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Why food wastage needs to stop now

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Environmental Impact of Food Wastage

Intentionally wasting food due to lack of planning your meal portions or storing food until well after expiry leads to food wastage. Other reasons for food wastage could be the oversupply in markets or retailers rejecting foods that do not conform to the quality standards required. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations were the first to study and analyze the impact of food wastage on the environment on a global scale. According to their report findings, one-third of all the food produced around the world for human consumption does not reach us, let alone make it to our dinner table.

AN ANALYSIS

Wastage occurs in two stages with 50 percent occurring at the production and storage phase, otherwise known as “upstream” phase while the remaining 50 percent occurs at the processing, distribution and consumption phase or “downstream” phase.

Through the report, analysts were able to find patterns with regards to food wastage at a global level. The regions with middle and high income had greater food loss in the consumption or downstream phase compared to regions with low-income that showed greater loss in the upstream or production phase.

IMPACT ON THE ENVIRONMENT

Wastes that are not disposed in the right way end up getting piled in landfills, producing Methane, a greenhouse gas more powerful than CO2. Greenhouse gases such as methane and CO2 absorb the UV rays and heat up the Earth’s atmosphere causing global warming.

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We fail to realize that wasting food means wasting water resources. This should not come as a surprise since 70 percent of the water throughout the world serves agricultural purposes, namely, irrigation. The scenarios below will give a better understanding of this.

Water, roughly three times the volume of Lake Geneva, produces food that is left uneaten. Tossed away one kilogram of beef? You just happened to waste 50,000 liters of water used to produce that beef. Still not convinced? You know when you force kids to have their milk, just to see them pour it down the drain in your absence? Well, your child just poured 1000 liters of water down that same drain.

From a statistical point of view, 3.5 billion acres of land allocated for agricultural purposes grow food that ends up getting wasted. The process of converting wild areas into agricultural lands and using tons of water to irrigate the same causes disruption to biodiversity as the produced food end up in landfills. This, unfortunately, is an ongoing cycle.

HOW TO TACKLE FOOD WASTAGE

Environmental impact is one, but there is something called humanity and morale. How can we waste tons of food when there are millions of people around the world who go hungry every day?

Planning your meal portions is a step to tackle the problem. But it’s not the answer. To ensure the proper use of resources and minimal to no food wastage, it would require attention from the first stage until the very end. This essentially means, from the production and processing stage to the distribution and consumption stage. The following steps, if undertaken, can help tackle food wastage:

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Firstly, one needs to strike a balance between production and demand. This essentially means using less natural resources to produce food that’s not consumed.

Secondly, attention to detail in processes such as harvesting, processing, storage and distribution is essential. Redistributing surplus food to people and areas that face a shortage combats the surplus generation.

Paying close attention to when and where food wastage occurs is a great start for consumers, retailers and restaurants towards an environment friendly approach.

We often throw away fruits and vegetables based on its appearance. What appears “rotten” to human eyes may essentially just be an overripe fruit or vegetable. Instead of tossing it into the trash, try using them for recipes that require overripe ingredients such as soups and smoothies.

As consumers, building a meal plan and sticking to it will make sure there are no unnecessary purchases and hence, wastage of food. Retailers, often, talk consumers into buying produces in bulk with the notion, “Bulk purchase = Cheap purchase”. Wrong. Purchasing in bulk means more food that stays past the expiry date and ultimately, end up in the trash. Waste of food and waste of money.

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A little effort along with conscious decisions can correct the negative impact our actions have caused to the environment.

Note: This article is a repost

Green Vibes

Be a green planet agent, fight E-Waste deluge

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E-Waste

As new electronic gadgets come on the market every day, consumers clamour to buy them, and in doing so dispose of their old products. But, where exactly do old electronic gadgets go to die? Most are improperly disposed of, and that is the heart of a new growing problem called electronic or e-waste.

Defining the e-waste problem

Electronic waste is not the same as other, more common forms of waste. It is non-biodegradable, and the improper disposal of electronics poses a severe threat to humans and the environment.

