Taste Before You Waste has always stood for making small, individual acts of change that can build up to create a greater difference. We believe that engaging in thoughtful consumerism in even the smallest ways day-to-day can have a lasting impact on our food- and ecosystems.

Still, while such personal efforts do matter, there is something to be said about supporting direct civil activism through demonstrations and demanding political change – especially in dire times like these, when a global eco-crisis impends on us with every passing day.

In light of the upcoming Rebellion Week on October 7, 2019, we have decided to share with you some of the most accessible and effective ways to engage in eco-activism.

Maybe you have been wanting to make a change for a while now, but have felt unsure of where to start. Or maybe, you had simply never given it a thought until now. In either case, this guide will give you some easy, actionable steps to help you begin on your eco-activist journey.

Keep up with local activism and join its initiatives
The first – and most important – step is to get acquainted with which activism groups are active in your area. Do your research – browse their websites, read their mission statements, and see if there are any that resonate with you. Look up and join some of their events to get a feel for how they approach their objectives.

Found an activist group that you like and want to get involved?
Offer to help organize their events – most groups are always searching for more volunteers, and are eager to receive a helping hand.

Looking for a place to start?
Here’s a list of some of the eco- and food activism groups that are active in Amsterdam to get you started on your exploration:

  • TBYW Activism Group – A division of TBYW that offers free catering to activist events and demonstrations – our goal is to literally “feed the movement”
  • Extinction Rebellion – An organization that started out in the UK and then spread globally, Extinction Rebellion uses “non-violent civil disobedience” to raise awareness about the horrifying ecological crisis our planet is facing
    https://extinctionrebellion.nl/en/
  • Fridays for Future – An international movement that aims to initiate political action against climate change
    https://fridaysforfuture.nl/
  • ASEED Europe (Action for Solidarity, Equality, Environment, and Diversity Europe) – An initiative which started out in Amsterdam and spread out across the continent, ASEED Europe strives to involve youth in changing climate policies
    https://aseed.net/en/

Speak at city council meetings
Many people don’t know this, but you can address environmental policy changes directly with the authorities by attending your local city council meetings. Most city councils make their meetings open to the general public, and have a time slot allotted in the beginning where citizens can share their concerns. The city council of Amsterdam meets once every three weeks –you can find their meeting schedule, as well as other relevant information, on https://www.amsterdam.nl/en/governance/city-council/.

Write a letter to local political leaders
Should you want to directly contact authorities, you can also try sending a letter to local political figures who you think are capable of initiating change, or who you want to call accountable for their actions. You can find a list of information and contact details for all current Amsterdam governing body members on the city website.
https://amsterdam.raadsinformatie.nl/leden
https://www.amsterdam.nl/en/governance/mayor-alderpersons/

Spread the word
Spreading the word about environmentalism is perhaps the easiest way to engage in eco-activism by far. Talk to your friends about it, and encourage them to adopt more eco-friendly habits. Invite someone to join you the next time you go to a protest, or ask them to volunteer together at an event (cooking for the TBYW dinners makes for a great pastime activity!). Share activist demonstrations on Facebook to help them gain traction, and re-post environmental articles that might resonate with people.

Use your voice – both on- and offline – to share the ideas you think people should hear.

Looking for a place to start? Join the International Rebellion Week on October 7
The International Rebellion Week, hosted by Extinction Rebellion, will start on October 7, 2019 and will take place in several major cities across the globe. The protestors will peacefully occupy central urban areas to raise awareness about the pressing urgency of climate change.

In Amsterdam, the demonstration will start in the early morning of October 7 at Museumbrug. TBYW will be supporting the initiative by supplying free catering for all of its participants, providing food we have prepared from rescued produce.

Each person’s presence matters, and every voice helps to reinforce the demand – so, if you have been meaning to become an activist, perhaps this is your place to start.

https://rebellion.earth/international-rebellion/?fbclid=IwAR2IXJrf4m2rGxV0bkUxuARjxjLWtpqsRqV7rXEeZfB79Dhq13oKdzF5lbQ
https://www.facebook.com/events/1877626222340263/

In speaking of food waste we often hear about the environmental consequences: waste of land use, energy, water, our natural surroundings, and so on. However, the real cost of food waste is not only paid for by nature, but also by people. This blog dives into the social impact of a malfunctioning food system, in which over 30% of the worldwide production of food is wasted (FAO, 2018) while at the same time one in nine people does not have access to sufficient nutritious food. What is the state of hunger worldwide, versus the state of food waste? Who are the ones most affected? What are the main consequences that they carry? In other words: how can the food system be balanced out?

By becoming more aware of the social consequences of a malfunctioning food system, including food waste, we can strengthen the view on our role within a global food network. It will show that the smallest action that aid the reduction of personal food waste does make a difference in changing the planet’s and people’s health. Accordingly, we look for ways to achieve social as well as environmental justice through the food-related choices we make daily.  

A closer look at the issue

Our food system has developed into a system stimulating continuous growth, in many cases at the expense of life on the planet and livelihoods of people. Some people are more affected by this than others, but ultimately it harms everyone. The current production of food is enough to feed the world population twice (WFP, 2018). At the same time, roughly one in nine people worldwide suffer from hunger (FAO, 2018). It is clear that a profound change in the food system is needed to nourish the 800 million people that suffer from undernourishment in a way that ensures the health of the planet.

The global population is expected to grow with 2.3 billion people by 2050, counting almost ten billion people in total. The food production should increase with 56% to feed all those people. Or: we can reduce our food waste and not have to increase in food production at all.

On the macro-level, plans are made to reach targets to reduce food waste and nudge consumers’ behaviour in the right direction such as streamlining expiration labels and eliminating the use of trays in cafeterias (see box) (Ranghanatan et al, 2018). A big share of the waste, however, still happens on the micro-level: within households. Figure 1 shows where food is wasted on the consumer level the most.

Figures are consumer waste per capita based on data from the 2007 FAO report ‘Global Food Losses and Food waste’. Globally, consumer food waste amounts to roughly 350 Mt which equates about 50 kgs per person or 10% of total food supply (Gustavsson et al (FAO), 2011

In the figure we see that the so-called high-income regions, defined by the World Bank, and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), have the highest share of wasted food at the consumption level. The USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand produce a striking 110 kgs of food waste per person each year.

Source: UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 2017
Note: Developed countries are not included in the regional estimates since the prevalence is below 5%.

So: how does that relate to undernourishment? Whilst the number of undernourished people was steadily falling from 2005 – 2014, it has started to increase again in 2014 and has since risen again to 821 million people (Hutt & Gray, 2015).  The following chart shows where undernourishment is prevailing, globally.

The chart shows that the largest part of undernourished people live in Sub Saharan Africa and South Asia. So the regions where most food is wasted on the consumption level are the ones where hunger is least prevalent. This raises a moral question: how we can justify wasting the food that people in low income countries apparently are in such great need of?

Less food waste, more food security…?

To a large extent, the social impact of food waste relates to environmental consequences. The next figure gives an overview of those environmental costs.

Scialabba, 2014)

A growing global demand will put extra pressure on the agricultural sector. However, the need to produce more food can be offset dramatically by reducing the amount of food that is wasted. This also seems like an ethical thing to do, as societies carry most of the costs of the environmental impacts of food waste. First of all, simply said, human efforts to produce food that does not get a use, is wasted effort. Secondly, the pressure on countries to produce food is increasing as population grows. At the same time regions such as Sub Saharan Africa and the MENA-region also experience increased pressure on their agricultural productivity due to the effects of climate change. Soil is degrading, water resources are getting more scarce and more extreme weather conditions occur. If no serious system change takes place, the risk of a global food crisis is inevitable.

Rural women’s role in food security

The ones who are most affected by the increased pressure on the food system are rural women in low income countries. Women feed least and last in the countries that are faced with hunger, conflict and famine. Therefore, rural women are part of the so-called “left-behind category” (Nyirongo, 2018). Famine and hunger are not related to the fact that there is not enough food for people; it relates back to the access that people have to the food that is available, which is a political issue. Regarding food access, women are last in line. There are three reasons why:

  1. Deep-rooted gender norms. In many countries, the case is that women only eat after the men and kids have had food. Especially when crisis hits, women are the first to sacrifice their food to make sure the family has enough. Women do 2.6 times more unpaid care and domestic work than men do and earn 23% less for paid work (ILO, 2016).
  2. Man-made conflict. Man-made conflict is the number one driver of food insecurity and women are hit hardest by that. As men fight in conflicts, women become the head of the household, yet having little to offer to their families due to a lack of resources. Additionally, women are more subject to abuse, violence and abduction from their homes in times of conflict.
  3. Lack of women’s rights. In many countries, women have less power and less rights compared to men. Even though women make up for more than half the world’s agricultural workers, they do not own any of the financial means, land or tools to farm (WFP, 2018).

