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News Archives

January 25, 2022

[FOOD] Fight climate change by eating your leftovers this holiday season

Food waste is filling up landfills globally, but action can be taken.
In my family, there are two traditions when it comes to holiday meals: there must be way more food on the table than everyone can eat, and everyone must take home a plate of food at the end of the meal to make sure all the hard work that went into its preparation wasn’t wasted.
While small holiday gatherings have become the norm in my house in recent years, my mom still prepares big portions. When I asked her why, it boiled down to wanting to make sure there was enough for everyone, not just to enjoy the meal but to enjoy leftovers for as long as they wanted. That seemed perfectly reasonable to me — until I learned what a problem those leftovers are for the planet if they go to waste.
The holidays are a busy time for trash collectors. Americans throw away 25 percent more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, including things like plastic from old tech and gift wrap. Food waste, which accounts for 30 to 40 percent of waste entering landfills year-round, also rises sharply during the holidays. During Thanksgiving week alone, Americans throw out roughly 200 million pounds of turkey meat, along with 30 million pounds of gravy and 14 million pounds of dinner rolls.
All told, that wasted food takes a serious toll on the planet. When thrown-away food makes its way to landfills and rots, it produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas. That’s on top of the pollution released during the production of lost and wasted food — equivalent to 32.6 million cars’ worth of greenhouse gas emissions in the US alone.
Globally, the situation is even worse. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) stated in its 2021 Food Waste Index that if food loss and waste were a country, it would be the third biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions on the planet, accounting for a staggering 10 percent of the total. Despite its obvious impact, food waste at the retail and consumer level and loss along the supply chain typically aren’t a focus in global climate change conversations, including the recent UN climate summit in Glasgow. “People don’t see the link at all,” Liz Goodwin, director of food loss and waste at the World Resources Institute, tells The Verge. “It was disappointing that we had COP26, and food was hardly on the agenda.”
That said, change is starting to happen on a smaller scale. States and local governments across the US have taken note of how food waste and climate change intertwine and are enacting pilot programs or new rules to crack down on waste. Composting programs, both municipal and independently run, are making inroads in US cities and states looking to reduce the amount of waste entering landfills and cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Chris Wood, co-president of Moonshot Compost, a Houston-based composting company, said there’s a real opportunity in attracting people to composting services. Composting companies work with households, offices, and businesses by collecting their food waste via curbside collection programs or at drop-off locations around the city. For Wood and co-president Joe Villa, an uptick in demand for their composting service came during the pandemic when residents began paying closer attention to how much food they were buying due to them spending more time at home.
Composting services give community members an opportunity to reduce their food waste, but participation in these programs is voluntary. In California, a new law requiring residents to separate all organic material like food and yard waste from their other garbage is set to go into effect on January 1st. City and county trash services will collect the food waste and turn it into compost or renewable biogas. Grocery stores, meanwhile, will be required to donate any edible food they collect to organizations like food banks, AP reported.
California’s law follows a similar one in Vermont, which banned throwing out food with the trash last year, AP said. Eventually, the Golden State could fine $10,000 to cities and counties that don’t comply with the rule.
Streamlining food date labels could also reduce food waste. With no national standards around these labels and manufacturers using numerous phrases to indicate shelf life like best by, expires on, use by, sell by and more, consumers are often left guessing how good a piece of food is to eat by smelling it or eyeballing it. Or, not wanting to take a chance, they may choose to throw away perfectly good food if the label date has passed.
“The absence of having standard, clear labels means that the consumer is forced to trust the date blindly,” Marie Spiker, a researcher and assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Public Health, tells The Verge. “Consumers end up throwing away a lot of food they don’t have to, and the burden is on the consumer to do a lot of research.”
Reducing food waste through sound policy will ultimately help us tackle climate change. If done correctly, such policies could also alleviate food insecurity. Grocery stores giving food that would otherwise be thrown out to food banks could help some of the 54 million Americans who are food insecure get their next meal.
But individual action can also play a huge role in tackling food waste, particularly in the US, where households waste roughly 32 percent of the food they buy on average. Put another way, a family of four throws out about $1,500 worth of food each year.
“One of the most powerful tools we have is just to directly decrease our own waste in our homes,” Spiker said. “It’s also really challenging to do because most of our waste is happening in this very diffuse way.”
When I started thinking about how my family and I prepare meals during the holidays, it became clear that we could be doing more to reduce food waste and that planning goes a long way. While we’re cooking our plates of sides and mac and cheese, one of the things I’ll be thinking about is how to repurpose the leftovers. I’m also asking myself if the portions we’re cooking are realistic and where we can cut back.
In the midst of a holiday season where climate change is an urgent reality, I have an opportunity to be mindful of the waste I create and, by doing so, help those who don’t have the time or resources to think about sustainability. It’s a small step, but if enough other people take similar action, it’ll give the planet a breather at a time when that’s badly needed.

From the Verge, 22 December 2021.

