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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.

Our volunteers serving delicious meals from rescued food at the National Selection Conference © Anna von Flüe

Earlier this month on a Saturday morning, our events coordinator along with our zealous volunteers were busy chopping and cooking rescued food to feed the 150 attendees of the National Selection Conference. The event was organised here in Amsterdam by the European Youth Parliament the Netherlands, together with the United Nations Environmental Programme.

The National Selection Conference brings together 100 Dutch and international delegates who would have passed through the four preliminary rounds open for high school students all over the Netherlands.  This 19th edition of the conference ‘Bending without breaking: A modern union in a changing Europe’ brought together youths to discuss and debate the challenges the European Union is facing within the broader topics of sustainability, climate change and other related environmental issues. The lead event organiser from the European Youth Parliament the Netherlands explained the intentions as ‘Aiming to provide a platform whereby youth can discuss the changes needed in the movement towards a more sustainable future for Europe’. The conference highlights the importance of involving young people in political processes and decision making in order to create active and critical citizens.

The 19th edition of the National Selection Conference, Amsterdam © European Youth Parliament the Netherlands

 

How do TBYW and the National Selection conference come together? 

Cooking rescued food © Anna von Flüe

TBYW gets plenty of catering requests, however as an organisation we always make sure that the aim of the event and purpose of those organising it align with our mission. Since the programme at the National Selection Conference focused on activating young people towards sustainability and adaptability, we sought to support and to take the opportunity to introduce people to our mission. As an organisation the European Youth Parliament Netherlands (EYP) wanted to put into practice that which it preaches, and send a message that tackling global issues can be done through simple measures, as cooperating with local initiatives.

“ … a great part of it comes through the values we share: the idea that young people should take responsibility to make the change they want to see in the world; the sustainable interaction with our neighbourhood, the environment and our food; and the idea that you can make a change and the realisation that, if you aren’t afraid to reach out to those around you, you will find more people willing to support your cause than you had originally expected.

  – Thanos Theofanakis, Head  Organiser of the National Selection Conference, European Youth Parliament

How did TBYW get ready for the catering?

TBYW volunteers © Anna von Flüe

The  same format as for our weekly dinners was followed, but with the challenge of preparing enough food for almost double the amount of people. Our volunteers collected unwanted food from grocery shops and catering companies, filled the bakfiets and rode towards our kitchen. There they met the volunteers where they proceeded to cook and  prepare the food. A second group of volunteers then helped to set up and serve the food at the location.

The most essential preparation was ensuring we had enough volunteers. Without them it would nothave been possible, and I was so impressed by how dedicated and helpful everyone was. They really made it possible – and fun!” – TBYW events coordinator, Jenny

The response from the conference attendees was truly positive as many people asked questions about the organisation and complimented the food. Everyone was open minded about trying ‘waste’ food, and it inspired them to consider how they consume food more carefully.

What is the extent of food waste in the food service sector?

Presently, the food service sector is responsible for 14% of the total amount of food waste within the EU 27, at an average of 25kg per capita. Here the food service sector refers to the; “production sector involved in the preparation of ready-to-eat food for sale to individuals and communities; includes catering and restauration activities in the hospitality industry, schools, hospitals and businesses (European Commission, 2010).” This sector is the third largest food waste source in the EU 27, after households (42%), and manufacturing (39%).  It still presents opportunities to address inefficiencies in the supply chain and reduce the environmental and financial costs.

Wastage mostly occurs due to spoilage,preparation, plate wastage, and food which is prepared but not served. In its preparatory study on food waste across EU 27, the European Commission identified a number of causes for wastage which include lack of awareness and cultural attitudes, inefficient stock management, cooking and serving practices, and marketing strategies and standards (European Commission, 2010). For example, the simple action of taking leftovers home tends to be frowned upon which results in food being thrown out rather than consumed later. Portion sizes prove to be tricky, as already-set portions might be too much for personal appetites, however a buffet style also leads to wastage as individuals might help themselves to more than what they actually will consume.

© Anna von Flüe

Financially, this food waste represents a huge loss for the food service sector, as perfectly edible food is being thrown out. This now ex-food, accounts for costs for the providers, as they buy ingredients, store them, and then pay employees to make the necessary preparations for consumption (Kreienberg, 2018). Such ineffectiveness in the present food service system makes providers spend money on products which will never be consumed.

Environmentally, this wastage of food is a double loss, at pre-consumption and the post-consumption stages (Lipinski , O’Connor, & Hanson, 2016). The initial stage consumes natural resources such as land, water to grow produce, then energy sources for transportation and production which account for GHGs emissions. In the post-consumption stage food waste needs to be collected and treated which again require energy and land resources. This process results in greenhouse gasses and methane emissions as waste decomposes in landfills.

