Where To Start On Making Your Home More Self-Sufficient

Nowadays, many people are trying their best to be eco-friendly, energy saving, environmentally conscientious, and trying to lean towards a healthier lifestyle. There are many ways now to become more self-sufficient and giving the environment a break. By being self-sufficient, you’re decreasing your dependence on the environment, but using the earth’s natural resources to create your own sustainability. Being self-sufficient was originally how humankind lived for centuries, now we depend negatively on the earth’s resources, causing an imbalance and a negative impact on the earth. Whether you start small by recycling or going zero waste, some people has even attempted to create completely self-sufficient homes. Below you can find out how to start making your home more self-sufficient.

What is a self-sufficient home?

Creating a self-sufficient home doesn’t mean you need to live off the grid completely, but it means creating a home that supplies its own energy, water, food and sewage. They’re considered completely autonomous and named the ultimate green living dwellings. You can either build your own self-sufficient home, or make a few changes around your existing home; anything is doable.

Benefits of a self-sufficient home

Needless to say, establishing a self-sufficient home means you reduce your carbon footprint and energy consumption that have a negative impact on the environment. You’re also living a much more financially independent and bill-free lifestyle as you’re making your own resources. Being self-sufficient also develops and sharpens your skills, something that you can pass on to your children by allowing them to be more independent and practical.

Creating a self-sufficient home

In order to make improvements around your home to become more self-sufficient, you need to start with the simplest tasks and make your way towards the most difficult ones as you get the hang of it. Below are some ways you can start establishing a self-sufficient home:

Alternative energy

Save a ton of energy consumption by using alternative energy methods. Switching to renewable energy like solar power may seem a little costly at first, but it’s extremely beneficial in the long run. Since you’re creating your own energy, it will save you a lot of money by not having to pay for electricity.  You can start by installing solar panels called Photovoltaic (PV) on the roof, but make sure it’s in an area that gets undisrupted sunlight all year long. PV uses devices that generate electricity from saving up direct sunlight all day. You can also check the many other ways you can use solar energy through Beupp.com as they provide comprehensive information on alternative energy solutions.

Heating systems

Alternative heating options can be done through solar energy as well. Solar heating is capable of heating your water and saving energy. Water heating systems are achieved with a solar collector, insulated piping and a hot water storage tank. A self-sufficient home is one that provides itself with its own heat, and so you can allow your home to create heat by doing it traditionally. Install a wood burning stove as it’s an excellent way to save energy and provide warmth.

Lighting

Even though you’re already getting your electricity from renewable energy like solar energy, but the use of passive lighting is another way to be self-sufficient throughout the day. You can remodel your window arrangement to design high windows and skylights to get as much sunlight throughout the day as you can. At night, use LED light bulbs that last longer, require less energy as well as not overheat your home.

Growing your own food

One of the major achievements of being self-sufficient is by growing your own organic food. Consider turning your backyard into a small greenhouse for food production or create a vegetable patch. Start small, choose your favorite herbs, fruits and vegetables and start gardening! If your home can allow it, consider having a small chicken coop for meat and egg supply as well as a cow or goat for dairy products.

Water management

Although it might seem difficult to secure an independent water supply, it’s still doable. Ideally, if you’re in a remote location, digging up a well will be highly beneficial. If not, you can go the renewable way and collect rainwater to be used for many things. Install a rain collecting system that leads to a filtration system to be able to drink this water, shower or use for laundry. Once this water is used once, it’s still reusable once more and that is called ‘grey water.’ Grey water is filtered once again and can be used to water your vegetable patch.

Plan for the future

Creating a self-sufficient home not only gives you the necessary skills to become practical and independent but it benefits the environment greatly. It may seem like a lot of work at first, but the rewards are more worthy. Establishing a green life will preserve the environment for future generations to come.

Is Aquaculture the Answer to World Hunger?

aquaculture-fish-farmsFeeding a growing world population could become problematic, but aquaculture might hold the key. If humans are anything, we are resourceful. We see a problem with the world, and we do what we can to fix it.  When being nomadic and following food sources was no longer sustainable, we solved the problem by developing agriculture.  Currently, as the population continues to grow and our taste for seafood increases, we’re trying to find ways to meet demand and, at the same time, sustain wild populations of fishes.

Aquaculture is the answer to this current dilemma. Farming fish for food has been around since about 2000 B.C. Since then, technology has helped it advanced and developed better techniques to raise fish for food.