E-Waste

‘Electronic waste’ comprises all the electronic gadgets and gizmos that we throw out. They may be mobile phones, television sets, refrigerators, PSPs, entertainment devices, office electronic equipment (paper shredders, printers) and other electronic devices.

The reason e-waste is so difficult to dispose of is because it contains substances which are dangerous to the health and the environment such as Cathode Ray Tubes (CRTs) which contain high concentrations of lead and phosphors. They are necessary for the product to work, but they are classified as ‘hazardous household waste’.

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The Damage to Humans and the Environment

Waste from consumer electronics contain PCBs, cadmium, mercury and lead. These substances are highly toxic and carcinogenic and, when carelessly handled, can contaminate our food and water supply and even find a way into our food chain, destroying whole ecosystems.

E-Waste

Burning these products is not the answer as this causes toxic fumes to be emitted, as well as creating the potential of inhalation by humans and animals. PCBs have been shown to cause cancer, while cadmium, lead and mercury affect the central nervous system, which can cause cell damage and renal failure. Releasing harmful toxic fumes also affects our environment by further depleting the ozone layer.

Due to the difficulty and cost of electronics recycling, as well as spotty enforcement of legislation regarding e-waste exports, vast amounts of used electronics are being sent to developing countries. Lower environmental standards and working conditions make processing e-waste more profitable yet hazardous in those countries. However, as responsible consumers of electronic goods, it is up to us to make subtle changes in our lifestyle and conserve our natural resources.

Protecting Humans and Saving Our World

Here’s what you can do

Become an informed consumer! Being mindful of electronics disposal is critical. There are facilities that specifically deal with this kind of hazardous material. When electronics are handled and sorted properly, e-waste can be a very valuable source of secondary raw materials.

E-Waste

If you need to get rid of an old phone or electronic item, consider donating your used products to social programs—and help victims of domestic violence, children safety initiatives, environmental causes, and more. For each item received, the World Wildlife Fund will receive one dollar.

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Instead of getting a brand new smartphone, why not invest in a ‘modular smartphone’ or a ‘Phoneblok’? These types of phones are more durable and have the technology to change certain parts of the phone making them more environmentally friendly. Being able to simply replace the part of the phone that is broken will reduce e-waste.

Or how about curbing your electronic device appetite a little bit? Want that brilliant new iPhone that just came out? Let it be your birthday gift! Besides, do you really need an extra device? Try finding different uses for the same gadget.

One way to deal with the problem is to see if anyone wants to buy your old tech toys. Many companies have sprung up to take them off your hands, like TechForward which will let you sign up when you first buy your electronic goods, and then, after a certain period of time will buy it from you for a set price.

E-Waste

Some electronics stores offer a convenient ‘take-back’ program. In the majority of cases you won’t receive any money in exchange for your old equipment, but, this at least this provides you with a painless and easy way to get rid of older electronics. Many retailers and manufacturers are starting to offer take-back programmes but you may have to specifically ask them about this. Manufacturers who have publicized their take-back programmes include Apple, Canon, Dell, Epson, Gateway, HP, Lenovo, Lexmark, LG, Sony and Toshiba.

By Prekshaa Veeraragavan

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REFERENCES

1-UAE Interact

2-Green Living Answers

3-Harvard

4-Inquisitr

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Do this to cut down excess electricity use

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Electricity is one of the basic necessities that the world is highly dependent on. However, the drastic pace at which we continue to consume electricity will only make its availability difficult over the long term.

The Problem:

Conserving energy is not just about saving on your electricity costs, but also involves being eco-friendly, thereby, protecting the environment. Producing electricity in UAE highly depends on burning oil. This releases an abundant amount of harmful carbon emissions. Using a limited amount of electricity to fulfill one’s needs is acceptable, however, it becomes a major issue when we start consuming excess electricity and start wasting it. Over the past years our consumption of electricity has increased massively to the point where a UAE resident consumes 8,271 kilograms of oil equivalent energy per annum. According to The Gulf News, our electricity consumption alone has more than doubled in the past 10 years.