© Anna von Flüe

Socially, this has negative implications on the global issue of food scarcity, where one in nine people is still malnourished. Food waste, especially in the food service sector highlights the global social inequalities, as certain parts of the world don’t have a constant reliable food source,  while other parts of the world are wasting edible food (Oliveira, Pinto de Moura, & Cunha, 2016). Especially, in the food service sectors, consumers seem to lose their responsibility and ownership of food because they are detached from its production and preparation. This culture of abundance which is assumed for an enjoyable dining out experience devalues food and generates waste, however this does not have to be so.

What can be done?

Let’s not give up on the food service sector just yet, as it is still a sector ripe with opportunity to reduce food waste. Simple but effective changes can be made in the kitchen, during service, and at consumption. Technology can provide means to prolong the shelf life of produce broadening the time frame within which produce can be used in kitchens. Together with the right tools and attitude kitchen staff can be equipped with more creative thinking when using their produce to minimize losses. Food operators take on a role in educating both staff and consumers on the implications of the food waste. In turn customers can reward providers which are reducing their food waste and finding more sustainable means to provide their service without diminishing the overall experience or satisfaction.

Luckily HOTREC, the umbrella Association of hotels, restaurants, bars and cafes and similar establishments in Europe provides guidelines to reduce food waste and recommendations to manage food donations. These are step by step changes which providers can make to reduce food waste, right from constructing the menu to recycling and reusing food leftovers (HOTREC, 2017). Such changes would eventually improve the competitiveness of these food service providers, as it cuts their financial costs and also offer better prices for consumers.

Some of the suggested improvements include:

  • Favour flavours over quantities
  •  Involve your customers in your efforts to reduce food waste/losses: encourage them to act responsibly and sustainably
  • When possible, favour advance bookings to have a better view on the quantity of products to be ordered and stored
  • Have a responsible person in charge of food donations. This will avoid mismanagement of food surplus, and therefore prevent avoidable losses

Source: European Hospitality industry guidelines to reduce food waste and recommendations to manage food donations, HOTREC, Hospitality Europe (2017)

So, what does this mean?

Our collaboration with the European Youth Parliament Netherlands, and involvement at the National selection conference, stand as an example how a localised initiative can provide a solution to environmental issues which can seem overwhelming to tackle. This catering contributed to reducing food waste and the environmental impact, while providing attendees with nutritious delicious food , and  insight to practical way of addressing food waste. We have shown how, with the right changes the food service sector has the potential to contribute to a more sustainable food system This catering event also reaffirms the role that youths play in societal change, which should never be underestimated. Both organisations Taste Before You Waste and the European Youth parliament the Netherlands are youth led and committing their efforts towards a positive impact.  With such small steps, we continue on the mission to minimize food waste and maximize the food value, along with all those offering their support.

Sources

European Commission, 2010

FAO, 2011

HOTREC, 2017

Kreienberg, 2018

Lipinski , B., O’Connor, C., & Hanson, C. ,2016

Oliveira, B., Pinto de Moura, A., & Cunha, L. ,2016

Vol, 2014

 

Special thanks to the Thanos Theofanakis, Head organiser at the 19th National Selection Conference, Amsterdam, and TBYW  Events coordinator Jenny Willcock for their contribution. 


At Taste Before You Waste we recognise that individual impact and commitment to the healthy and sustainable future of the planet comes in many forms. And one of the most important ways to have an influence closer to home is to use your vote to bring into political power parties and individuals that are committed to a sustainable future. Whether you have already decided where to cast your vote, or are still weighing up your options, information is key! So we have searched the manifestos of all the parties participating in Amsterdam’s 2018 municipal elections so you can check your party’s green policies, or be inspired by the innovations of others.

The vast majority of parties have reaffirmed a commitment to the Sustainability Agenda set out by the municipality in 2015, which centred around the five main areas of energy, air quality, a circular economy, flooding and the sustainability of the municipal organisation itself. The most important aims included an improvement in green energy (through energy saving in homes and companies, as well the encouragement of energy-neutral building) and the commitment to only having emission-free, or vehicles that are as clean as possible driving in the city in 2025. The agenda also set a goal of 65% of household waste being separated for useful reuse by 2020, and the municipality itself reducing its CO2 emissions to 45% less than they were in 2012 by 2025. Almost all parties also noted that they wanted to reduce unnecessary bureaucracy that prevents people from making a positive contribution to their environment.

Below we have highlighted not only where the parties have talked about going above and beyond the aims laid out in the Sustainability Agenda, but also the innovative and original green policies they have come up with to keep the city of Amsterdam sustainable for generations to come.