Benefits of Aquaculture

Fish is a great source of protein, and it also contains essential minerals including potassium, zinc, iodine and magnesium. Fish are also rich in phosphorus and calcium. For a healthy heart, the American Heart Association recommends eating fish twice a week.

The health benefits of fish are more than enough reason to eat them, but they are also a delicious meal. There is a large variety of fish to choose from, including freshwater and saltwater varieties. However, the increased amount of people eating fish has had an impact on wild populations. To prevent certain species from being overfished, it is important to find an alternative to providing fish to people, and that includes aquaculture.

Different types of aquaculture must be used to raise different species of fish. Large companies can engage in aquaculture on an industrial scale with fish held in tanks or in pens in lakes, ponds or even the ocean. Families can even perform aquaculture in their backyard.  The variety of fish that you can raise for food includes catfish, bait minnow, trout, carp and tilapia, among others.  It’s also possible to raise shellfish, including oysters and shrimp. Want to try your hand at growing water plants?  You can also use aquaculture principles for water chestnuts and red and brown algae.

Studies have shown that marine aquaculture has the potential to produce 16.5 billion tons of fish per year, which is more than enough to feed the growing population and meet nutritional needs.

Different types of aquaculture must be used to raise different species of fish.

Different types of aquaculture must be used to raise different species of fish.

In some areas, such as parts of Africa, aquaculture has made an enormous impact on the local community’s economy and employment as well. The food produced helps to sustain Africa’s growing population and provides local jobs with steady income.

The Downside of Aquaculture

While it has the potential to feed hungry communities and contribute to local economies, there are some problems associated with aquaculture. Having too many fish in a tank can lead to the spread of disease.  Also, the type of feed the fish eat can impact how healthy they are for humans. Keeping fish in pens in lakes, ponds or the ocean might cause the spread of parasites to wild populations.  Farmed fish could also escape their enclosure and, as a result, alter the natural ecosystem.

Recognizing the shortcomings of aquaculture is the first step to remedying its problems. As technology and farming practices advance and techniques improve, it’s possible that we will resolve many of these issues. This will lead to greater benefits for the human population that depends on fish for food.

Humans have the ingenuity and drive to make the world a better place for themselves and others. Population growth isn’t going to slow down any time soon, and we need to make sure everyone is taken care of and has enough to eat. While aquaculture has its pros and cons, it can be a sustainable and economic way to feed hungry people.  In time, it may even be the answer to world hunger.

Solid Waste Management in South Asia: Key Lessons

swm-south-asiaSolid waste management is already a significant concern for municipal governments across South Asia. It constitutes one of their largest costs and the problem is growing year on year as urban populations swell. As with all waste management experiences, we have learned lessons and can see scope for improvement.

Collection and Transportation

There are two factors which have a significant impact on the costs and viability of a waste management system as it relates to collection and transportation: first, the distance travelled between collection and disposal point; and second, the extent to which ‘wet’ kitchen waste can be kept separate from dry waste much of which can be recycled. Separating waste in this way reduces the costs of manual sorting later on, and increases the prices for recyclable materials.

In many larger towns distances become too great for door-to-door collectors to dispose waste directly at the dump site. Arrangements are made to dispose of waste at secondary storage points (large skips) provided by the municipality. However, where these are not regularly emptied, the waste is likely to be spread beyond the bins, creating a further environmental hazard.

Ideally, and if suitable land can be found, a number of smaller waste disposal sites located around a town would eliminate this problem. With significant public awareness efforts on our part, and continual daily reminders to home-owners, we were able to raise the rate of household separation to about 60%, but once these reminders became less frequent, the rate dropped rapidly back to around 25%. The problem is compounded in larger cities by the unavailability of separated secondary storage bins, so everything is mixed up again at this point anyway, despite the best efforts of householders.

If rates are to be sustained, it requires continual and on-going promotion in the long term. The cost of this has to be weighed against the financial benefit of cleaner separated waste and reduced sorting costs. Our experience in Sri Lanka shows how important a role the Local Authority can play in continuing to promote good solid waste management practices at the household level.