Challenges for the role of rural women for development, food production and poverty eradication are further complicated by a changing climate, food price inflation and economic crisis. Women empowerment is essential, not only for the well-being of communities, families and individuals, but also for overall economic productivity. Women are key agents in development as their productivity level is higher than men’s. A study of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) estimated that if women had equal access to resources as men (tools, land, credit etc) agricultural output would rise up to four percent. This might not seem like a lot, but globally, as a high share of low-income countries are active in the primary (agricultural) sector, this definitely adds up. Additionally, if women are given the opportunity to control household income they are more likely to spend it on food, health, clothing and education than men are.

Believe.earth

Improvements in food security can be made by, for instance, improving rural women’s access to agricultural resources and credits and enhancing decision making and ownership within households, communities and at government-level. Gender equality is essential in achieving food and nutrition security and contribute to social and economic growth, both now and in the future.

Conclusion

Globally, a clear pattern is visible: in high-income countries most food is wasted consumption stage of the food supply chain. Low-income countries hardly waste food at that level. These countries that largely rely on their primary sector, of which agriculture holds the largest share, suffer the most from the consequences of food waste because it puts pressure on their capacities. At the same time, they encounter the greatest problems in the agricultural sector such as heat and drought, water scarcity and more extreme weather conditions due to climate change.

The prevailing food crisis is a direct consequence of food loss and food waste practices, of which rural women in particular are affected the most. To solve these issues in the food chain it is important to empower rural women, as not only does it reduce inequality, it also increases agricultural productivity, and investment in the community that women take part in.

But: we shouldn’t forget the responsibility that the consumer has on the other end of the food value chain. System changes can come from here, too. The question isn’t only: how can we increase agricultural productivity to meet the nutritional needs of ten billion people in 2050? But: How can we make better use here and now, of the food that already exists? This is where we should strive for making healthier choices in consumption, both for the people as the planet. Cutting down on meat consumption would be a major step ahead, as this relieves a lot of pressure off the planet’s resources and lowers greenhouse gas emissions. Combating food waste is another major one. With that we can influence the lives of those most affected by the malfunctioning food system on the other end. Now, why should we care? Because, as Martin Luther King said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

References:

  • Besley, T. Persson, T (2008) Wars and State Capacity. Journal of the European Economic Association DOI: 10.1162/JEEA.2008.6.2-3.522
  • FAO (2010) How to Feed the World in 2050
  • FAO (2011) The state of Food and Agriculture. Women in agriculture, closing the gender gap for development.
  • FAO (2018) The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World. Building Climate Resilience for  Food security and Nutrition. http://www.fao.org/3/I9553EN/i9553en.pdf
  • Hutt, R., Gray, A. (2015) What is Hunger? World Economic Forum. Derived from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2015/10/what-is-hunger/ at 21/05/2019
  • Kapur, D. (2011) 31 – Agriculture, food and nutrition security. Public Health Nutrition in Developing Countries, Pages 844-878.
  • Kim, K. & Morawski, S. (2012) Quantifying the Impact of Going Trayless in a University Dining Hall. Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition Volume 7, Issue 4, Pages 482-486.  
  • Lipinski, B. (2013) By the Numbers: Reducing Food Loss and Waste. World Resources Institute. Derived from

https://www.wri.org/blog/2013/06/numbers-reducing-food-loss-and-waste at 22/05/2019

Around the Wei river, trees and shrubs dot the area and grass stretches over kilometres of land cut by dramatic canyons. This green stretch of land in central China covers the Shaanxi province and extends to inner Mongolia is known as the Loess Plateau (Ahlquist, n.d.). Here 20 million people have lived and grown their food like the Sichuan pepper, to sustain themselves for centuries. These highly fertile soils have been significant in China’s history and played a crucial part in the survival and wellbeing of its civilisation.

People living here are dependent on these rich soils. Farmers are very much attuned with the land with its properties and needs, agriculture here is planned. Terracing has provided a way to control soil erosion and the resultant loss of land. Land which is sloped into a series of successive planes provides a way to control sediment flow which then flowed into downstream (TheWorldBank, 2007).  Also, herders cannot leave their herds to wander freely around grasslands and graze wherever and as much as the animals would like. Other measures include sustainable water management, increased vegetation cover, and this was all reinforced with policy.

This is what land degradation looks like.

This however has not always been the case, actually it was quite different before 1994. Planned sustainable agriculture was an outcome of WWF’s project entitled the ‘Loess Plateau Watershed Rehabilitation project’ (TheWorldBank, 2007). Its aim was to attain sustainable living among residents by revisiting agricultural practices in the area. Farming here was exhaustive, acres of trees were cleared to make space for agricultural land, crops were planted on steep sides of the valley, grasslands were exhausted by herds of goats, and most importantly people did not own the land but they could just farm it (Liu, 2005). These practices went on for centuries while people did not really think ahead, and so the land started to turn to sand and wild plants and animals disappeared.  People were left without a source of food or income causing poverty within the region.

Land degradation refers to the diminished value of land from disturbances, either caused by natural phenomenon or human activity. These changes or disturbances negatively impact the ability of land to function as part of the ecosystem and hinder its ecosystem services, i.e. the absorption, storing, and recycling of water, energy and nutrients (FAO, 2013). Such natural phenomenon as extreme weather, drought, or salinization from coastal surgance can cause for land to dry up and erode. However, the causes of land degradation are mainly anthropogenic and agriculture related. The increasing and combined pressures of our modern-day agriculture and livestock production include; overcultivation, overgrazing, forest conversion, deforestation, pollution and urbanization (FAO, 2014).

  • Globally the total amount of food wastage in 2007 occupied almost 1.4 billion hectares (this is significantly larger than the size of Canada), equal to about 28 % of the world’s agricultural land area.
  • While the major contributors to land occupation of food wastage are meat and milk, with 78%of the total surface.

The way we produce and consume food requires us to slash acres of trees, destroying natural habitats, displacing numerous species, and in so doing jeopardizing biodiversity. This conversion from natural vegetation to agricultural land tends to go beyond the soil’s natural ability to recover. The industrial agricultural method intensively grows a single crop within a region, this is known as Monoculture. This drastic shift depletes the nutrients from the soil which is normally used to the richness of biodiversity. Additionally, the improper use of fertilizers, particularly nitrogen and phosphorus contaminate and pollute the soils making it more acidic and less fertile.

When it comes to live stock, this requires huge amounts of land, as a place to keep the animals but also vast agricultural land to grow their feed crops i.e. alfalfa (FAO, 2013). Besides land occupation, livestock production is also responsible for over grazing, where pastures are exposed to constant intensive grazing over long periods of time.

It’s not just the way that we produce our food, it’s also the rate. The land’s resources are consumed much faster than they can replenish and this fails to ensure the long-term sustainability of land. Which can eventually lead to desertification, meaning that a piece of land dries out, losing its water sources and wildlife and becomes a desert. (Fertile Crescent)

All these negative implications of the present food supply chain, and faults in the industrial agriculture methods illustrate the repercussions which the natural environment is subject to. However, these repercussions extend to our communities and economies.

On the environment

Soil is also an excellent source of water, green water that is. This was already highlighted in a previous blog post on the implications of food waste on our water sources. Poor agricultural practices and poor land management also leads to the contamination of waterways and groundwater (FAO, 2013). This mostly happens because of the irrigation method that is used, the pesticides which are either discharged into freshwater creating deposits in river banks or leak into groundwater.

On our communities

The constant and increasing pressures on land to extract as much food as possible is actually backfiring. Nutrient less soil produces poor quality crops which negatively impacts our health. Loss of land means that there is less space to grow food, which is a huge issue for a growing population already dealing with food insecurity. It also means loss of livelihood for those who are dependent on this land, farmers risk their income or even their own meals and fail to provide for their families. Once soil is degraded it turns into sand and dust which is swept away by the wind, increasing particles in the air and creating greater respiratory problems for us all (FAO, 2013).   

When we then realise that one third of all the food produced for human consumption is then being wasted, this continues to make less and less sense.

Once we take a few steps into the journey food makes to get to us, we start to gather all the ‘invisible’ resources that are necessary. When talking about food waste, we can not only talk about the food that is wasted, though this is an excellent starting point. We have to look at where this food comes from, who is producing it and why these resources and long hours of labour than end up in landfills decomposing. However, very much like in the Loess Plateau there is potential. Here, land was allowed to regenerate resulting in vegetative cover increase by 17 up to 34%, crop production was more stable ensuring a secure food supply for the inhabitants (Liu, 2005).  By protecting their natural resources 2.5 million people were lifted out of poverty as employment opportunities increased and they could provide for themselves once again.0

Now, this may seem like a story of a distant place that has nothing to do with us but we know that our food is global, and so is our food waste. Borders and distances in kilometres mean nothing to nature and our eco system’s biodiversity. We’re all in this together (un)fortunately. In our local efforts to reuse food, reduce food waste, and recycle what’s left we are actually contributing to a much larger effort.

