based on the example of Swiss mountain dairy farms, the goal of our research was firstly to investigate the relationship between farm global and local environmental performance. Secondly, we aimed to analyse the relationship between farm environmental and economic performance. The analysis relied on a sample of 56 Swiss alpine dairy farms. For each farm, the cradle-to-farm-gate life cycle assessment was calculated, and the quantified environmental impacts were decomposed into their on- and off-farm parts. We measured global environmental performance as the digestible energy produced by the farm per unit of global environmental impact generated from cradle-to-farm-gate. We assessed local environmental performance by dividing farm-usable agricultural area by on-farm environmental impact generation. Farm economic performance was measured by work income per family work unit, return on equity and output/input ratio. Spearman’s correlation analysis revealed no significant relationship, trade-offs or synergies between global and local environmental performance indicators. Interestingly, trade-offs were observed far more frequently than synergies. Furthermore, we found synergies between global environmental and economic performance and mostly no significant relationship between local environmental and economic performance. The observed trade-offs between global and local environmental performance mean that, for several environmental issues, any improvement in global environmental performance will result in deterioration of local environmental performance and vice versa. This finding calls for systematic consideration of both dimensions when carrying out farm environmental performance assessments.
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