Home Composting

Our experience with home composting shows that complete coverage, with every household using the system, is very unlikely to be achieved. Where we have promoted it heavily and in co-operation with the Local Authority we have found the sustained use of about 65% of the bins. Even this level of coverage, however, can have an important impact on waste volumes needing to be collected and disposed of. At the same time it can provide important, organic inputs to home gardening, providing a more varied and nutritious diet for poor householders.

Waste to Compost and Energy

The variety of technologies we have demonstrated have different advantages and disadvantages. For some, maintenance is more complicated and there can be issues of clogging. For the dry-fermentation chambers, there is a need for a regular supply of fresh waste that has not already decomposed. For other systems requiring water, quite large amounts may be needed. All of these technical challenges can be overcome with good operation and maintenance practices, but need to be factored in when choosing the appropriate technology for a given location.

The major challenge for compost production has been to secure regular sales. The market for compost is seasonal, and this creates an irregular cash flow that needs to be factored in to the business model. In Bangladesh, a significant barrier has been the need for the product to be officially licensed. The requirements for product quality are exacting in order to ensure farmers are buying a product they can trust. However, the need for on-site testing facilities may be too prescriptive, creating a barrier for smaller-scale operations of this sort. Possibly a second tier of license could be created for compost from waste which would allow sales more easily but with lower levels of guarantees for farmers.

Safe Food Production and Consumption

Community people highly welcomed the concept of safe food using organic waste generated compost. In Sri Lanka, women been practicing vertical gardening which meeting the daily consumption needs became source of extra income for the family. Female organic fertilizer entrepreneurs in Bangladesh are growing seasonal vegetables and fruits with compost and harvesting more quality products. They sell these products with higher price in local and regional markets as this is still a niche market in the country. The safe food producers require financial and regulatory support from the government and relevant agencies on certification and quality control to raise and sustain market demand.

The concept of safe food using organic waste generated compost is picking up in South Asia

The concept of safe food using organic waste generated compost is picking up in South Asia

Conclusion

Solid waste management is an area that has not received the attention it deserves from policy-makers in South Asia nations. There are signs this may change, with its inclusion in the SDGs and in many INDCs which are the basis of the Paris Climate Agreement. If we are to meet the challenge, we will need new approaches to partnerships, and the adoption of different kinds of systems and technologies. This will require greater awareness and capacity building at the Local Authority level. If national climate or SDG targets are to be met, they will need to be localised through municipalities. Greater knowledge sharing at national and regional levels through municipal associations, regional bodies such as SAARC and regional local authority associations such as Citynet, will be an important part of this.

Practical Action’s key messages for regional and national policy makers, based on our experience in the region in the last 5 years, are about the need for:

  • creating new partnerships for waste collection with NGOs and the informal sector,
  • considering more decentralised approaches to processing and treatment, and
  • recognising the exciting potential for viable technologies for generating more value from waste

15 Simple Ways Your Family Can Save the Planet

Life, the miracle of the universe, appeared about 4 billion years ago, and we, humans – only 200,000 years ago. But we have already succeeded in destroying the balance that is so important for the life on Earth. What do we actually know about life on Earth? The tenth part? Or maybe the hundredth? Earth is a real miracle. Life remains a mystery.

Trees grow towards the sun, which feeds their foliage. Animals are adapted to their pastures, and their pastures are adapted to them. As a result, everyone wins. Animals satisfy hunger, and plants flourish again. In this great life journey on Earth, each species has a particular function and takes a certain place. There are no useless creatures. They are all balanced.

And Homo sapiens – a man of sense – enters the arena of history. He received a fabulous inheritance that the Earth has carefully preserved for 4 billion years. He is only 200,000 years old, but he has already changed the face of the world. Despite his vulnerability, he captured all the habitats and conquered the territory like no other species before him. Today, life – our life – is only a link in the chain of countless lives following one another on Earth for 4 billion years.

For a long time, the relationship between people and the planet were fairly balanced and resembled a natural and equal union. Now, we rarely think about global issues, being lost in everyday concerns. Meanwhile, we are on the verge of a disaster. Thanks to the achievements of science and technology, people learned to satisfy their needs, but some inventions brought us much more harm than good. We are killing our planet gradually but purposefully.

Planting more trees and vegetation will go a long way in reducing heat in urban settings.

These 15 simple tips do not require you either time or extra effort. Only by changing your habits quite a bit, you and your loved one can make the world cleaner and safer.

