back to all publications

Life cycle assessment of eight urban farms and community gardens in France and California

CSS Publication Number
Full Publication Date
February 22, 2023

Urban agriculture (UA) is often positioned as an environmentally sustainable food supply for cities. However, life cycle assessments (LCA) measuring environmental impacts of UA show mixed results, because of inconsistent application of LCA and reliance on hypothetical case studies. To address these shortcomings, we performed an LCA of eight urban farms and community gardens in Paris, France and San Francisco, California, USA. We collected primary data from sites representing diverse growing systems (low-intensity open-field to open-air hydroponics) and motivations (education, civic engagement, and commercial production). We found that medium-tech farms, with minimum social engagement had the lowest impacts using a kilogram-based functional unit, but socially-oriented farms had the lowest impacts with an area-based functional unit. Most impacts came from infrastructure (irrigation pipes, hydroponics structures), irrigation, compost, and peat for seedlings. Our findings can help LCA practitioners perform UA LCAs more completely/consistently, and help urban farmers/gardeners target high-environmental-impact practices to optimize.

Erica Dorr
Christine Aubry
Benoit Gabrielle
Arpad Horvath
Research Areas
Urban Systems and Built Environment




Climate change

Life cycle assessment

Urban agriculture

Environmental impacts

Publication Type
Journal Article
Digital Object Identifier
Full Citation

Erica Dorr, Benjamin Goldstein, Christine Aubry, Benoit Gabrielle, Arpad Horvath, Life cycle assessment of eight urban farms and community gardens in France and California, Resources, Conservation and Recycling, Volume 192, 2023. CSS23-37