Source

Ahlquist, M. (n.d.).

FAO. (2013)

FAO. (2014).

Liu, J. D. (2005)

TheWorldBank. (2007)

Every single thing which you are holding, sitting on or nibbling is water. In the same way as plants and produce need water to grow, the computer you are typing on required liters of water during its manufacturing. The same goes for the clothes that you are wearing or the soaps and detergents that you use at home. We might not think of the water that is used in these products because we don’t see it bottled or coming out of our taps, but we are still consuming it. Our use of water resources directly impacts fresh water systems which is all the lakes and ponds, rivers, streams, springs, bogs, and wetlands

How much are we consuming?

Well, a lot actually given that from all the water on earth, only 3% is fresh water of which only 1% is readily available for our consumption (FAO, 2013). The Water footprint network (WFN) has estimated the average global consumption to be 1,240 m3 per year per person, with variations across regions and countries (Hoekstra. Y, A et al., 2011). Countries like Peru, China and the Democratic Republic of Congo use on average 600 to 800 m3 of fresh water per year per person. While countries like the USA and Russia have a much higher average of 2,100 to 2,500 m3 per year per person.


© The Water Footprint Network

In 2002 Arjen Y. Hoekstra (a water management professor at the University of Twente) presented the concept of The Water Footprint. This serves as a tool that tells us how much water is required to produce the goods and the services that we consume, be it food, clothing, or the running of a multinational company. It quantifies the impact of humans’ consumption patterns on freshwater system by looking at the full production process from the supply chain to the end user. This means that is looks at the water that is used directly and indirectly in the process. In so doing, making government, companies, and individuals are accountable for their water use (Hoekstra. Y, A et al., 2011).

What is wrong with a large water footprint?

Many people have the misconception that water’s status of renewability means that it is endless source. A renewable resource is not endless; rather it means that the natural rain cycle replenishes the resource. Water is continually moving throughout the planet, with each climate receiving its own kind and volume of precipitation so its availability in regions varies. If a community overuses or pollutes its water source, the source can temporarily run out. However through conservation efforts water resources can eventually be restored.

In the Netherlands the total water footprint is 23,000 million m3 per year meaning that every individual living in the Netherlands consumes 4,000 litres of water per day. However only 5% of this is internal, while the other 95% is external (Ibid). Water use in a globalised world means that products are not always consumed in their country of origin, water consumption is externalised to the countries producing the goods and services. This however does not mean that the consuming countries are not accountable for their consumption.

Rather, global water consumption is tracked at river basin and aquifer level, which is particularly useful to understand the implications of water consumption or pollution within that region. It especially matters in regions prone to water scarcity in countries like Chile, Malta or Kuwait, as further extraction or pollution of their water resources can be detrimental to their national water resources and global water systems.

The water food print is made up of three components; blue water, green water, and grey water.


© The Water Footprint network

So, by knowing how much and where, the water footprint informs us on how better manage our use of fresh water resources.

Why does this matter?

Let’s imagine that all the freshwater available to us for consumption was a 1 litre bottle. This one bottle of water needs to serve all freshwater ecosystems with their species, as well as our growing industries and communities. Global estimates suggest that of this single source of freshwater 70% goes to growing our food, mainly for irrigation in agriculture (FAO, 2014).

Water use in food production varies from crop irrigation to food processing i.e. cleaning, sanitizing, peeling, cooling. It is essential therefore for our food supply chain to have a healthy constant source of fresh water to grow produce and feed animals. Yet, one-third of food produced for human consumption is thrown out (FAO, 2014).

Some of the most commonly wasted food are bread, milk, and apples.

Using the Water Footprint product gallery, we can now look at the estimated water costs of these products.

Bread

The global average water footprint of wheat is 1827 litres per kg

Milk

The global average water footprint of milk is 1020 litres per kg.

Apple

On average, one apple costs 125 litres of water.

Meat

The global average water footprint of beef is 15400 litres per kg.

The Water footprint shows us that it is not just the valuable food being wasted but also such finite resources as water. FAO (2013) estimates that globally, the blue water footprint i.e. the consumption of surface and groundwater resources of food wastage is about 250 km3. While conservative estimates of water loss caused by discarded food indicate that about half of the water withdrawn for irrigation is lost. Once food is dumped, it sits landfills which leads to harmful soluble substances (via leachates and runoff) to seep into the ground. This pollutes waterways and groundwater which negatively impact both land and aquatic biodiversity  (Hoekstra. Y, A et al., 2011).

What can we do to shrink our Water footprint?

There are many positive contributions we can make.

We can start off by calculating our personal water footprint. This will give us a clearer idea of how much water our lifestyle requires and how sustainable this is. Once we know this we can start making more conscious decisions about our dietary choices and consumption habits.

Of course, this does not fall on us individuals. It is also important to voice our concern and let governmental representatives know that we care about water and want it to be used and managed in a sustainable way across the globe. We can do this by electing representatives with a sound water policy and being an active global water citizen.

In that way governments can set up coherent policies which look at multiple industries, and work to ensure sustainable production of produce and services from importing countries. Similarly, industries need to implement resource efficiency in their production process and ensure transparency in their water use.

Happily, this shows how by learning to reuse food, reducing our food waste, and recycling food scraps we’d also be making a contribution to shrinking our water footpring. By fighting food waste we’re also alleviating pressure from water sources and assuring the sustainability of fresh water systems. In our mission to fight food waste we’d;

  • Reduce blue water consumption for irrigation in agriculture
  • Require less blue water for food processing
  • Downsize the amount of food waste in landfills and the resulting leachates and run off
  • Reduce the possibility of contamination of waterways and groundwater 

Looks like a win- win!

Sources

FAO. (2013). Food wastage footprint Impact on natural resources Summary report. FAO.

FAO. (2014). Food wastage footprint Full-cost accounting Final Report. FAO.

Fao. (2014). Mitigation of societal costs and benefits of food waste. Fao.

FAO. (2014). The Water-Energy-Food Nexus; A new approach in support of food security and sustainable agriculture. Rome: FAO.

Hoekstra, A. Y., Chapagain, A. K., Aldaya, M. M., & Mekonnen, M. M. (2011). The Water Footprint Assessment Manual; Setting the global standard. London: EarthScan.

Waste and zero-waste living

 

©The Green Hub

 

Waste. Something we, at Taste Before You Waste, do not like. This week’s blogpost takes a look, not just at food waste, but at all consumer waste. Learn more about waste-free living and find tips & tricks on how to reduce your personal waste.

 

Waste streams  and their disposal

 

Let’s dive into the bin. What is waste? Which waste streams are there? How are each of the waste streams treated?

Waste streams are the routes that waste pass through from the source to:

  • Recovery. Materials of a product are replaced so the product gets another useful purpose;
  • Recycling. Converting waste into reusable materials;
  • Disposal. Removing, destroying or storing waste.

In 2016, 5.0 tonnes of waste was generated per EU inhabitant (Eurostat, 2018). The EU upholds a ‘polluter pays’ principle. This means that for instance the producers of materials have to bear to cost of polluting practices at the production stage. These polluting practices may entail damage to protected species, damage to water or soil damage. By putting a price tag on polluting practices for the producer, the cost reflects in the price that the consumer eventually pays. So, indirectly the consumer also pays for pollution.

 

The way waste is treated varies across categories. Presently only 44 per cent of all municipal waste is recycled or composted (Multimedia Centre European Parliament, 2018). ‘Mixed ordinary waste’ has the lowest recycling rate of all the categories (15%) (Bourguignon, 2015). What is not recycled, is disposed, which unfortunately represents an enormous loss of resources, energy, land, production labour etcetera. On top of that, waste disposal management can have severe environmental impacts. Incineration, for instance, can result in the emission of air pollutants (Eurostat, 2018). EU policy is now geared towards reducing the environmental- and health related impacts of waste and improving the efficiency of resource-use. Over the longer term, policies aim at reducing the amount of waste and promoting waste as a resource: recycling!

 

A policy brief published the 4th of March this year reported on the need to reshape our economy towards climate-neutral and circular. This policy brief prescribes that the percentage of recycled waste should be increased up to 65 percent and the amount of waste that reaches landfills should drop to below 10 percent. Landfills are sites where waste is disposed underground or on the land. In 2016, in the EU, 45.5 percent of waste was landfilled (Eurostat, 2018). The problem with landfills is that they are often so tightly packed that all oxygen is squeezed out, causing organic waste to not compose properly. This landfilling solid waste creates carbon dioxide and methane that can seep out of landfill. Both are greenhouse gasses: they trap heat in the atmosphere which causes global warming (Themelis & Ulloa, 2006). Besides that, landfill leachate (the liquid that percolates through solid material) allows pollutants from the leachate to contaminate groundwater (Lee & Jones-Lee, 2011). So: landfills take up a lot of land and space and can cause air, water and soil pollution.