  1. Make the most of natural ambient light. Turn off the light in the room or the computer monitor when you do not need it. And do not forget about the chargers in the appliance receptacle!
  2. Teach yourself to turn off the water at a time when you do not need it – for example, while brushing your teeth or rubbing the pan with a detergent. On average, according to statistics, 5-10 liters of water (depending on pressure) flows out of the tap per minute. Also, reduce the time spent in the shower for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Replace incandescent bulbs with LED: they save energy and last longer.
  4. Change to a bike. It is cool, fast, and comfortable. Having tried only once, you no longer want to get on the “hot bus” or spend time stuck in traffic jams. In addition, a bicycle is an excellent vehicle as it does not pollute the air with dangerous gases.
  5. Use phosphate-free detergents. On the Internet, there are many resources offering ecological household chemicals.
  6. Buy less plastic bags, go to the store with your eco-bag.
  7. Replace plastic with paper and glass. If you cannot do without disposable tableware – for example, when going on a picnic – use paper plates and cups rather than plastic ones.
  8. Choose cosmetics and chemicals especially carefully. You should give preference to products that have not been tested on animals and do not adversely affect the environment at different stages of production.
  9. Though it is as simple as ABC but very effective – try to bring plastic, glass, and paper for recycling.
  10. Bring batteries to special shops and institutions because this is a dangerous and very toxic type of waste.
  11. Refuse semi-finished products. Experts say that today, the manufacture of these products is fully controlled by monopoly companies that abuse antibiotics, overload the ecosystem, and apply the principles of intensive management for their own profit. Of course, in such conditions, quality suffers. Homemade food is much better. Do not know how to cook? A dating site may be helpful.
  12. Buy local food – the one that is made in your area. This food undergoes less chemical treatment which is sometimes used for long-term transportation.
  13. Use water filters. In this case, you do not need to spend money on bottled drinking water. Thus, you will not only save your family budget but also reduce the environmental impact caused by the production and transportation of plastic bottles.
  14. Plant flowers on window sills and trees in the courtyards. Do not let anyone cut down green spaces near your house.
  15. Support environmental organizations and encourage your family to do it.

“Orbiting Earth, I saw how beautiful our planet is. People, let us preserve and increase this beauty, not destroy it!”

– Yuri Gagarin

Alternatives for Plastic Wrapping and Packaging

There’s no denying that plastic wrap has been a convenient product in most households for many years. However, as most waste disposal companies will tell you, its convenience is only for you – not the environment. It stops your sandwiches from going stale, but it also takes centuries to break down. Your one sandwich wrapper could be responsible for killing a myriad of animals while it sits there waiting to lose its structural integrity. Fortunately, there is a better way. Read on to discover many wrapping and packaging materials that could end up being better for the environment.

Glass Containers

One of the many reasons why people want to make the switch from plastic is because it can take centuries to break down. However, so does glass, so why use it? Unlike plastic which tends to lean toward being a single-use product, glass is something you can have forever. It’s one of the longest-lasting materials and will prove to offer no end of convenience.

In most cases, you can use glass containers in your fridge, freezer, microwave, and even oven. You couldn’t do that with most plastic products. Glass containers are also an excellent alternative for plastic in almost every way. You can put your unwrapped sandwiches in them and seal the lid shut. You can also put leftover dinner into them for reheating later.

Glass containers are even something you can take to the grocery store. Instead of a supermarket filling a plastic container with their deli items or bulk groceries, you can fill your glass jars. One product can end up having many uses, saving thousands of plastic wrap rolls and containers from requiring waste disposal.

Mason Jars

Mason jars have been around since the 1850s, but it’s only in recent years there has been a resurgence in their use. As consumers come to realize that plastic is not environmentally-friendly, they are starting to use sealable mason jars that serve a whole variety of purposes. Cafes are using them for beverages, and you can even use them for serving at home. What’s more, there’s nothing wrong with using them for produce, soup, grains, and more. Move aside plastic; there’s a new player in town.

Parchment Paper

If you are trying to minimize how much rubbish you send away for waste disposal, then consider swapping your cling film for parchment paper. Wax or parchment paper is an excellent alternative, while also breaking down far quicker than plastic wrap. It will still keep your sandwiches fresh, but with a much less detrimental impact on the environment.

Bees Wrap

Bees wrap is a relatively new product to hit the market, but it’s already making waves. It consists of cotton muslin cloth dipped in beeswax, tree resin, and jojoba oil. When you heat them with your hands, you’re able to seal food within. Both the jojoba oil and beeswax are also antibacterial which can offer exceptional benefits with preservation.

