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Economy

Resource efficient food in a changing, growing world

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Food waste is arguably one of the most serious issues facing the developed world. In terms of environmental and social costs, a huge amount of resources is literally thrown in the bin by the average British family every week.

To find out more, Ilaria Bertini spoke with Emma Marsh, head of the Love Food Hate Waste campaign co-ordinated by the Waste and Resources Action Programme, also known as Wrap, about the extent of the problem and possible solutions.

This article originally appeared in Blue & Green Tomorrow’s Guide to Sustainable Spending 2013.

Where does all our waste come from? Do we tend to buy more than what we need or is it just bad management of goods?

We waste almost 15m tonnes of food and drink in the UK every year – almost half of that comes from our homes and just 400,000 tonnes from the supermarket.

We throw away 4.2m tonnes of good food and drink every year from our homes, costing us £12.5 billion a year. That’s £200 for the average person, £470 for a typical family, rising to £700 for a family.

Almost half of that (£5.6 billion worth) didn’t even reach our dinner tables before it went in the bin. This is because it had either gone off or passed the date on the packaging. This included large amounts of bread, milk and potatoes.

Although we have made great progress since 2007 – reducing the amount of good food and drink we throw away by a massive 21% – there is still much more we can all do, even in those areas where there have already been big changes. There are certain things we could focus more on, for example understanding and checking ‘use by’ dates, and freezing food if it’s not going to be used before the date. 

Who is more responsible for the issue: consumers or the retailers?

Retailers, brands and the wider food industry have a key role in this, helping to make it easier for us as individuals to waste less food for example through using best practice information on pack and communicating with their customers to raise awareness of the issue.

Wrap and Love Food Hate Waste support retailers and brands to do this through the Courtauld Commitment and have designed evidence based tools that are free-of-charge to help all partners deliver effective campaigns and behaviour change initiatives. Retailers and brands, as well as the hospitality industry have all committed to reduce their own food waste as part of the Courtauld Commitment and Hospitality and Food Service Agreement.

We have a central role too, though, as individuals, to reduce the amount of food we throw away. Whether that’s through better planning so that we only buy what we need,  understanding our date labels and being in control of them, cooking just the right amount, storing food in the best way possible to keep it fresher for longer and making the most of leftovers and forgotten foods – a number of small acts makes a big difference.

What are the social and environmental costs of food waste?

It has a detrimental impact on the environment, wasting the materials, water and energy used in its production. Throwing away this 4.2m tonnes of good food and drink each year is responsible for the equivalent of 17m tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2). To put that into context, if we stopped wasting this good food and drink it would have the same environmental impact as taking one in four cars off UK roads.

Land is wasted every time we throw away food. For example an area almost the size of Wales would be required to produce all the food and drink that is subsequently thrown away by UK households

Wasted food is also responsible for around 4% of the UK total water footprint – after all, it takes 12 litres of water to produce just one tomato and 650 litres of water to produce one chicken breast.

And finally, reducing the amount of food and drink thrown away can contribute to a more resilient UK economy and food system.

If we don’t manage to change our behaviour, how will food supplies be impacted in the coming years when population is expected to drastically increase?

By 2050, there are projected to be 9 billion people with a fast expanding middle class. Food resource efficiency, in a world with a growing population, is crucial.

At Wrap, we think that by 2025 it could be possible to prevent up to another 15 million tonnes of avoidable household food waste. This means that food worth a staggering £45 billion could be saved.

If collectively, working together, we could do this, it would mean reducing avoidable UK food waste by half by 2025, compared to when we first started work in this area, in 2007. It won’t be easy but it is achievable if we act now to achieve it.

What steps could governments take and what can individuals and retailers do?

All of us – individuals, businesses, governments and community groups – can play a role in tackling food waste, and we have the tools and insights to make this happen.

Retailer and brands can continue to make it easier for us to waste less – simpler and effective labelling, and innovations to keep our food fresher for longer. Ongoing support and recognition of the issue as a clear priority, from governments to industry, local government et cetera is essential to ensure that we tackle the issue of food waste.

And as individuals, we can take action today. First find out if you waste food – most of us think we don’t but actually do. Keep a food waste diary and see what you waste, then take steps to tackle this.

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Practical tips to avoid food waste

– When you get your bread home, split it into two – half in the bread bin (never the fridge) and half in the freezer (remembering to slice it if it isn’t already). By the end of the week, your bread is still perfect to toast straight from the freezer. Any crusts can be whizzed up in the blender to make breadcrumbs

– Always keep potatoes in a cool, dark place but never the fridge. Remember you can freeze mashed potato and also pre-freeze roasties. If you spot your potatoes are on the turn peel, boil for 5 minutes, cover in the fat/oil of your choice and freeze – then when you want roasties cook them in the oven from frozen

– Always keep milk in the fridge below 5 degrees – many of us have fridges with a higher temperature which reduce shelf life so don’t forget to check. If you’ve got loads of milk and a small amount of jam in the pot mix the two together for an instant milkshake

– Once your bag of salad leaves is open transfer to a Tupperware pot, lined with a sheet of kitchen towel, and seal – will last for 3-5 days longer

For more tips, recipes and inspiration to help you waste less and save money go to www.lovefoodhatewaste.com  and pass the message on to friends, family, colleagues – together we can make a massive difference.

Further reading:

Consumers have ‘immense power’ to make food sustainable

Tesco to put ‘ugly’ fruit and veg on special offer to cut waste

World wasting up to half of global food

How Britain’s biggest supermarkets fare on sustainability

The Guide to Sustainable Spending 2013

Economy

New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035

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renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart / https://www.shutterstock.com/g/adrian825

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.

Sources: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-06/green-dream-risks-energy-security-as-kiwis-aim-for-zero-carbon

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-hydrocarbons/france-plans-to-end-oil-and-gas-production-by-2040-idUSKCN1BH1AQ

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Economy

How Going Green Can Save A Company Money

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going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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