 

Plastic, not-so-fantastic

 

Finally, in thinking of waste stream management, plastic deserves its own paragraph. The world produces more than 300 million tons of plastic each year. The problem with plastics is that only a fraction of that is recycled: only nine percent of the global production (Geyer, Jambeck & Lavender, 2017). 12 percent of that is incinerated, and 79 percent ends up in landfills or the natural environment. To paint a picture for you: think of one large garbage truck full of plastic that every minute of everyday, dumps its entire holding capacity into the ocean (UN, 2017). If our waste management strategies remain unchanged, by 2050 about 12.000 metric tons of plastic will be in landfills and our natural environment.

 

 

 

 

 

The consumer as part of the solution

 

Unnecessary packaging, unclear or absent waste separation systems or malfunctioning waste management are major contributors to the pollution of our natural environment. These take place on the macro level: institutions decide for the consumer. However, as a consumer you have more power than you think! So let’s consider the role that us individuals have in creating positive impact. And this is where a zero waste lifestyle enters the stage! A great contributor of keeping matter out of landfill is to keep trash out of the trash bin, simple as that. So that’s what we’ll do. What follows now is a beginners’ guide to a zero-waste lifestyle. With easy-to-apply tips and tricks that pave the way for anyone to appropriate a life with less waste.

 

The five waste-free principles

We’ll start with the five principles of personal waste-management:

  1. Refuse. Neglect the things that you don’t need in your life. Refusing goes beyond saying ‘no’ to any marketing folder that is pushed in your hands. Also refuse to take to-go cups, fast fashion, plastic straws and plastic bags. Basically it means minimizing consumption of the things that you have become used to in your daily life. It’s all about the details here, so be mindful of the things you use. Do you really need that keyhanger souvenir while there are still three lying around in your drawer, probably broken into two before they made it to your home country? Probably not. Free toys that come with your groceries? No thank you! That standard pair of plastic cutlery with your to-go meal? Dare to say no and free yourself of useless materials. Naturally, it will leave you with more time and space to spend on the things that DO matter.
  2. Reduce. Reduce what you can’t refuse. This step helps you to focus on the things you need in your day-to-day life. These can be cleaning products, cosmetics, gadgets, anything! Look at all the things you have in your home and get rid of the unnecessary. Sell, hand out to the second-hand store, recycle or give away. Congratulations; you’ve just made the choice to own quality over quantity and life experience over material goods.
  3. Reuse. There are certain things you need when going to the (super)market. Plastic bags are not one of them. Instead, use a canvas bag or containers for your fruits and vegetables, which you can reuse. The same goes for reusable containers to store your food in the fridge, instead of the wasteful plastic cling film to cover yesterday’s late night pizza.
  4. Rot. Composting is a process in which organic waste changes into soil conditioner. The end product: compost, is rich in nutrients and can be used in farming, agriculture etcetera. Whether you live on a farm or in an apartment on the seventh floor, there are always composting options. Keep your organic waste separate and get informed on the composting options in your neighbourhood. Many cities have wormhotels, where hundreds of worms create high-quality, nutrient-rich compost out of your organic waste. Here you can get rid of your organic waste and contribute to the production of nutrient-dense soil conditioner. Via https://wormenhotel.nl/kaart/ you can search for the worm hotel nearby, or start your own worm hotel.
  5. Recycle. There will unfortunately be some products that you use and have to dispose. Always check your municipality’s website to know about the recycling policies.

 

The information that is shared here was mostly derived from desk research. But to actually know what it is like to live waste-free, we will only find out if we go out and try it! So: starting the first of May, me and two others will embark on a waste-free journey that will last one full month. We will test-run all tips, tricks and strategies for a waste-free lifestyle and log on the challenges and everything that strikes us during the journey. During the TBYW summer festival we hope to see you during an interactive session during which all ins and outs of minimizing personal consumer waste will be discussed. But: we don’t want to do this alone! Do you feel like taking on a challenge? Join! Send an e-mail to HannekeM@tastebeforeyouwaste.org and let’s do this, together.

 

Additionally, TBYW organizes a series of workshops that help you on the way to a waste-free life. Here’s the overview of all the workshops that will be given, starting the 30th of April.

 

Date (dd.mm.yyyy) Theme Topic
30.04.2019 Kitchen hygiene Reusable wipes

All-purpose cleaner

Dish soap

14.05.2019 Personal hygiene/protection Toothpaste

Deodorant

Sunscreen

21.05.2019 Soap making Coffee scrub

Bar soap

04.06.2019 Menstrual cycle Menstrual cup

Reusable pads

cramp oil

11.06.2019 Personal hygiene/protection Eye liner

Bronzing powder

Make up remover

 

Stay tuned in on TBYW’s social media channels to find more information soon. We hope to see you at the workshops and don’t hesitate to get in touch and join us in the waste-free month challenge!

 

References:

  • Bourguignon, D. (2015) Understanding waste streams. Treatment of specific waste. EPRS | European Parliamentary Research Service. Members’ Research Service
  • Geyer, R., Jambeck, J. R. & Lavender. K. (2017) Production, use and fate of all plastics ever made. Science Advances, Vol 3 No 7.  
  • Lee, F. G. Lee-Jones, A. (2011) Solid Waste Management: US EPA Lined-Landfill Approach Not Reliable for Protecting Public Health and Environmental Quality.
  • Media Centre European Parliament, 2018/06/04, Circular economy: Europe cleans up its act.  Retrieved from: https://multimedia.europarl.europa.eu/en/circular-economy-europe-cleans-up-its-act_N01-PUB-180504-CIRC_ev, at 09/04/2019
  • Themelis, N. J. & Ulloa, P. A. (2006) Methane generation in landfills. Science Direct, Renewable Energy 32 (2007) 1243–1257
© Nancy Standlee

Today was a good day. I ate the leftovers from yesterday’s pie, yum! still delicious! I didn’t throw out or waste any food, well only the orange peels from this morning’s breakfast. So, for today my food waste CO2 emissions are low, so tonight I’ll have sweet waste free dreams! XoX

Let me explain. A couple of weeks back, while I was researching on food waste related topics, I came across ‘The Food Waste Calculator for households’ (FAO, 2013). This initiative is part of the European Week for Waste Reduction (EWWR) which usually takes place in the last week of November each year. Now, I didn’t really want to wait eight months to write about this, so I decided to go ahead and fill my food waste diary for seven days.

It turned out to be a pretty simple thing to do. I downloaded the excel file from the EWWR website, I read though the instructions and filled in my details. After that I started to keep track of my food waste. All I needed was a balance to weigh the food waste, and a piece of paper to list the weight daily. I would then enter the information in the excel file under the appropriate cell, either leftovers or spoiled food. This would add up to my weekly food waste (mine came to 2.2 Kg), and then converted in its CO2 equivalent. It also compared me my CO2 equivalent of my food waste per year with the climate compatible annual emissions budget per person.

These are my results:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a bit silly but I was a little annoyed at the beginning that the numbers were so low, I really wanted to have a bigger discovery at the end of the week-long experiment. It turns out I’m pretty good at avoiding waste (for that one particular week), most of the food waste was unavoidable i.e. fruit and vegetable peels. There was only one sad savoy cabbage promised for delicious vegan kimchi that went bad before I could even try, oh well!

This was a truly uncomplicated way to become more aware of household food waste at the most localised personal level. However, the issue of food waste is a global one which extends beyond the individual and involves multiple agents; governments, businesses, and producers. Globally it is estimated that a third of the food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted through production process and after consumption (FAO,2013). The quantification of this loss and waste is essential to adequately reduce and avoid wastage of food as well as the waste of natural resources in production.

In 2013, FAO coined the term ‘Food Wastage Footprint’ in order to calculate the environmental and social costs associated with natural resource loss and environmental degradation (FAO, 2013). In this case, food wastage specifically refers to any food lost by deterioration or discard, thus the term “wastage” encompasses both food loss and food waste.

 

“The Food Wastage Footprint (FWF) project… calculates the impact of food wastage on natural resources such as water, land and biodiversity. This includes the natural resources used across the food chain, from growing to distributing food which is finally not eaten, the impact of food wastage disposal on natural resources, and the impact of GHG emissions from food wastage on the atmosphere.”  –  (FAO, Food wastage footprint Impact on natural resources Summary report, 2013)

 

Once the parallels between landfills overflowing with edible food, and malnourished communities on separate parts of the globe were drawn, the issue of food wastage was impossible to ignore (FAO, 2013). Studies were carried out, which showed us that one-third of all food produced for human consumption if wasted, and this is costing 1 trillion USD out of our pockets each year. (FAO, 2014) Still, these high figures overlook the total cost of food wastage; economic, social and environmental. That is where The Food Wastage Footprint comes in.

