The Global Fool

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Food Waste Harms Climate, Water, Land and Biodiversity
Sep14

Food Waste Harms Climate, Water, Land and Biodiversity

By The Editors The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) released a few days ago a report detailing the first study to analyze the impacts of global food wastage from an environmental perspective, looking specifically at its consequences for the climate, water and land use, and biodiversity. Key facts and figures from the report are: The global volume of food wastage is estimated at 1.6 billion tonnes of “primary product equivalents.” Total food wastage for the edible part of this amounts to 1.3 billion tonnes. Food wastage’s carbon footprint is estimated at 3.3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent of GHG released into the atmosphere per year. The total volume of water used each year to produce food that is lost or wasted (250km3) is equivalent to the annual flow of Russia’s Volga River, or three times the volume of Lake Geneva. Similarly, 1.4 billion hectares of land – 28 percent of the world’s agricultural area – is used annually to produce food that is lost or wasted. Agriculture is responsible for a majority of threats to at-risk plant and animal species tracked by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. A low percentage of all food wastage is composted: much of it ends up in landfills, and represents a large part of municipal solid waste. Methane emissions from landfills represents one of the largest sources of GHG emissions from the waste sector. Home composting can potentially divert up to 150 kg of food waste per household per year from local collection authorities. Developing countries suffer more food losses during agricultural production, while in middle- and high-income regions, food waste at the retail and consumer level tends to be higher. The direct economic consequences of food wastage (excluding fish and seafood) run to the tune of $750 billion annually. “All of us – farmers and fishers; food processors and supermarkets; local and national governments; individual consumers — must make changes at every link of the human food chain to prevent food wastage from happening in the first place, and re-use or recycle it when we can’t,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva. “We simply cannot allow one-third of all the food we produce to go to waste or be lost because of inappropriate practices, when 870 million people go hungry every day,” he added. Achim Steiner, UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director, said: “UNEP and FAO have identified food waste and loss –food wastage– as a major opportunity for economies everywhere to assist in a transition towards a low carbon, resource efficient and inclusive Green Economy. Today’s excellent report by FAO underlines the multiple benefits that can...

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Reducing Food Loss and Waste – A New Working Paper
Jun06

Reducing Food Loss and Waste – A New Working Paper

By The Editors As we have seen in the previous post, this year the theme of World Environment Day (June 5) is ‘Think.Eat.Save’.  The theme connects to the “Think.Eat.Save – Reduce Your Foodprint’ campaign. Accordingly, a new working paper has been released yesterday (June 5).  The title of this working paper is ‘Reducing Food Loss and Waste”.  It was produced by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and draws on research from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The “Think.Eat.Save – Reduce Your Foodprint’ campaign harnesses the expertise of organizations such as FAO, WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme), Feeding the 5,000 and other partners, including national governments, who have considerable experience targeting and changing wasteful practices. It aims to accelerate action and provide a global vision and information-sharing portal for the many initiatives currently underway around the world that aim to reduce food waste and food loss. According to the Reducing Food Loss and Waste paper, one out of every four calories produced by the global agricultural system is being lost or wasted.  The global pattern of food loss and waste needs to be reversed, as it is estimated that our planet will need about 60 percent more food calories in 2050 compared to 2006 because of the rapidly-expanding global population. Food loss refers to food that is spilled or spoiled after harvest and during transit, storage and packaging, whereas wasted food is food that is fit for human consumption but is thrown away before it can be eaten. More than half of lost and wasted food in Europe, the United States,Canada and Australia occurs close to the fork, at the consumption stage.  However, in developing countries, about two thirds occurs close to the farm, after harvest and storage. Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: “It is an extraordinary fact that in the 21st century, close to 25 per cent of all the calories linked with growing and producing food are lost or wasted between the farm and the fork-food that could feed the hungry, food that has required energy, water and soils in a world of increasing natural resource scarcities and environmental concerns including climate change.” It is important to think of the natural resources that are used to produce food that is lost and wasted.  For example, the working paper tells us that water used to produce lost or wasted food around the world each year could fill 70 million Olympic-sized swimming pools, while the amount of cropland used to produce wasted food is equivalent to the size of Mexico. Some 28 million...