When you have eaten your sandwich, you don’t need to worry about impacting waste disposal. You can clean the wraps and reuse them.

Cardboard

Many countries around the world have banned single-use plastic bags, with New Zealand the latest nation to join the movement. It will only be a matter of time before waste disposal businesses notice the dramatic impact in plastic waste. That’s a good thing – but how will people package their goods, or carry their groceries? Cardboard is about to become far more popular than it is now.

Instead of packaging your items in plastic, you can store them neatly in cardboard boxes. They break down into the environment, are effortless to stack, and you can use them more than once.

Go Nude

For the sake of waste disposal, why not consider going nude? We don’t mean take all your clothes off, but why not avoid packaging altogether? Grocery stores are not making this process easy with the number of plastic-wrapped items they have, but you can be more conscientious about the purchasing decisions you make.

Put your vegetables and fruit in cloth bags and your loose bulk bin items into glass jars. Instead of buying pasta, rice, and other ingredients in plastic packets, buy them from bulk stores that encourage you to bring containers to put them in. If you can’t seem to avoid plastic, then draw up a meal plan that differs from what you usually do. You can then make an effort to eat food that will not arrive in packaging.

Conclusion

People used to cope without plastic for packaging and wrapping, and they can do so again. Think of the effects of waste disposal and how you can stop your contribution to the growing problem. Use glass jars and containers, buy ingredients in bulk, and stop using plastic wrap for your sandwiches. These might seem like small changes, but when 7.7 billion people follow suit, we can make a significant difference.

Food Waste Management – Consumer Behavior and FWDs

food-waste-managementFood waste is a global issue that begins at home and as such, it is an ideal contender for testing out new approaches to behaviour change. The behavioural drivers that lead to food being wasted are complex and often inter-related, but predominantly centre around purchasing habits, and the way in which we store, cook, eat and celebrate food.

Consumer Behavior – A Top Priority

Consumer behaviour is a huge priority area in particular for industrialised nations – it is estimated that some western societies might be throwing away up to a third of all food purchased. The rise of cheap food and convenience culture in recent years has compounded this problem, with few incentives or disincentives in place at producer, retail or consumer level to address this.

While it is likely that a number of structural levers – such as price, regulation, enabling measures and public benefits – will need to be pulled together in a coherent way to drive progress on this agenda, at a deeper level there is a pressing argument to explore the psycho-social perspectives of behaviour change.

Individual or collective behaviours often exist within a broader cultural context of values and attitudes that are hard to measure and influence. Simple one-off actions such as freezing leftovers or buying less during a weekly food shop do not necessarily translate into daily behaviour patterns. For such motivations to have staying power, they must become instinctive acts, aligned with an immediate sense of purpose. The need to consider more broadly our behaviours and how they are implicated in such issues must not stop at individual consumers, but extend to governments, businesses and NGOs if effective strategies are to be drawn up.

Emergence of Food Waste Disposers

Food waste disposer (FWDs), devices invented and adopted as a tool of convenience may now represent a unique new front in the fight against climate change. These devices, commonplace in North America, Australia and New Zealand work by shredding household or commercial food waste into small pieces that pass through a municipal sewer system without difficulty.

The shredded food particles are then conveyed by existing wastewater infrastructure to wastewater treatment plants where they can contribute to the generation of biogas via anaerobic digestion. This displaces the need for generation of the same amount of biogas using traditional fossil fuels, thereby averting a net addition of greenhouse gases (GHG) to the atmosphere.

Food waste is an ideal contender for testing new approaches to behaviour change.

The use of anaerobic digesters is more common in the treatment of sewage sludge, as implemented in the U.K., but not as much in the treatment of food waste. In addition to this, food waste can also replace methanol (produced from fossil fuels) and citric acid used in advanced wastewater treatment processes which are generally carbon limited.

Despite an ample number of studies pointing to the evidence of positive impacts of FWDs, concerns regarding its use still exist, notably in Europe. Scotland for example has passed legislation that bans use of FWDs, stating instead that customers must segregate their waste and make it available curbside for pickup. This makes it especially difficult for the hospitality industry, to which the use of disposer is well suited. The U.S. however has seen larger scale adoption of the technology due to the big sales push it received in the 1950s and 60s. In addition to being just kitchen convenience appliances, FWDs are yet to be widely accepted as a tool for positive environmental impact.

