Last week we looked at a few different ways in which we consume energy and started to think about what we can do on a personal level and in the home, as households are responsible for 30% of global energy consumption. Aside from direct energy consumption through gas and electricity how does food have an impact on goal 12?
When we start to think about food in relation to Goal 12 (responsible consumption and production) we connect to it very easily and can make small changes, which will result in significant impacts at a global level. To first understand the bigger problem here are some facts:
Nearly 800 million people are undernourished
⅓ of global food production goes in the bin
1/9 go to bed hungry
⅓ suffer from malnutrition
2 billion are overweight or obese
Food services are responsible for 25% of GHG emissions, and
22% of CO2 emissions
Apart from the obvious, without food people are unable to develop. They don’t have the energy to grow physically or mentally. They are too weak to learn, too weak to work and more prone to disease and infection. This costs us $1trillion USD.
"A world with less hunger means improved health, improved education, improved social development and an improved economy. So, looking at what can we do at home is a pretty big deal."
Firstly, we have to think about what we buy and where we buy it:
Are we buying from local farmers and producers?
Are we buying produce that’s in season?
Are we buying environmentally friendly food?
Are we reducing our meat intake?
Industrial farming has killed our land, by reducing soil and water quality and as a result decreased biodiversity. If we buy from small stakeholders, and locally, we not only reduce the distance that the food needs to travel but we also reduce the risk of waste through transportation, as a result of damage and spoiling. It also becomes more affordable and usually tastes better as it’s fresh and not sprayed with lots of pesticides and chemicals to make it last longer.
You’ll also be reducing its carbon footprint and getting better quality food, so it's a win-win.
On a side note, it also brings people together, communities have always blossomed in their local markets. You get to know your producer, their love for the land and all the local gossip too :)
It’s not always easy to connect to local suppliers, but if you buy food that is organic, free range, RSPCA freedom food, pasture fed livestock, accredited by LEAF (Linking environment and farming) or AFS (Assured food standards) than that's a pretty good start. The guys that hold these accreditations/standards are thinking about the environment in which they operate, the use of pesticides, fertilisers, their waste and choosing to grow a range of crops to increase biodiversity. They also have to meet high animal welfare standards.
Now if we think about the type of food we buy and the impact of certain food groups we can’t ignore the vegetarian and vegan movements and rightly so as these guys are doing good. But be careful, as if we all turned vegan tomorrow we’d run out of land and water, not to mention the health implications, so think about sustainable changes and a simple reduction to your meat and dairy intake as that can make a huge difference.
Meat and dairy have a huge impact on the environment and create more GHG emissions than all the busses, train and planes put together. This is due to the:
Feed that’s required for the animals
Methane released by ruminants (cows and sheep),
Land that’s converted to accommodate the above, and
The transport to meet the demand
It also has a huge impact on water consumption.
Therefore, we need to buy more ethically produced and better quality products and reduce the amount of meat and dairy that we consume. Not just for the environment but for own health benefits too, such as blood pressure, cholesterol and obesity.
Fair-trade products also ensures that farmers and producers from developing countries and poorer communities are looked after and get a better deal, especially with such volatile markets since the financial crisis in 2008. The standard also looks at management of the environment, water and energy (renewable) consumption.
We’ve just looked at the type of products we buy and where we buy them from, what about how we use them and the waste?
One school just outside of London looked at these areas and discovered that they threw away 15,000 tonnes of food, costing them between £40,000 - 50,000 every year, which could feed the entire population of Monaco for a day. They also realised that they were using over 14 million plastic cups a year - now they use paper and good old fashioned glass.
We haven’t even touched on packaging and plastics but if you’ve got this far, I’m pretty sure you know the solution - reduce, reuse, recycle. Here are some quick takeaways:
Think about what you’re buying - buy smart
Think about where you’re buying it from - buy local
Think about the time of year - buy seasonal
Think about its packaging - buy carefully
Think about waste - buy less
It’s quite scary when you think about the knock on effect that you, as a consumer, can have but that’s what makes it so important and you should think of your buying power as a vote to your future, not just a lunch time purchase.