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category : Topics

January 11, 2022

International Symposium on Green Public Procurement under Carbon Neutrality Vision & 15th Anniversary of Government Procurement on Environmental Labelling Products held in Beijing

Since 2006, Chinese government issued the policy of Government Procurement on Environmental Labelling Products, it has been implementing 15 years. For summarizing experience and explore GPP contribution for climate change, “The International Symposium on Green Public Procurement under Carbon Neutrality Vision & 15th Anniversary of Government Procurement of Environmental Labelling Products” was held in Beijing on November 30, 2021. This meeting was hosted by the Environmental Development Center of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (EDC) and organized by China Environmental United Certification Center (CEC). Government officials from Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE), Ministry of Finance (MOF) and State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR), as well as the representatives from international organizations such as UNEP, Delegation of the European Union to China, ICLEI, GEN and IGPN were invited to attend the meeting.

Mr. Dong Xuhui, Chief Engineer of EDC and Chairman of CEC, addressed at the opening ceremony. He pointed out that with the practice of the past 15 years, government procurement on environmental labeling products has been expanded in scale, greatly supported the development of GPP in China and facilitated local innovative practice on GPP. At the same time, GPP has promoted green innovation and transition of enterprises at the demand side. Government procurement on environmental labeling products has reached 1.3 trillion Yuan RMB over the past decade. In 2020, the total sum of government procurement of environmental labeling products was 81.35 billion Yuan RMB, taking up 85.5% of the same type of products. And the amount of product models has increased from 856 in 2006 to 1 million now, covering over 90 categories of products compared with 14 categories in the beginning.

SPP expert from UNEP, Mr. Farid Yaker shared the contents and progress of the Declaration on Mitigating Climate Change through Low Carbon Procurement launched by COP21 and introduced Sustainable Development Goal Indicator 12.7.1 2021 data collection, analysis and outcome. Mr. Sébastien Paquot, Climate Action and Environment Counsellor of the Delegation of the European Union to China, expounded relevant GPP policies, standards and supporting instruments under EU Green New Deal. Ms. Josefine Hintz, specialist on sustainable economy and procurement from ICLEI, employed specific cases to expound the role of sustainable public procurement in meeting carbon neutrality target and presented the thinking on GPP combined with carbon reduction.

Ms. Xiaodan ZHANG, General Manager of CEC, deeply analyzed positive role of Chinese government green procurement in helping to achieve carbon peak and carbon neutrality. In addition, the experts from university and research institute had heated discussions and given presentations on GPP and low carbon development from different perspectives.

The experts had reached consensus that as an important approach to regulate micro economy and protect the environment & climate, GPP with strong demonstration effect is conducive to guide and mobilize more policy and financial support to green and low carbon development in China. They presented the following suggestions for next work
1) accelerating the development of GPP policy system to contribute to carbon peak and carbon neutrality targets achievement;
2) comprehensively promoting the development of GPP criteria system, establishing “Carbon Labelling” system;
3) improving supporting measures and encouraging local government and special industries to establish synergy procurement mechanism as well as unified information platform;
4) making more efforts in publicity on GPP and strengthening international cooperation.

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category : Events

January 5, 2022

[SCP] Could moving meetings online significantly cut our workplace carbon emissions?

Scrapping in-person meetings and conventions could drastically cut our workplace carbon footprint, new research reveals.
The University of Cornell in the US has discovered that moving a professional conference online would cut emissions by 94 per cent and energy use by 90 per cent. A hybrid model, with no more than half of attendees online, would reduce them by 67 per cent.
“We all go to conferences. We fly, we drive, we check into a hotel, give a talk, meet people – and we’re done,” says senior author of the paper, Fengqi You.
“But we looked at this problem comprehensively and behind the scenes, conventions generate a lot of carbon, consume a lot of energy, print a lot of paper, offer a lot of food – not to mention create municipal solid waste.”
While online conferences still require energy and equipment, an in-person meeting is a lot more complicated. For each individual participant of a conference, 2,994kgs of CO2 equivalents are released. And in 2017 more than 1.5 billion people travelled from 180 countries to attend them.
“There is a lot of interest and attention on climate change, so moving from in-person conferences to hybrid or remote events would be beneficial,” says You.
Before the pandemic, Paul Miller, CEO of the Digital Workplace Group says the whole way of conferencing was “very traditional, very antiquated”.
“The idea of flying in, on an environmental and a human resource basis, if you're going to go to a two-day conference somewhere, that's going to cost you. It could take four days of your time, all the travel, all the taxis, the hotels - it's arduous and straining.
“I think there's going to be a lot more people that are going to be a lot more selective.”
Saving in-person meetings for something special
Not all meetings are better online, Miller explains, but quality over quantity is a philosophy that can be applied throughout your work life. By saving in-person gatherings for something special and doing everything else online, carbon emissions can easily be cut.
“If you're going to do that, you're going to factor in the financial, economic and environmental cost. Make sure it's something that matters,” Miller adds.
Last year, the Digital Workplace Group launched a scheme called the Work Miles Movement. It involves setting a “budget” for the distance people travel to and from work each day to keep emissions from transport down.
Like with financial budgets, you can’t spend money you don’t have - you only make the effort for what actually matters.
And workplace culture has changed a lot since the pandemic began. Instead of flying halfway across the world to attend a 30-minute meeting, we’re now more likely to look at a digital option.
“Think of it almost like reserving them, like you would a really nice outfit. They are something you use for special occasions,” Miller concludes.

Learn more at EuroNews, 20 December 2021.

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category : Topics

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