Note: Note: This excerpt is being published with the permission of our collaborative partner Be Waste Wise. The original excerpt and its video recording can be found at this link

Zena Fly- Feeding the World on Insect

Meeting an ever increasing demand for food/feed/energy and managing waste have become two of the major global challenges. The global world population is estimated to increase from 7.3 billion in 2015 to 9.7 billion in 2050. Approximately one third of the global food produced for human composition is wasted. Currently, approximately 1.3 billion metric tons of waste are disposed with significant environmental impact as far as greenhouse gases and economic footprints and the current waste management practices are not costly sustainable.

Increase in Global Energy Demand

Global energy demand is estimated to increase from 524 Quadrillion btu in 2010, to 820 Quadrillion btu by 2040 (a 56% increase). Similarly, global demand of food and animal products are projected to increase by 70-100% and 50-70%, respectively, by 2050. To cope up with the demand for animal products, a substantial increase in nutritious animal feed is needed.

On one hand, the production of conventional feedstuff such as soybean meal and fish meal is reported as the major contributor to land occupation, ocean depletion, climate change, water and energy consumption. Moreover, such conventional animal feedstuff are not only limited in supply but also are becoming more expensive over the years. Additionally, there is an already strong and increasing competition for resources such as food, feed and biofuel production.

Need for alternative non-conventional source of food, feed, and fuel

Thus there is a pressing need for identifying and exploring the potential of alternative non-conventional source of food, feed, and fuel, which are economically viable, environmentally friendly, and socially acceptable.

By 2030 the Bio-based Economy is expected to have grown significantly. A pillar of this is biorefining, the sustainable processing of biomass into a spectrum of marketable products and energy. To satisfy this demand biorefineries need to be better integrated, flexible and operating more substantially. This means that a major yield, more efficient use of nutrients and water and greater pest and disease resistance should be achieve.

Zena Fly: A Startup Worth Watching

In this context an Italian-based start-up, Zena Fly, designed an innovative process for the future integrated bio-refinery by mimicking nature’s ability. In fact, Zena Fly utilizes the natural insect life cycle to manage large quantity of organic waste produced in urban and industrial context, in order to generate sustainable and valuable by-products. The project of three young entrepreneurs foresees a combined bio-refinery where waste is turned into high-quality by-products by the anaerobic insect digestion.

The Concept

The basic concept is to convert waste into high-valuable products utilizing the black soldier flies (H. illucens), a now globally distributed insect. With a modern technique, the typical insect life cycle of these insects can be utilized in order to manage urban and industrial waste. The voracious larvae can reduce by more than 40-70% (based on the nature of the substrate-waste) the substrate where reared (waste) within 12-14 days.

From the anaerobic waste digestion, large quantity of fine protein meal for feed composition (more than 50-60% in protein), fat, fertilizing oil and other by-products of great interest such as chitin, and high-quality biofuel are then extracted.

Since the adult fly do not feed, and do not fly around for feeding, these animals are exceptionally valuable from a sanitary perspective (larvae has been demonstrate to reduce/eliminate E.coli and Salmonella).

Business Model

Zena Fly business model foresees to replicate their integrated biorefineries next to any waste management companies or industrial production areas where large quantity of waste need to be reduced and transformed. This is a win/win operation, where the waste management cost would be cut in half and the process will generate appealing opportunities for investments in a market where the increasing demand is already way higher than the products availability.

Zena Fly is now seeking for the right partner-investor in order to scale up quickly. For more information, please visit www.zena-fly.com or email us on info@zena-fly.com

Food Waste Management in UK

Food-Waste-UKFood waste in the United Kingdom is a matter of serious environmental, economic and social concern that has been attracting widespread attention in recent years. According to ‘Feeding the 5K’ organisation, 13,000 slices of crusts are thrown away every day by a single sandwich factory which is featured in the figure above. More recently, Tesco, one of the largest UK food retailers, has published its sustainability report admitting that the company generated 28,500 tonnes of food waste in the first six months of 2013. TESCO’s report also state that 47% of the bakery produced is wasted. In terms of GHG emissions, DEFRA estimated that food waste is associated with 20 Mt of CO2 equivalent/year, which is equivalent to 3% of the total annual GHG emissions.

