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Study: UK must adopt sustainable approach to food, health and farming

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The UK must rethink its approach to food and farming to tackle the related challenges of food poverty, obesity and environmental sustainability, according to a new report.

Published by the Food Research Collaboration and a coalition of campaign groups, including the National Trust and RSPB, the report calls for “a new recipe for the future”.

Ahead of the 2015 general election, these groups urge ministers to deliver stronger policies on food, conservation and agricultural land use in the face of a number of growing crises that are currently “ignored”. 

“The countryside, farming and food deserve a far higher priority in public policy and must be treated as issues central to people’s lives and their wellbeing,” the report says.

Currently, some 33% of under 18’s in the UK are overweight or obese piling pressure onto the NHS and costing around £6 billion per year. Partly to blame, the report says, are diets based on over-processed food and empty calories.

Rising food prices also mean more people struggle to put meals on the table, as emergency food banks serve record numbers.

Meanwhile, the external costs of farming are thought to add up to more than £3 billion per year, because of impacts such as air and water pollution, soil erosion, and the loss of wildlife and its habitats. 

In response, the organisations say joined-up policies are needed to protect wildlife and promote diets built up of healthy, sustainable British produce.

Proposed measures include allocating more land to nature, the promotion of new independent certification marks, like Fairtrade, and encouraging people to eat less livestock products.

The coalition also wants reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy, which subsidises the sector with some €1 billion (£796m) of taxpayers’ money across the EU each week.

This money “delivers very little for the environment”, the report says, and could be used to ensure farmers manage their land more effectively.

“The evidence of food’s impact on health is overwhelming, but not enough questions are being asked about whether UK food and farming industries are part of this problem,” said Tim Lang, chair of the Food Research Collaboration.

“It’s often put down to consumer choice. But is it? Half of UK cereals are fed to animals. We grow ridiculously small amounts of fruit and vegetables when our shops and markets ought to have mountains of good fresh produce.

“What would the UK food system look like if it was designed around health and eco-systems, not just economics? The answer is surely: well, it wouldn’t look like it does now.” 

Dan Crossley, executive director of the Food Ethics Council, added, “Ensuring transparent, traceable and fair supply chains, investing in environmental sustainability and taking a long-term view are all crucial steps to achieving sustainable food and farming systems. 

“And acknowledging the links between poverty, inequality, the environment and poor nutrition is another crucial step in providing good food for all.”

According to the UN, in 2050 the world will have to sustainably produce 70% more food that it does today as population growth drives demand.

Experts say it is therefore essential that companies invest in agriculture, and especially in natural resources that produce higher yields and achieve global food and nutritional security.

Photo: Andrew Stawarz via Flickr

Further reading:

Richard Branson says goodbye to environmentally-intensive beef

Study: food of the future needs to be sustainable and healthy

Food bank use continues to rise, with 54% increase in 12 months

World needs to sustainably produce 70% more food by 2050

Feeding the world sustainably means investing in better solutions 

Environment

4 Common Items That Can be Reused Again and Again

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reuse reduce recycle plastic bottles etc
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Vanatchanan | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/vanatchanan%20buahom

As a society we are getting much better at taking our obligations to the world and environment around us more seriously. This is undoubtedly a good thing! The effects of climate change are beginning to manifest across the world, and this is turning the issue from an abstract threat into a very real danger. Trying to introduce some greener, more eco-friendly practices into your life isn’t just a great way of doing something beneficial for society and the world around you. It is a wonderful way of engaging positively with the world and carries with it numerous psychological benefits.

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Being a greener, more ecologically friendly person doesn’t require any dramatic life changes. Breaking or making a few small habits is all it takes to make your life a greener one. In this article we look at one of the easiest, yet most effective green practices to get into: reusing everyday items.

Jars and Containers

Glass and metal are widely recycled, and recycling is a good thing! However, consider whether any containers you buy, whether it’s a tub of ice cream or a jar of coffee, can be washed out and reused for something else. Mason jars, for example, can be used to store homemade pasta sauce and can be washed for future use. Once you start thinking about it, you will find endless opportunities to reuse your old containers.