 

 GroenLinks (GL)

Jumping out of GroenLinks’ manifesto, which (as expected) contains a very healthy commitment to green issues, is their opposition to the plans for Lelystad Airport. Believing that the expansion plans for the airport are bad for the climate and air quality as well as the peace of local residents they propose to prevent the expansion through Amsterdam’s position as co-owner of Schiphol Airport. They will use this shareholding, as well as the city’s other shareholdings in the port and the Afval Energie Bedrijf (the company converting waste into energy) to bring more attention to corporate social responsibility.

Not stopping at a commitment to emission-free vehicles in Amsterdam, the party want to make the city centre entirely car free in an effort to reduce vehicle emissions in the city. They will also tackle the gas problem by taking entire districts off gas, transitioning them to green energy one at a time. And in an appeal to organisations like our own, GroenLinks have said that they will join forces with the growing, green, social movement of grassroots sustainable initiatives and circular companies.

Read more about their plans here: https://amsterdam.groenlinks.nl/sites/groenlinks.nl/files/downloads/page/Verkiezingsprogramma%202018-2022.pdf

 

Democraten 66 (D66)

Largely based around decentralizing systems so that more power is given to individuals and neighbourhoods to create a greener Amsterdam, D66 have a few notable green policies that stand out from the other parties. On the energy question, D66 have noted that since there will be an increased reliance on electricity as the city is weaned off natural gas, they will investigate the introduction of neighbourhood batteries to provide local sources and storage of green energy.

Again, in aiming to give more power to the individual, D66 wants tenants and residents of floors without their own roof to be given the opportunity to install solar panels on their buildings. They also want to make the existing Sustainability Fund more available to informal groups – people who want to make a small investment to buy double glazing for their street for instance.

In terms of moving to a more circular economy that decreases waste, D66 have focused on building. They propose that materials that are easily stored during demolition work must be recorded in a public database, which would allow builders to estimate which materials already available for circular construction. 

Read more about their plans here: https://verkiezingsprogramma.d66.nl/amsterdam/programma/duurzaamheid-en-luchtkwaliteit/

 

 Vokspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie (VVD)

Though VVD have put a focus on improving public transport in the city to cope with the rising population, they stress that car transportation will remain a part of Amsterdam. To this end they want to add more parking spaces in the city (preferably underground) to free up space for pedestrians and cyclists. Residents with over-polluting cars, however, will not be able to receive a new parking permit and the VVD will provide financial support to help residents make the transition to cleaner vehicles.

The VVD also wants to convert the existing municipality sustainability fund into a public-private organisation that includes business and residents working together to a clean, liveable, and sustainable Amsterdam. They believe that this will encourage innovative initiatives from citizens and businesses and contribute to research focused, tailor-made solutions for Amsterdam.

In terms of waste reduction, in the long term the VVD wants to move towards a system where everyone pays for the amount of waste that they throw away, to encourage people to think about reuse and waste separation – though seeming like a strong move against waste production, the SP’s position that this will lead to Amsterdammers dumping their waste in public spaces should be held in mind.

Read more about their plans here: https://www.vvdamsterdam.nl/uploaded/www.vvdamsterdam.nl/files/5a534c1a3f989/vvdverkiezingsprogrammadurfenoptimisme.pdf

 

Partij van de Arbeid (PvdA)

The PvdA are very keen to encourage local sustainable energy cooperatives, working together with neighbouring municipalities to do this as efficiently and effectively as possible. They also specify their commitment to green roofs – making half of our flat roofs green or full of solar panels by 2025 (the equivalent space to 600 football pitches!).

In terms of energy, the PvdA have noted that the imminent closing of the coal-fired Hemweg power station will leave 200 employees without work, and they want to examine renewable alternatives that would give these employees a direct, green alternative to their current employment, helping them get back to work as soon as possible. As more windmills come to supply the city with renewable energy, residents will be invited to take a share in this and themselves profit from the profit, with the hope that will increase feelings of ownership and support.

One of the only parties to talk about diet as a factor of sustainability, they will promote a diet with less animal products and more vegetables due to the pressure that meat production puts on the environment – trying to make eating healthily afforadable for everyone.

Read more about their plans here: https://amsterdam2018.pvda.nl/downloads/PvdA_Verkiezingsprogramma_Amsterdam_2018.pdf

 

Socialistische Partij (SP)

The SP join others in promoting significant green action. Rather than waiting for individuals and corporations, they want to put solar panels on unused roofs themselves. Alongside this they want to create a system where those who have no solar panels or green roofs where it is possible to do so will be fined. They also want to approach all Amsterdammers via a municipal energy saving company that will invest in the sustainability of housing corporations and private individuals. They will make proposals to individuals to make their homes mores sustainable, with the municipality taking over the energy and sharing the energy savings with the homeowner.