Globally, 1.2 to 2 billion tonnes (30%-50%) of food produced is thrown away before it reaches a human stomach. Food waste, if conceived as a state, is responsible for 3.3 Bt-CO2 equivalent/year, which would make it the third biggest carbon emitter after China and USA. What makes food waste an even more significant issue is the substantially high demand for food which is estimated to grow 70% by 2050 due to the dramatic increase of population which is expected to reach 9.5 billion by 2075. Therefore, there is an urgent need to address food waste as a globally challenging issue which should be considered and tackled by sustainable initiatives.

A War on Food Waste

The overarching consensus to tackle the food waste issue has led to the implementation of various policies. For instance, the European Landfill Directive (1999/31/EC) set targets to reduce organic waste disposed to landfill in 2020 to 35% of that disposed in 1995 (EC 1999). More recently, the European Parliament discussed a proposal to “apply radical measures” to halve food waste by 2025 and to designate the 2014 year as “the European Year Against Food Waste”. In the light of IMechE’s report (2013), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in cooperation with FAO has launched the Save Food Initiative in an attempt to reduce food waste generated in the global scale.

In the UK, WRAP declared a war on food waste by expanding its organic waste programme in 2008 which was primarily designed to “establish the most cost-effective and environmentally sustainable ways of diverting household food waste from landfill that leads to the production of a saleable product”. DEFRA has also identified food waste as a “priority waste stream” in order to achieve better waste management performance. In addition to governmental policies, various voluntary schemes have been introduced by local authorities such as Nottingham Declaration which aims to cut local CO2 emissions 60% by 2050.

Sustainable Food Waste Management

Engineering has introduced numerous technologies to deal with food waste. Many studies have been carried out to examine the environmental and socio-economic impacts of food waste management options. This article covers the two most preferable options; anaerobic digestion and composting.

In-vessel composting (IVC) is a well-established technology which is widely used to treat food waste aerobically and convert it into a valuable fertilizer. IVC is considered a sustainable option because it helps by reducing the amount of food waste landfilled. Hence, complying with the EU regulations, and producing a saleable product avoiding the use of natural resources. IVC is considered an environmentally favourable technology compared with other conventional options (i.e. landfill and incineration). It contributes less than 0.06% to the national greenhouse gas inventories. However, considering its high energy-intensive collection activities, the overall environmental performance is “relatively poor”.

Anaerobic Digestion (AD) is a leading technology which has had a rapidly growing market over the last few years. AD is a biologically natural process in which micro-organisms anaerobically break down food waste and producing biogas which can be used for both Combined Heat & Power (CHP) and digestate that can be used as soil fertilizers or conditioners. AD has been considered as the “best option” for food waste treatment. Therefore, governmental and financial support has been given to expand AD in the UK.

AD is not only a food waste treatment technology, but also a renewable source of energy. For instance, It is expected that AD would help the UK to meet the target of supplying 15% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. Furthermore, AD technology has the potential to boost the UK economy by providing 35,000 new jobs if the technology is adopted nationally to process food waste. This economic growth will significantly improve the quality of life among potential beneficiaries and thus all sustainability elements are considered.

Behavioral Drivers Behind Food Wastes

food-waste-behaviorBy 2075, the United Nations estimates the global population will peak at 9.5 billion, an extra 3 billion mouths to feed by the end of the century. Meanwhile, while we produce about four billion tonnes of food annually, it is estimated that 30-50% of this never reaches our plates. Of the food that does reach us, some western societies throw away up to a third of all food purchased. This has enormous implications for the global environment, from wasting the water used to grow the food to adverse effects on climate, land and biodiversity.

The drivers behind these phenomenal levels of food waste are complex and include food pricing, logistical and storage issues. However, given the significant level of waste that happens within the households of societies like the UK and US, it is useful and informative to consider those behaviours that drive this level of waste.

The quality of data around food waste, as with much of waste data, has historically been poor. To this end, WRAP commissioned groundbreaking research in the UK in 2006/7 to act as a baseline to their Love Food Hate Waste campaign. This came up with the alarming statistic that 1/3 of food bought by a UK household was thrown away. Until this time, there had been no comprehensive research, either by food manufacturers, retailers or interest groups, suggesting the importance of government, or some other dis-interested party, taking a lead on the issue.