We may not notice the negative effects of high consumption of electricity at the moment, but it’ll have severe consequences later on, such as:

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  1. Increased Carbon Footprint

In order to get electricity, oil or coal is burnt which causes carbon to be released into the atmosphere. These carbon emissions raise global temperatures by trapping solar energy in the atmosphere, therefore, altering water supplies and weather patterns, which in turn changes the growing season for food crops and threatens coastal communities with increasing sea levels. Local food would become hard to find because agriculture here would suffer from more salty water which is not suitable for farming.

  1. Increased risk of climate change

Recent studies show, climate change could lead to more dust storms and hotter summers in the UAE. The scientists believe that as temperatures increase as a result of climate change, general drying would probably lead to more dust storms. This will also affect human health in many different ways. For example, warming will increase the range of diseases carried by insects.

  1. Higher Energy Costs

A natural consequence of overusing energy is increased costs. This can come in the form of fuel and energy bills. Also, as a result of overusing your appliances and other electronics, you may risk lowering their expected lifespan and therefore have to replace them more frequently. This will increase costs and as well as further impact the environment by generating more waste to dispose.

The Solution:

  1. Home improvements

Design the house in such a way that requires less energy to be consumed. Rooms with larger windows and balconies can be designed in order to reduce the need for artificial lighting during the day. Open the windows when the weather is cooler and avoid using the air condition unnecessarily.

  1. Use solar panels

Acquiring electricity from a more sustainable and eco-friendly source will greatly benefit the environment and in return us as well, in the long run. Moreover, UAE is the perfect place to derive energy from solar panels.

  1. Usage of home appliances

Reduce the usage of electric appliances at home and try to turn them off when not in use. For example:

  • Start the dishwasher only once it’s full
  • Set your clothes washer to the warm or cold water setting, not hot. This can save nearly 500 pounds of CO2 per year if you have an electric water heater
  • Unplug your phone or laptop from the charger when it’s fully charged.

Also small investments in energy saving appliances will be worth it. Although they cost more initially, they save money in the long run. Compact fluorescent bulbs, for example use only 1/4 the energy of an ordinary bulb and lasting 8-12 times longer. Try selecting the most energy-efficient models when replacing old appliances.

  1. Spread the word

Raising awareness amongst family members and friends and encouraging them to reduce electricity consumption will greatly benefit this cause. This can be done at every level and for all ages. After all, young minds bring the most change.

Article written by Safiya Mustafa.

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UAE first Arab country to host World Urban Forum

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Abu Dhabi: The Tenth Edition of the World Urban Forum (WUF 10) kicked off from Feb 8 until 13 Feb in Abu Dhabi. The UAE is the first Arab country to host the world’s most important conference on cities and human settlements.

WUF10 is convened by UN-Habitat in partnership with the Abu Dhabi Department of Municipalities and Transport, the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, General Secretariat of the Executive Council, and the ultra-modern Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.

The theme of the Tenth Session is Cities of Opportunities: Connecting Culture and Innovation.

The World Urban Forum (WUF) was established in 2001 by the United Nations to address one of the most pressing issues facing the world today: rapid urbanization and its impact on communities, cities, economies, climate change and policies. Convened by UN-Habitat, the Forum is a high level, open and inclusive platform for addressing the challenges of sustainable urbanization.

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The Objectives of the World Urban Forum:
Raising awareness of sustainable urbanization among stakeholders and constituencies, including the general public;
Improving collective knowledge on sustainable urban development through open and inclusive debate, exchange of best practices and policies, and sharing of lessons learnt.
Promote collaboration and cooperation between different stakeholders and constituencies engaged in the advancement and implementation of sustainable urbanization.

Six Dialogues Sessions at the WUF10 will take stock of emerging innovative approaches and practices in harnessing culture and innovation as drivers for sustainable urbanization and provide greater insights into the linkages between urbanization, culture and innovation as a basis for achieving inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities and human settlements.

The dialogues are:
1. Urbanization, Culture and Innovation Driving Sustainable Urbanization through Culture and Innovation
2. Tradition and Modernity – A Creative Convergence for Sustainable Cities
3. Frontier Technologies and Sustainable Cities
4. Urban Planning and Heritage Preservation and Regeneration
5. Partnerships and Initiatives Supporting Culture and Innovation in Cities

Previous World Urban Forums

Know more about the programmes here

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