KNOW.

The Food Wastage Footprint provides a more complete and accurate understanding of the food supply chain. As it unveils hidden environmental and social costs and provides a clear illustration of any distortions within the global food system (FAO, 2014). It also heightens and improves our knowledge of the implications of our food production and consumption patterns.

ENUMERATE.

The Food Wastage Footprint does this by monetizing unpriced natural resources such as land, water, air, ecosystems, and biodiversity, along with the related ecosystem services. Usually natural resources are prey to the Tragedy of the commons’, a concept which Willian Foster Lloyd wrote about back in 1833, it loosely states that resources which are freely accessible are depleted through self-interest over-consumption for short-term gain (Vugt, 2009). By going beyond market pricing, the Food Wastage Footprint incorporates societal welfare costs related to the loss of natural resources.

MITIGATE.

The Food Wastage Footprint therefore serves as a powerful tool for effective mitigation of global food waste. It equips us with a thorough understanding of food wastage at different levels (global, national, local), and the role of various agents (producers & consumers). This is necessary as only by knowing exactly what, where, and how can we successfully reduce food waste and design targeted measures (Fao, 2013).

 

In its study FAO provides calculations for prominent social and environmental costs of food wastage, these are also broken down by geographical region, commodity (cereals, meat, fruit, & vegetables), and phases of the global food supply chain (FAO, 2014). Its findings highlight that in addition to the USD 1 trillion of economic costs per year, environmental costs reach around USD 700 billion and social costs amount to USD 900 billion.

 

 

Some of the most notable findings include;

  • 3.5 Gt CO2e of greenhouse gas emissions. Based on the social cost of carbon, these are estimated to cause USD 394 billion of damages per year.
  • Increased water scarcity, particularly for dry regions and seasons. Globally, this is estimated to cost USD 164 billion per year.
  • Soil erosion due to water is estimated to cost USD 35 billion per year through nutrient loss, lower yields, biological losses and off-site damages. The cost of wind erosion may be of a similar magnitude.
  • Risks to biodiversity including the impacts of pesticide use, nitrate and phosphorus eutrophication, pollinator losses and fisheries overexploitation are estimated to cost USD 32 billion per year.
  • Increased risk of conflict due to soil erosion, estimated to cost USD 396 billion per year.
  • Loss of livelihoods due to soil erosion, estimated to cost USD 333 billion per year.
  • Adverse health effects due to pesticide exposure, estimated to cost USD 153 billion per year.

Source:  FAO, Food wastage footprint Full-cost accounting Final Report, 2014

 

 Key global environmental impacts of food wastage by regions

[Values in million tonnes wastage, millions ha land occupation, million tonnes GHG emissions, and km3 water use, all on the same axis.]

Source: FAO, Food wastage footprint Full-cost accounting Final Report, 2014

 

The Food Wastage Footprint highlights the sheer magnitude of the global food waste problem through valuing our ecosystems, the commons and all related invaluable services they provide. This is not an attempt to put a price tag on nature but rather these calculations allow prioritising actions and defining opportunities for various actor’s contribution to resolving this global challenge (FAO,2013) . However we may choose to look at it, reducing food wastage makes sense economically, environmentally and socially. It also raises the question that, with increasing world population, higher standards of living and limited natural resources, are the costs of food wastage something we can really afford?

 

P.S. For our readers, we encourage you to participate and fill in YOUR food waste diary and feel free to let us know how it went!

Sources

FAO. (2013). Food wastage footprint Impact on natural resources Summary report.

Fao. (2013). Toolkit reducing the food wastage footprint. 

FAO. (2014). Food wastage footprint Full-cost accounting Final Report. 

Fao. (2014). Mitigation of societal costs and benefits of food waste.

Vugt, M. V. (2009). Averting the Tragedy of the Commons

How will we sustainably feed 10 billion mouths by 2050? That was the question we asked ourselves during the Wasteless Culture Monday the fourth of March; one of the weekly events that Taste Before You Waste (TBYW) organizes. A TBYW volunteer presented the broader subject of our future food system in relation to  its’ connection with consumers’ dietary habits with the overall aim of both informing and providing a platform for discussion about the ‘sustainable future diet’.

Gerelateerde afbeelding

© NextGen Policy

Questions that were addressed during the presentation and group discussion included; is there a way to feed 10 billion people by 2050? And if so, how can we establish that without exploiting the planet even more? What environmentally sustainable choices can we make? How do you create a large-scale shift in diet?

 

In accordance with the philosophy of Taste Before You Waste, the event provided insight into the  role that the bottom-up movement plays in the wider context. It addressed the responsibility that us, as individuals, have for the health of the planet. And, the things we can do on a daily basis to maintain a healthy planet. One thing we learnt is that as consumers, we can have a massive influence on climate goals by making changes to our eating habits. However, the path towards it is an inherently complex one. For instance: we all know we should eat a little less meat. However, it remains a controversial subject to discuss. Eating culture is such an emotional one after all. We have however done the best we can to leave you with some new insights and ideas on how to change your diet into sustainable one: good for your and the planet’s health.

 

The problem

Our current food system is failing. Population is growing on a planet on which resources are exhausted, causing a risk of failure to meet the dietary needs of all these people. All the processes and infrastructures that are required to feed the population are threatening the stability of the climate and resilience of the ecosystems. In other words: The food system goes beyond the planetary boundaries, irreversibly damaging the environment (Willet, W et al, 2019). Whether you are familiar with Taste Before You Waste, who actively commits to tackling this problem, or not, this is a problem that addresses not only ourselves but future generations.

 

Food has the potential to be a powerful lever to optimize human health and environmental sustainability on earth. However, food is currently threatening both people and planet. The rise of the middle class the previous century in Europe and North America, and currently in Asia, coupled with urbanization has driven a transition from traditional diets to diets that contain large amounts of refined sugar, animal protein and fats. This is the exact diet that will cause an estimated 80% of increase in greenhouse emissions by 2050 (Tilman & Clark, 2014).

 

Consumers as part of the solution

The depressing part is over now. The problem may seem overwhelming, there are however solutions! By now, there is a lot of scientific evidence that emphasises the link between diets and environmental sustainability. Unfortunately, this has not yet resulted in large scale policy that works to transform the global food system. Until early this year, when EAT-Lancet, a commission of 37 scientist from sixteen different countries, published a report to set the first steps towards such goals and ways to achieve them. On the consumption end of the global food system there are improvements that should be made that basically entail; making a shift to a largely plant-based diet (Willet et al, 2019). The less animal protein is consumed, the better for the environment. So: in the future sustainable diet, fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains and legumes (chickpeas, beans, peanuts etc.) are at the core and should, according to the authors of the report, be doubled in global consumption. The consumption of red meat should be cut in half (Willet et al, 2019).

 

What can YOU do?

There are several things you, as a consumer, can do to contribute to both physical and planetary health. First of all, we can agree that cutting down on meat is a rather controversial subject, due to multiple reasons. Not everyone can cut down meat straight away, and for many cultures meat is deeply ingrained in the diet. We can not expect everyone to cut down on meat cold turkey (😉): therefore here follow some tips on how to be be as environmentally sustainable as possible while still eating meat.

 

The sustainable meat-eater

The first thing you can do is choose wisely. Lamb and beef are by far the greatest creators of greenhouse gas: to produce one kilo of beef, 27 kgs of greenhouse gases are emitted. Lamb ranks first in the list, emitting 39.2 kgs of greenhouse gases The better choice would be to eat pork (12.1 kgs) or chicken (6.9 kgs). Chicken also needs very little space and can be fed more efficiently than cows: chickens need about 2kgs of feed to get 1kg of meat. Cows need 30kgs of feed for the same amount of meat! (Olthuis, L., 26th Jan. 2019. Slopen mijn boodschappen de wereld? | De Volkskrant. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6ISYyZN0qI&t=290s)

 

To give you an idea of the difference with plant-based protein-rich foods: the carbon footprint of many legumes rank very low on the list. Black beans emit 2.0kgs of greenhouse gases and lentils are the ultimate winner with 0.9kgs of greenhouse gas emission. Surprisingly, per serving black beans and lentils contain more protein than a serving of beef! (Bohrer, 2017) But then; what about dairy and eggs? They rank somewhere in the middle: the Co2 equivalent for cheese is 13.5 kgs and eggs 4.8 kgs. So: a vegetarian diet would be a step in the right direction. A final tip for decreasing pressure on the environment when you still want to eat meat: choose local! Imported meat impacts the environment with greenhouse gases that are emitted in the process, therefore meat from the local farm is the better option.