Back to Basics

There may be a link between the amount of time spent preparing food, and the skill and effort that goes into this, and the amount of food waste produced. This has led to a loss of confidence in the kitchen, with individuals losing basic skills that allow them to cook with leftovers, understand food labeling, including Best Before and Use By, even basic storing. WRAP had found little evidence of best practice storage advice so carried out the research themselves – leading the (surprising for many) conclusion that fruit such as apples and pears are best stored in the fridge wrapped in a plastic cover. However, this has masked a larger trend of less time spent in the kitchen, due to demographic changes. This of course begs the question – how should we use this when trying to reduce food waste? Should we encourage people to cook from scratch as a principle?

Although waste prevention and recycling are clearly separated within the waste hierarchy, there are apparent links between the two when considering food waste. There is an urgent need for legislation to enforce separate food waste collections, not only to ensure it was diverted to anaerobic digestion or composting, but also as it led to greater self awareness around food waste. WRAP research has clearly showed a fall in food waste when separate food waste collections were introduced.

Role of Packaging

Historically, packaging has always been a high priority to the public when asked about priorities for reducing waste. However, as awareness of food waste has grown, a more nuanced position has developed among waste managers. While excess packaging is clearly undesirable, and, within the UK for instance, the Courtauld Commitment  has helped reduced grocery packaging by 2.9 million tonnes of waste so far, there is a realization of the importance of food packaging in preserving food and hence reducing food waste.

Making food easily accessible and affordable by many, it could be argued, is one of the crowning achievements of our age. Over the last century, the proportion of household income that is spent on food has plummeted, and there is a direct link to malnutrition and food prices, particularly for children. But does cheap food mean that it is less valued and hence greater wastage? Is the answer expensive food? The evidence from WRAP in the UK is that food waste is still a serious economic issue for households, and underlining the economic case for reducing food waste a major incentive for households, especially as food prices are not entering an era of increase and instability, providing added economic urgency

Political Persuasions

Different political persuasions often differ in the approaches they take to changing behaviours and food waste is no different. In the UK, the Courtauld Commitment is a voluntary agreement aimed at encouraging major retailers to take responsibility mainly for packaging, later growing to encompass food waste, voluntary and so far has seen a 21% reduction in food waste post-consumer.

Meanwhile Wales (in the UK) effectively banned food waste from landfill. Scotland has ensured that businesses make food waste available for separate collection – again it’s only once you see it, you can manage it. Campaigns like the UK’s Love Food Hate Waste have been successful but measuring food waste prevention, as with all waste prevention, is notoriously difficult. But, people are now widely aware of food waste as an issue – we even see celebrity chefs actively talking about food waste reduction and recipes involving leftovers or food that is about to go off.

There is clearly a balance between food waste and food safety, with a commitment to reducing food waste throughout the retail and catering world, not just at home. By engaging environmental health officers to help deliver this, a potentially conflicting message can be delivered in a nuanced and balanced way. Indeed, environmental health officers in Scotland will be responsible for ensuring that Scottish food businesses present their food waste for separate collection.

Role of Communication

It is worth considering how the message should be communicated, and by whom. The community sector are more trusted by the public than government and the private sector are more effective at imparting personal, deeply held beliefs – the sort of beliefs that need to change if we are to see long term changes in attitudes towards consumption and hence waste production.

Furthermore, communications can engage wider audiences that hold an interest in reducing food waste that is perhaps not primarily environmental. The health and economic benefits of issues and behaviours that also result in food waste prevention may be the prevalent message that fits with a particular audience. So whilst the main aim of a training session might be food waste prevention, this is may not be the external message. And this has wider implications for waste prevention, and how we engage audiences around it.

Municipal authorities tasked with waste prevention will need to engage with new groups, in new ways. They will have to consider approaches previously considered to be beyond their powers to engage new audiences – should they be partnering with public health authorities with an interest in nutrition, or social housing providers that are focused on financial inclusion.

Should waste prevention even be a discipline in itself? After all, across material streams it is a motley assortment of behaviours with different drivers. Furthermore, with the knots that one can tie oneself in trying to measure waste that doesn’t get generated, – therefore doesn’t exist – should we integrate waste prevention in to other socio-economic programmes and position it as an “added benefit” to them?

Note: The article is being republished with the permission of our collaborative partner be Waste Wise. The unabridged version can be found at this link. Special thanks to the author Mike Webster.