Soda Bottles

An ice-cold soda is a wonderful treat on a hot day, but buying soda can get expensive, and the manufacturing and distribution of the drinks themselves isn’t great for the environment. However, by holding on to your old soda bottles and repurposing them as water bottles, you can save money on drinks, or use them to measure out water for your garden.

Plastic Bags

Most of the time groceries come in paper bags, which are better for the environment than the plastic alternatives, but they are less durable and thus harder to reuse. Whenever the store places your items in a plastic bag, hang onto it so you can reuse the bags again. If you want to take it one step further, consider looking into buying some personalized recycled bags. These bags are designed to last for a long time and are made of recycled materials. They look striking and unique, they’ll turn heads, and maybe even attitudes!

Seeds

If you’re a keen gardener, then you will already probably know how to reseed your plants in order to ensure a fresh crop after each plant’s lifecycle. If you have space in your garden, or haven’t yet tried your hand at gardening, then consider planting a small vegetable plot. Growing your own veggies means that you’ll be helping to cut back on the emissions generated by their transport and production. The best part about growing your own food in this way is that, by harvesting properly and saving the seeds, you can be set up with fresh vegetables for life!

Reusing and recycling common household items is an easy way to make your world a little bit greener. Once you start looking for these opportunities you’ll realize that they’re everywhere!

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Environment

These 5 Green Office Mistakes Are Costing You Money

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eco-friendly green offices
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Stokkete | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/cyano

The sudden interest in green business is very encouraging. According to recent reports, 42% of all companies have rated sustainability as an important element of their business. Unfortunately, the focus on sustainability will only last if companies can find ways to use it to boost their ROI.

Many businesses get so caught up in being socially conscious that they hope the financial aspect of it takes care of itself. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to go green and boost your net income at the same time.

Here are some important mistakes that you will want to avoid.

Only implementing sustainability on micro-scale

The biggest reason that brands are going green is to improve their optics with their customers. Too many businesses are making very minor changes, such as processing paperwork online and calling themselves green.

Customers have become wary of these types of companies. If you want to earn their business, you are going to need to go all the way. Bring in a green business consultant and make every feasible change to demonstrate that you are a green organization from top to bottom.

Not prioritizing investments by long-term ROI

It isn’t realistic to build an entirely green organization overnight. You will need to allocate your capital wisely.

Before investing in any green assets or services, you should always conduct a long-term cost benefit analysis. The initial investment for some green services may be over $20,000. If they don’t shave your cost by at least $3,000 a year, they probably aren’t worth the investment.

Determine which green investments will have the best pay off over the next 10 years. Make these investments before anything else. Then compare your options within each of those categories.

Implementing green changes without a plan

Effective, long-term planning is the key to business success. This principle needs to be applied to green organizations as well.

Before implementing a green strategy, you must answer the following questions:

  • How will I communicate my green business philosophy to my customers?
  • How will running a green business affect my revenue stream?
  • How will adopting green business strategies change my monthly expenses? Will they increase or decrease them?
  • How will my company finance green upgrades and other investments?

The biggest mistake that too many green businesses make is being overly optimistic with these forecasts. Take the time to collect objective data and make your decisions accordingly. This will help you run a much more profitable green business.

Not considering the benefits of green printing

Too many companies believe that going paperless is the only way to run a green organization. Unfortunately, going 100% paperless it’s not feasible for most companies.

Rather than aim for an unrealistic goal, consider the option of using a more environmentally friendly printer. It won’t be perfect, but it will be better than the alternative.

According to experts from Doranix, environmental printers have several benefits:

  • They can process paper that has been completely recycled.
  • They consume less energy than traditional printers.
  • They use ink that is more environmentally friendly.

You want to take a look at different green printers and compare them. You’ll find that some will meet your needs as a green business.

Poorly communicating your green business strategy to customers

Brand positioning doesn’t happen on its own. If you want to run a successful green business, you must communicate your message to customers as clearly as possible. You must also avoid the appearance that you are patronizing them.

The best approach is to be clear when you were first making the change. I’ll make an announcement about your company‘s commitment to sustainability.

You also want to reinforce this message overtime by using green labels on all of your products. You don’t have to be blatant with your messaging at this stage. Simply provide a small, daily reminder on your products and invoices.

Finally, it is a good idea to participate in green business seminars and other events. If your community has a local Green Chamber of Commerce, you should consider joining as well.

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