Straying from the VVD’s position they are opposed to charging a fee for the quantity of waste handed in by individuals as they think that, in practice, this will lead to many Amsterdammers dumping their waste in public spaces.

Looking to big business, the SP also wants to use its shareholding in Schiphol airport to put an end to the many flights that result from the use of the airport as a kerosene hub. They will also not renew a contract with ING because of their climate-unfriendly investment policy, instead looking for a more sustainable and ethical home banker.

Read more about their plans here: https://amsterdam.sp.nl/standpuntenlijst/duurzaamheid

 

Forum voor Democratie (FvD)

The FvD have not put out a statement with any specific green policies and they recently released an article which argues that solar panels are not economically viable in Amsterdam.

Read about their policies here: ttps://amsterdam.fvd.nl/standpunten

 

Partij voor de Dieren (PvdD)

With a tag line of ‘from ego-centred to eco-centred’, the PvdD certainly state their firm commitment to a greener Amsterdam. They particularly focus on the green spaces in Amsterdam – wanting to increase them to help Amsterdam become more resistant to the flooding that will inevitably come along with climate change. One way of doing this is through connecting nature areas through the existing ‘Nature Network Netherlands’ which in turn increases biodiversity. They also propose an infrastructural solution to flooding in the city – wanting to replace the sewerage system in 2022 to cope with the increased precipitation.

They also point out that the energy loan which is now available to Amsterdammers (which helps individuals make their homes more sustainable) was the implementation of an initiative proposed by the PvdD.

Read more about their plans here: https://amsterdam.partijvoordedieren.nl/dossiers

 

DENK

Credit must be given to DENK, a party only formed in 2015 after splitting off from PvdA, for including such a detailed and extensive green policy in their manifesto. They note that they are not only promoting their green agenda for the good of Amsterdammers, but because the activities of the Netherlands disproportionately create environmental pressure in other parts of the world, especially in developing countries. To this end they are calling for companies that contribute to the demolition of developing countries to be named and shamed.

DENK also points out their concern that the target of 14% sustainable energy in the Netherlands by 2020 (that was set out in an energy agreement in 2013) will not be met. They also, however, think that that target was far too low to begin with. Their alternative objectives will give preference to sun and wind energy with targets of 40% clean energy by 2030 and `100% by 2050. They hope to achieve this through increased taxation of dirty energy and fuel and an improvement of infrastructure and subsidies to make as many homes as possible energy-neutral.

Special mention must also be given to DENK as the only party to put the reduction of food waste as a specific topic of their manifesto – hoping to remove unnecessary rules so that good food is no longer thrown away and encouraging companies to make agreements with charities on food surpluses. In Amsterdam they say that they will support local residents in their green initiatives helping to provide neighbourhoods with vegetable gardens and urban farming as well as making municipal land that is not being used available for green projects.

Read more about their plans here: https://www.bewegingdenk.nl/amsterdam

 

Christen-Democratisch Appèl (CDA)

The CDA do not have an extensive green policy, but note that they want big cities to sit down with the national government, institutional investors, housing corporations and other parties to jointly commit to a plan of action for building sufficiently sustainable, energy-efficient family homes. They also want to encourage cycling in the city and to manage the traffic circulation on the basis of current air pollution figures.

Read more about their plans here: https://d2vry01uvf8h31.cloudfront.net/Afdelingen/Noord_Holland/Amsterdam/2017/2018%20Stadsmanifest%20CDA-G5.pdf

 

Bij1 

Bij1, along with DENK, are another party to mention their commitment to green policies to aid those in the global south. They take a hard line against companies with poor sustainability records – dissolving all ties with those who cannot meet the highest green standards.

They are also committed to biodiversity, wanting to promote afforestation and phasing out chemical pesticides and herbicides. They also are the only party to mention green education – promoting climate justice as a topic in schools and encouraging children to think about sustainability.

Read more about their plans here: https://amsterdam.bij1.org/programma/ 

 

Partij van de Ouderen (PvdO)

The PvdO have not put out a statement with any specific green policies.

50+

The 50+ party have not put out a statement with any specific green policies.

 ChristenUnie (CU)

The ChristenUnie have stated their commitment to a sustainable Amsterdam, and noted the municipality’s important role to play in achieving this. They are promoting cars without emissions and energy-neutral homes as the norm and have committed to the responsible handling of space and landscape in the Netherlands.