Various assortment of legumes - beans, soy beans, chickpeas, lentils, green peas. Healthy eating concept. Vegetable proteins. Dark concrete background copy space top view banner format

Choose local

However, if we really want to sustainably feed 10 billion mouths in 2050, we need to stick to the plant-based diet. Another important thing to keep in mind while doing this, is to choose locally. The closer to home; the less energy-use in transportation. Tropical products cost a lot of energy to get to Europe, especially when they are flown in. Choose products that are shipped in.

Choose seasonal

Another, maybe even more important aspect to consider in buying your fruit ‘n veg’ is seasonality. Buying strawberries from the Netherlands in March gets the lowest score on the sustainability-ranking. You’d best get them from Spain in this month, as the energy cost from growing them in a greenhouse in the Netherlands is much higher compared to sun-grown strawberries from Spain, even considering the environmental costs of transportation (March 2019, retrieved from: https://groentefruit.milieucentraal.nl/milieuscore-van-groente-en-fruit/)

 

It sounds like quite a lot to comprehend, I know. To make things easier, here’s a helpful tool in checking what to buy and what not to buy. Milieucentraal developed a fruits- and vegetables calendar where you can check how environmentally friendly a product is in each season. Check out https://groentefruit.milieucentraal.nl/ to see what the best products are to buy considering the use of fossil fuels, contribution to climate change, land use and water stress. So leave those blueberries and raspberries for what they are in November, and enjoy them when the sun decides that they are ready to be grown locally. Taste the season!

© Stichting Permacultuur Advies

The sustainable plant-based diet: check your waste

Finally, needless to say it is a good move to reduce your food waste to be more environmentally sustainable at home. First of all: check the fridge! What do you have and how can you and your creative brain prepare a meal with what you already have? Secondly, measure the quantities of how much you need or freeze in what you can’t have. It might seem like no-brainers, but considering the fact that a European households on average waste about 4 kilograms a week (Quested & Johnson 2009;), there is much room for progress!

 

Conclusion

No sugar coating when it comes to the future of our food system: it is failing, it has irreversibly damaged the planet’s ecosystems and will do so in the future if big changes will not happen soon. That’s the bad news. The good news is, we have a choice, and the privilege to make an educated decision about how we choose to deal with problems that address all of us, and our common future. Shifting our diets to a more plant-based one seems like a good place to start towards a sustained planet that inhabits 10 billion people by 2050. You, too can contribute to the health of the planet by shifting your diet to a more plant-based one, choosing local and seasonal products, shop smart and use what you have at home so that you don’t have to throw anything away. It sounds like a lot, but all small bitAfbeeldingsresultaat voor shopping basket vegans help, and remember: we don’t need a few people to do it perfectly, we need everyone to do it imperfectly.

Coincidentally, this blog is posted during the National Meatless week (https://weekzondervlees.nl/) in the Netherlands. Comment below to share your opinion and ideas! Do you think a large-scale shift in diets is possible? And if so, how? How do you make sure you keep yourself in and the planet in good health with the things you put in your shopping basket? Keep an eye out for the coming blogs, as a bunch of recipes will follow where the planetary health diet can be put into practice!

 

 

References:

  • Bohrer, B. (2017). Review: Nutrient density and nutritional value of meat products and non-meat foods high in protein.
  • Quested T, Johnson H. (2009) Household food and drink waste in the UK. wrap. Banbury UK. 2009. ISBN:1-84405-430-6
  • Tilman, D. And Clark, M (2014). Global diets link environmental sustainability and human health. Nature, International Journal of Science. Volume 515, pages 518–52
  • Willet, W. et al. (2019). Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems. The Lancet Commissions. Volume 393, Issue 10170,  pages 447-492.

 

TBYW at the marches

Leading up to this weekend, with The Women’s March on Saturday, and The Climate March on Sunday, TBYW members have been active organising a number of informative events. On the 18th of February our Cultural Monday dinner welcomed a special guest from The Women’s March organisation for a talk on this year’s theme, and the link between feminism and environmentalism. Following that, a banner making event was held on the 26th of February were people got together armed with paint, paper, and plenty of slogans, such as Don’t be a fossil fool, or The Future is Feminist.

On the 9th of March, TBYW members join The Women’s march at Dam square decked out in aprons and banners. The following day, 10th of March TBYW members and all those who wish to join, will gather at Dokhuis Galerie and then at 12:30 start walking together towards The Climate March at Dam square. 

The call for social change, and the betterment in individuals’ and communities’ living conditions, is what drew TBYW to participate in these marches. Our mission to address and reduce food waste is a single expression of the various areas which require social change. As an organisation we believe in grassroots actions are a definitive means for structural change, which both of these demonstrations embody. Awareness of pressing social and environmental issues are part of our core values, so what better way to raise awareness than to take to the streets?

The Women’s March

We at TBYW will be participating in The Women’s March because of the shared belief that a more equitable and just world is possible, and we have a role in making it so. This year’s march focuses on Intersectionality, (keep reading for more on this theory) which goes beyond gender and holds as one of its core principles, environmental justice. By this it is meant, that each and every individual retains the right to clean water and air, and access to and enjoyment of public lands. Our environment and climate must be protected, and natural resources cannot be exploited for corporate gain or greed – especially at the risk of public safety and health.

©Nynke Vissia

A brief history of the Women’s March;

The Women’s March originated in the United States back in 2017, on the 21st of January, between 3,267,134 and 5,246,670 people attended the largest ever single-day protest in the U.S. The aim of this march was to advocate for policies and legislation regarding human rights in general and other specific issues, relating to gender, health care, reproductive rights, racial equality, LGBTQIA rights, workers’ rights, immigration, environmental justice and freedom of creed. As one of the organiser states “It’s about basic equality for all” (Felsenthal, 2017). This march developed into a global movement, and on the same year over seven million people participated in sister marches worldwide.

This 9th of March, The Women’s March is being held here in Amsterdam. People are invited to gather at Dam square at 12:30 p.m. and then proceed to peacefully march towards Museumplein where the march will conclude at 15:00. This year’s focus is on Intersectionality within the movement, the march aims to protest multiple forms of inequalities which individuals experience based on their particular identities.

©Salmon Design

Intersectionality is a theory which states that individuals experience layered discrimination particular to the multiple minority stratifications they fall under, such as; class, gender, race, age, sexual orientation, religion, and ability. Meaning that for example, the experience of sexism for a young queer woman are different from that of an elder cis-woman, and these differences matter. Intersectionality provides a broader spectrum with which to understand and analyse the multiple forms of oppression, which is essential in addressing it. The term intersectionality was first used in a feminist theory context by theorist Kimberle Crenshaw in her paper “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics” (1989). Though the idea of interlocking discrimination had been discussed in previous feminist work, such as the Grimke sisters (Davis, 1983).

The feminist movement is made up of individuals who fall under multiple identify factors; queer women, black women, poor women, this is to say that individuals are not hyphenated identities but a totality of their plurality (Lorde, 1982). If the movement were to only focus on the gender issue it would erase the layered discrimination they experience. For a social movement to truly emancipate their people it needs to recognise that all struggles are inseparable (Davis, 1983).  Therefore, Intersectionality proposes a space within movements, where individuals belonging to multiple minority stratifications can articulate their story and theorize their experience and analysis of oppression (Crenshaw, 1989).

 

The Climate March

The atmospheric changes that we are presently experiencing are a result of neglect and misuse of our natural environment, the issue of food waste provides a clear example of this. The production of food contributes to 30% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, yet half of the food we produce is thrown out. Besides GHGs, this accounts for the loss of water, energy, and land resources which would have been required for production.  Finally, the decomposing food emits methane, a greenhouse gas that is twenty-one times more potent than carbon dioxide. Considering that climate change will only worsen food access and security, we are responsible for our future generations to act now and hold our leaders accountable for their inaction. Therefore,TBYW only saw it fit to attend the Klimaatmars to bind forces and contribute towards a wider movement towards food security and climate justice. 

On Sunday the 10th of March, the streets of Amsterdam will be filled with environmentalist, nature-lovers, climate activists and all those demanding a more sustainable future. People are to gather on Dam square at 1 p.m. and proceed to walk towards Museumplein where the march will wrap up at 16:00.  This demonstration is an initiative of a collection of local environmental organisations including; Milieudefensie together with FNV, Greenpeace, DeGoedeZaak , Woonbond and Oxfam Novib, calling for immediate climate action from authorities. The march itself is a result of multiple other actions, such as rallies around the Netherlands, information sessions and discussions on fair climate policy, organizing meetups to recruit volunteers, distribute local posters and flyers, even organising group travel to Sunday’s march.

