World Environment Day is an annual event sponsored by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) that aims to be the most widely celebrated global day for positive environmental action. This notable environmental advocacy event was pioneered in 1973 and has occurred on June 5th every year since, with each event hosted by a different city with a different theme.
This year’s theme, “Think, Eat, Save”, had a two-pronged approach that differed from past themes in both its ambition and scope, as it aimed to mix global environmental advocacy with a more social appeal to end global hunger.
The World Environment Day 2013 campaign helped to make the public more aware of the tremendous amount of food that is wasted each year around the globe. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released data in coordination with the event that revealed that 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted each year at the same time that 1/7 of the world population can be qualified as “hungry” each day.
The UN data also reveals that not all waste is created equal. Whereas most food waste in developed countries occurs at mealtime in restaurants and family dining rooms, in developing countries the majority of food waste happens in the harvesting and storage of crops.
Thus, there is no single solution that can address food waste as a whole. Rather, policy makers must divide the issue into appropriate subcategories and address each source of food waste on its own terms.
Agriculture experts and farmers around the world are already taking note and making efforts to adjust the way they harvest their crops. For example, in Sri Lanka, using plastic crates in place of bags or sacks as a vehicle to transport vegetables can cut weight loss from 30% to 5%. Similarly, a Nigerian teacher has developed a cooler system that can preserve 12 kilos of fruits and vegetables up to 20 days without refrigeration for under $2.
Along with these innovative technical solutions are simple, inexpensive, more individualized ways that consumers can decrease their own food waste. British Parliament has developed a campaign to urge the British people to “go vegetarian” for a few meals each week, both to address health concerns like the obesity crisis at home in the U.K. and to reduce food wastage towards alleviating global hunger in developing countries.
A select international development committee has reported that the overconsumption of meat in rich countries has caused a spike in the price of grain used for animal feed, deforestation, and exploitation of agricultural lands—all factors that exacerbate the global hunger crisis.
Reducing food waste in both developed and developing countries will not be easy. It helps, however, to have powerful, global entities like the UNEP showing their support of finding a solution to the hunger crisis, even if the topic does not fall directly under their domain.
World Environment Day 2013’s theme serves as a reminder to the world that all global issues are interconnected—whether they be rooted in environmental, social, health or economic causes—and thus must be treated together.
– Ally Bruschi
Sources: Philstar News, WED 2013
Photo: City of Portland