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World Environment Day 2013: Today, June 5
Jun05

World Environment Day 2013: Today, June 5

By The Editors Today we go back to the foodprint:  The World Environment Day (WED) 2013 theme is Think.Eat.Save.  Ms Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, concluded her WED 2013 message by saying: “From production, transport and storage to sales and consumption, we need to stop food waste at every step of the way. Each of us must rethink our eating habits to have an impact throughout the food chain. This is how we will lay the foundations for greater sustainability, and this is UNESCO’s message on this World Environment Day.” World Environment Day is celebrated every year on June 5 and it’s one of the main vehicles through which the UN stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and encourages political attention. It aims to be one of the biggest and most widely celebrated global days for positive environmental action. World Environment Day activities take place all year round but climax on 5 June every year, coordinated by United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The first World Environment Day was in 1973 and is hosted every year by a different city with a different theme. The 2012 theme was “Green Economy: Does it include you?” and the 2011 theme was “Forests-Nature At Your Service.” World Environment Day is also a day for people from all walks of life to come together to ensure a cleaner, greener and brighter outlook for themselves and future generations. Below is one example of the many global activities organized to celebrate World Environment Day:  Volunteers in Amritsar, Punjab, India, participate in a cleanliness...

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Reducing the Foodprint by Eating Misfits
Jun04

Reducing the Foodprint by Eating Misfits

By The Editors In a previous post, The Foodprint: Eyes on Methane, we talked about the enormous amount of wasted food that ends up in the landfills, where it is decomposed by bacteria under anaerobic conditions (i.e., in the absence of oxygen) and becomes a significant source of methane – a potent greenhouse gas. We concluded the post by saying; “How can we decrease the foodprint?  Composting, composting, composting — However, composting works well for food waste that has already been generated. What about changing our mindset and finding ways to reduce the amount of food we waste on a daily basis?” In this new post, let’s talk about a possible way to change our mindset and reduce the amount of food we waste on a daily basis – let’s talk about “misfit vegetables”. What are misfit vegetables?  They are vegetables, as for example carrots with two or more roots, potatoes in odd shapes and supersized zucchini that, because of their appearance, do not meet the “aesthetic” standards of supermarkets and food stores, are considered unfit for sale and therefore are discarded. However, these misfit vegetables are perfectly healthy and of good quality. Someone has found a creative way to rescue these misfit vegetables. Lea Emma Rosa Brumsack and Tanja Krakowski, two designers based in Berlin, founded in early 2012 a small start up called “Culinary Misfits”.  Culinary Misfits is a catering service that works with local organic farmers.  The farmers provide their abandoned misfit harvest at low price, resulting in extra-income for the farmers and in the business raw material for Lea and Tanja. Culinary Misfits aims at raising awareness of how much food is thrown away. Lea and Tanja create beautiful and delicious dishes using their love for design in the presentation of the misfit vegetables.  They want to educate consumers to eat the whole harvest in all its diversity, thus reducing food waste. This is the expression of an emerging movement in Europe that is fighting against the senseless waste of food.  Hopefully, this emerging movement will find more and more creative ways to ensure we use the food we...

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The Foodprint: Eyes on Methane
May20

The Foodprint: Eyes on Methane

By The Editors We all know something about the carbon footprint, a little less about the plastic footprint, and — may be we haven’t heard (yet) about the foodprint. What is the foodprint?  It’s all related to methane. Methane is a colorless, odorless gas with a wide distribution in nature. It is the principal component of natural gas. National Geographic calls it the “Good Gas, Bad Gas” and it goes on to say: “Burn natural gas and it warms your house. But let it leak, from fracked wells or the melting Arctic, and it warms the whole planet.”  To this, we can add:that, globally, over 60% of total methane emissions come from human activities. Methane is emitted from industry, agriculture, and waste management activities, Environmental Protection Agency Methane is a potent greenhouse gas — its presence in the atmosphere affects the Earth’s temperature and climate system. Although carbon dioxide is the major component of greenhouse gases, the global warming potential of methane is 21 times higher than that of carbon dioxide (21 times is an estimate – if you look around, you can find different sources reporting different numbers, 20 or 23 instead of 21, for example). Environmental Protection Agency According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), domestic livestock such as cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, and camels produce large amounts of methane as part of their normal digestive process. In addition, methane is produced when animals’ manure is stored or managed in lagoons or holding tanks.  Because humans raise these animals for food, the emissions are considered human-related. Globally, the agriculture sector is the primary source of methane emissions. There is something more to think about.  What happens to the food we throw away?  It gets disposed in landfills, where it is decomposed by bacteria under anaerobic conditions (i.e., in the absence of oxygen) and becomes a significant source of methane. In the US, more food reaches landfills and incinerators than any other single material in municipal solid waste. Environmental Protection Agency According to the EPA, landfills are a major source of human-related methane in the United States — accounting for more than 20 percent of all methane emissions.  In 2010 alone, more than 34 million tons of food waste was generated.  Of these 34 million tons, only three percent was diverted for composting. How can we decrease the foodprint?  Composting, composting, composting — However, composting works well for food waste that has already been generated.  What about changing our mindset and finding ways to reduce the amount of food we waste on a daily...

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