©Eino Sierpe

©Nel Berens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On their event page, the organisers state that the aim of The Climate March is a fair climate policy.  This is meant as a wake-up call to authorities and representatives to step up their responsibilities in mitigating and adapting to climate change, and for big polluters to be held accountable for pollution. Climate change has been debated on a global level for decades, yet reaction from governments has sadly, not matched the urgency of the matter. Now we are left with much less time and a much bigger issue to face.The march wants to show that people are watching their governments and are unimpressed with their insufficient action to address climate change deliberately.A change in the present way of addressing climate change is called for, with more concrete agreements need, creation of green jobs, and the implementation of the Polluter Pays Principle (PPP).

OECD (1997) defines the Polluter Pays Principle as “… the polluter should bear the cost of measures to reduce pollution according to the extent of either the damage done to society or the exceeding of an acceptable level (standard) of pollution.

© EESC glossaries

The principle assumes that an acceptable state of the environment must be maintained, if polluters degrade this state, the victims of pollution are entitled for financial compensation. Impacts of climate change tend to be felt especially by the weakest and most vulnerable, who often have contributed least to changing the global atmosphere. This compensation is then used to reverse the degradation and re-establish an acceptable state of the environment. When polluters, knowingly or unknowingly cause irreversible environmental degradation they bear full responsibility of the impact. In exchanging environmental degradation into financial costs, polluters are bound to internalize environmental costs in their activities. An example is for greenhouse gas emissions to be priced at such a level to avoid dangerous climate change(Dellink R., 2009).

Seeing the connections

The individual issues of food waste, climate justice, and feminist intersectionality, collectively concern the sustainability and equity of our society. We have to come to the realisation that we do not live in a single- issue society. Through our experiences we are not subjected to one issue exclusive of all other, rather we go through life experiencing or witnessing different struggles simultaneously. In broadening our perspective and identifying the interlinkages between environmental, social, and gender issue, we increase opportunities for understanding, and finding alternative solutions.

As a foundation TBYW believes that marching is an important medium to create positive change regarding social and environmental justice. Food is only an accessible entry point (everyone consumes food) for a wider discussion about sustainability and social change. While TBYW strives for empowerment of the people to consume consciously and treat each other equally we also seek to pressure authorities to support local initiatives and prioritise food and gender equality in a structural manner. Therefore we are involved in broader social issues and supportive towards a wider social justice movement. Ultimately the more we actively include everyone in the creation of alternatives, the more successful will the outcome of a sustainable and equitable future, be.

Sources

Adewunmi, B. (2014)

Crenshaw, K. (1989)

Davis, A. Y. (1983)

Dellink Rob, d. E. (2009)

Felsenthal, J. (2017) 

Lorde, A. (1982)

Vercillo, S. (2016)

Kimberlé Crenshaw – On Intersectionality  – keynote – WOW 2016

Just about a decade ago it was rare to witness individual fruits and vegetables wrapped in plastic. But today, almost everything comes packaged in a plastic film. Although such packaging helps to preserve products for longer period of time, we are often oblivious of the fact that they are the biggest irritants chocking our oceans.Globally, as little as 14% of plastic packaging is collected for recycling, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation 2017, and each year, more than 8 million tons of plastic waste makes it into the world’s oceans (UNEP, 2017).

The root of the packaging wastage issue in grocery stores is attached to the way the food is packaged and sold to the end consumers. After being shipped in boxes, the food sits on the grocery shelf, often wrapped in plastic or cellophane. Consumers then carry the same food already wrapped in plastic in another plastic bag. Thus, there is a never ending trail of plastic wastage that keeps on multiplying from the producers till the end consumers.

The entry of the Zero- waste grocery stores :  

As a consequence of the extreme packaging wastage issue, there is a tremendous public resentment and backlash against single-use plastic packaging in recent years. For instance there have been well over 100 plastic attacks around the world, mostly in Europe, but also in Hong Kong, South Korea, Canada, Peru and the United States (Tutton, 2018). It has compelled many retailers to start rethinking about their waste footprint and design stores with minimum plastic packaging.  As a result, “Zero-waste” or package-free shops, which sell nothing wrapped in unnecessary packaging like plastic, cardboards came into existence. By offering people the option to buy bulk items in their own containers, or purchase refillable ones, these new package-free stores could change the way we shop. 

The trend of zero-waste grocery stores is spreading rapidly all around the world. Several zero-waste stores have opened across Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia, Singapore and mainland China (Brinkley, 2018). Thus the following sections will analyse the different formats of such zero waste grocery stores around the world.  

The following are some of the popular design models of zero waste grocery stores:  

1. Refill format:  

One of the most popular zero waste design models amongst retailers is the refill format. Whereas non-food/specialty shops have remained successful in implementing such model in the past, grocery stores are still figuring out on ways to apply this refill model successfully. However many grocery stores are on the rise to aggressively commit themselves towards such a model, which can be evidenced from the following sections.  

©Judith Olive Oil

Some of the characteristic features of such stores are as follows: 

  •  Selling food items in bulk rather than plastic:

Many stores have developed such an approach to encourage customers to bring their own bags. Usually, customers bring in their own refillable containers which are then filled up with bulk buy foods such as grains, pulses, spices, fruits, vegetables and more. Additionally, there are also refills for toiletries, cleaning supplies and other household items.   

For instance, Green Parrot in Swaffham, UK is an independent health food shop which has successfully saved over 5,000 plastic bags and 1,000 plastic bottles during 2018 through its zero-waste refill rooms with dispensers (Hardy, 2019).  At Nada store of  Canada, a dishwasher-safe tag comes as part of their refill system, which makes it easier for returning customers. The tag will store the weight of the empty container, so customers can skip the “tap and weight” step the next time they shop. Big retailers are also slowly catching up with the trend of the refill system. For example, Marks & Spencer is set to launch more than 90 lines of loose fruit and vegetables free of all plastic packaging in a trial which will involve trained greengrocers on hand to help customers (Malley, 2019). 

Other stores that are following the similar footsteps include Precycle, a zero-waste grocery store in Brooklyn,Delicious food,Amsterdam ,The Filling Station in New York and Slowood of Hong Kong. 

  • Offering wholesome zero wastage product and services:  

Sustainable Non-Food items: Apart from providing a refill system for food items these stores also offer diverse, sustainable products and services. It ranges from providing packaging alternatives to sustainable non-food items. For instance, The Refillery in Newington, Edinburgh, stocks ethical detergents, beeswax wraps, cruelty-free  shampoos and even toothpaste in a jar along with food products and is passionate about reducing plastic across different product lines. On the other hand Marks and Spencer(“M&S”) said it has committed to replacing plastic produce bags with paper ones and phasing out plastic barcode stickers in favor of eco-friendly alternatives in every one of its UK stores (Malley, 2019).  

Straight@Amanda Palmar

Inculcating more sustainable lifestyle: Apart from alternative products these stores are going one step ahead by providing services which can facilitate sustainable lifestyle amongst customers. For example, Nada has already expanded the product offering and added a cafe that diverts what could otherwise become food waste from the market’s produce section to an ever-changing menu featuring soups and other dishes (Ottawa Citizen, 2019). Slowood store also has a vegan cafe that applies the same tread-softly philosophy to its menu and kitchen practices (James, 2019).  Greengrocers of M&S will offer customers help to pick and weigh their products and advise on how best to preserve fresh produce and prevent food waste at home as M&S has removed “best before” date labels as part of the trial (Malley, 2019). 

Supporting local charity with the proceeds : 

Many stores combine their zero waste design model to support other causes in the local community. For instance, Hemp bags are produced for the Green Parrot store (UK) by a group of local women, who also send them to Starlings, another independent shop located on the Market Place in the town. All proceeds from these bags go to local charities.  Nature’s Nutrition in North Devon,UK refill shop re-opened as a Community Interest Company some 18 months ago, and all profit goes back into projects in the local community (Howells, 2019). 

2. Zero waste Delivery services:

Not many delivery services are currently able to adopt zero plastic waste  model. However, The Wally Shop of Brooklyn is an exception which has ventured into such a model. It buys produce, grains and herbs from local bulk shops and  farmers’ markets. The service tries to make sure food is as fresh as possible, ideally traveling from farm to customer the same day. Couriers drop off and pick up reusable packaging. Right now, the service only operates in some Brooklyn neighborhoods, but it’s looking to expand to the rest of New York, as well as other cities. 

3. Reusable package model or the “Milkman Model”:  

A few big companies are also working on alternative ways to work towards reducing their waste footprint while also projecting their brand image as sustainable. Their efforts led to the durable packaging program, called “Loop” — a reference to a theoretical circular economy where nothing is wasted — making its debut at the World Economic Forum in Davos (WEF, 2019). Led by New Jersey-based recycling company TerraCycle, Loop will offer popular products from about 25 companies including Nestle, Unilever, Procter & Gamble and PepsiCo in reusable containers that customers order online or purchase in stores and return to the company when finished. 

Loop will collect a refundable deposit that customers will get back when they return their containers. UPS will pick up the empties for no additional charge. Even allowing for the energy required to transport and prepare the products for reuse, the program reduces waste, TerraCycle says. By midMay, products from Loop will initially be available online to customers in Paris through Carrefour and, in the U.S., in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.  

Why Should Consumers prefer such stores against the rest? 

©The Zero Waste Chef

Usually, customers prefer convenience and affordability in grocery shopping. They might not be able to experience such zero waste stores due to lack of information, inconvenience in bringing a reusable container, time constraint or non-availability of different food items. But these challenges can be easily tackled once customers start experiencing themselves and understand the underlying intention behind such stores.  

 

Also, there are numerous benefits of shopping at zero waste stores which are as follows:  

  1. Cheaper and fresh food products:   Using refill containers, bottles or bag helps to cut down on additional costs associated with plastic packaging. For instance, Slowood’s foodstuffs are cheaper than packaged supermarket versions, and bulk goods are priced per 10 grams, to cater to shoppers who want small amounts.
  2.  Super convenient: Many shoppers are still under the myth that zero waste stores will be burdensome regarding carrying your own containers. If the mere thought of switching the usual grocery shopping trip for a bring-your-own routine appears troublesome, consumers can start with small changes. It could be as small as carrying reusable shopping totes and skipping plastic produce bags — so no need to buy fancy jars to refill your food items next time.  It’s that simple, and costs a lot less than buying a new one.
  3. Conscious shopping experience:  Shopping at such stores can create a new wave of thoughtful consumers by shifting them away from their current disposable culture. It will inspire more consumers to be conscious and responsible with their purchases and consumption to have a more sustainable lifestyle. Consumers will make informed choices about the quantity of food through pre-planning about the food inventory before leaving the house. It will make sure how much you need and have room for in your reusable bags and containers. Thus it can help in reducing food wastage at the same time.

Conclusion: 

Overall, the concept of zero waste is already adapted by a few small and large retailers. Due to a general rise towards a more environmentally friendly consumption (Global Web Index, 2018), it can be said that the zero waste trend will continue to increase in the future. The result would be the better management of our ecosystem through minimum wastage of water, oil and other natural resources used to grow and deliver food, as well as keeping our oceans free of plastic pollution. 

In addition to that, such a model could be a viable, sustainable and cost effective option for businesses as well as consumers. Zero-waste saves companies money by reducing disposal, labor and energy costs.  Also, such a model has the potential to encourage suppliers to adapt to plastic free delivery to retailers. It can result in less wastage even during production and supply chain. On the other hand, consumers are going to experience conscious shopping in a convenient and affordable manner. It ultimately supports a shift towards a circular economy, where there is no waste involved.  

Though it is still at a nascent stage, we should remember changes take time. And even a small step like skipping plastic bags for a day can have significant impacts.  But the trend must also be scrutinised against risks related to greenwashing- an act of spreading disinformation, largely by corporate interests, in order to present an eco-friendly public image. This way we can take a significant leap towards a sustainable future. 

Sources

Ellen MacArthur Foundation

WEF 

UNEP

CNN

CNBC

Lynn News

The Independent

Ottawa Citizen

South China Morning Post

North Devon Gazette

Global Web Index 

 

‘A lot of times people question whether we even need feminism anymore,’ Tammy Sheldon tells me. But, as she goes on to articulate persuasively, ‘There is simple logic and clear data that indicates that we are a long way from equality in the Netherlands. And that’s not just referring to a pay gap, or to sexual harassment, there’s a whole range of issues.’

It is, indeed, a whole range of issues that Tammy Sheldon, who last year became lead organiser of Women’s March, The Netherlands (WMNL), cares deeply about. Rushing into our meeting apologising for multitasking on her phone, she was reeling from the news of the death of Orlando Boldewijn, a young, gay, black boy from Rotterdam who had been missing for over a week before police were able to locate his body. It doesn’t take long after our interview for WMNL to issue a statement calling on the government and authorities to prioritize LGBTQI safety in The Netherlands, firmly laying bare the fact that LGBTQI individuals face nearly twice the level of violence that heterosexual people face, whilst sending their support to the victim’s family.

I can tell that this recognition, of the multiple and intersecting issues facing women and minorities in the Netherlands, is not something Tammy takes lightly: ‘the simple attitude we come from is that we are always stronger together. We cannot move forward with any kind of tangible change, unless we’re all in this together.’ Of course, it’s very easy to talk the intersectional talk and much harder to walk the walk. As the Women’s March spread internationally from its origins in the U.S. in the wake of Trump’s election last year it has come up against a wealth of, often valid, criticisms. Too white, too rich and too transphobic have been just some of the accusations thrown at its feet.

Tammy in the middle, on the left organiser Cecilia Gomez Engler of Women’s March Barcelona, and on the right indigenous activist Rachel Heaton, A Standing Rock Water Protector, credits: Tammy Sheldon

Refreshingly, these are not issues that Tammy steps around. ‘By definition, if you are in a position to be an activist you automatically have a degree of privilege,’ she acknowledges, ‘You are in an economic situation that allows you to take time to follow an issue as opposed to hold down three jobs, so by definition the Women’s March is coming out of a large base of white, middle-class women. There is no denying it.’ It is because of this that Tammy stresses that that privilege needs to be used effectively, in order to be useful allies to those less able to go out to a march on a Saturday afternoon and wave a witty sign around. A movement filled with performative activism and void of concrete action is clearly not the kind of future she envisions for the Women’s March in this corner of the world.

That is, of course, the strength but also the difficulty of being a part of such a huge, global movement. In order to cultivate a positive legacy for WMNL there is the challenge of weaving through the stray problematic tendencies that tarnish (and can so easily be used to tarnish) the women’s movement. This has to be done whilst pulling together the thousands of threads that have come together to form a hopefully unbreakable social force, and indeed, to use that force to bring about meaningful change in the Netherlands. The fact that Tammy acknowledges (and rejects) the notion that could be seen to arise with some sectors of the Women’s March across the world – that women’s rights were all of a sudden the most important issue on the agenda and that there hadn’t been protests and activist movements worth attending until the disruptive political events of 2017 – is crucial to the success of WMNL going forward.

At the first march in 2017, credits: Tammy Sheldon

Tammy is quick to point out those who have been fighting against inequality long before this most recent wave of popular activism. Poignantly, she notes that before March for Our Lives (the present marches being organised against gun violence in the US) there have been young black women – in the Black Lives Matter movement particularly – fighting against gun violence for years. ‘Not to take away in any way, shape or form what Emma González and the rest of those teenagers have done – they are just awesome heroes in my book, but it does mean that there is this kind of disappearance of people who are already active, and are often doing so with far greater personal risk to their lives, on a day to day basis.’ Tarana Burke, she points out, has been a case in point, having started and campaigned for the ‘Me Too’ movement twelve years before it was catapulted into the mainstream.

It is this kind of recognition that Tammy is promoting in the Netherlands. A manifesto is currently being developed by WMNL in collaboration with multiple activist organisations in the Netherlands, including PROUD (the Dutch Union for Sex Workers), Pink Terrorists (an LGBT organisation promoting the strength of the community) and New Women Impact Hub (who focus on the needs of refugee and migrant women) amongst others. These organisations are jointly working on a document that will be used to bring about change for women and minority communities in the Netherlands. Giving a platform to these voices is one of the most important reasons for this manifesto. ‘It’s not that the world needs another list of demands or manifesto per se,’ Tammy explains, ‘the difference here is people who are not necessarily at the table have a place now to come in.’

And come in they must. The fact that Amsterdam, the largest city in the Netherlands, is without a single abortion clinic for the first time since the 1970s, and the abortion pill is problematically included in the criminal code should be enough to silence any of those who suggest we no longer need feminism. This is not to mention that despite the legality of sex work in the Netherlands propping up the country’s image as one of the most liberal in the world, sex workers are still required to navigate around restricted access to basic healthcare services. There remains a larger income pay gap between men and women in the Netherlands than the EU average. Women and particularly women of colour, migrant women, disabled women, and LGBTQI people are hugely underrepresented in leadership positions in politics and other sectors. The list goes on, and it is clear that the Netherlands cannot rest on its image of progression and liberal politics – something that WMNL clearly has no intention of doing.

But there is an appetite for change, and Tammy is clear in her intention to provide a narrative that is ‘positive, humanistic, inclusive and something other than the fear and the hate that is being pushed by the right.’ There is a huge energy being thrown towards the feminist movement across the world and in the Netherlands, and as Tammy declares, ‘that energy is going to be turned into fuel.’