A Safe and Sustainable Christmas Season

Each Christmas season many of us enjoy sending season greetings, increasingly more digitally than by post. Is one of those activities that makes senders feel closer to recipients. This year, a very different year, has led me to a different message as well. A Safe and Sustainable Christmas!

Although Safety has been always an issue, particularly as road accidents and fatalities increase around this time of the year and in spite of more stringent traffic measures from governments, this year it goes beyond road traffic. An invisible to the human eye element has disrupted the world. Traffic has dropped significantly. And it’s very likely that traffic around the world drops significantly too during this Christmas, as Covid-19 restrictions are imposed, particularly in Christian countries.

The Earth Globe protected with a medical mask and gloves, as the entire world needs protection equipment against Covid-19 infection.
Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Imposed lockdowns meant safer citizens from Covid-19 infections. It also meant a drop on road traffic that globally averaged 50% reduction, as recently informed by the IEA. Consequently, the GHG emissions transport generates have also dropped, forecasts say it’s the sector with the highest reduction this year. Transport is the 4th most pollutant sector, accounting for 14% of the global GHG emissions, for the past decade. With more restrictions imposed until the end of the year, a bigger drop is expected in comparison to same period of previous years.

Less GHG in the atmosphere also means an increase in the air quality, and consequently healthier environments and less respiratory complications. Although sustainable, there is another element, which we cannot forget as it has been our 2020 companion and likely to remain in the first half of 2021, as the pandemic health experts inform. The invisible to the human eye disruptor that has multiplicated exponentially across the globe. Safety this year also means, skipping Covid-19 by practicing social distance and the correct health measures.

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Food waste solutions and Land Usage – are they all ethical?

“About 75% of land and 66% of ocean areas have been “significantly altered” by people, driven in large part by the production of food, according to the IPBES report, which will be released in full later this year. Crop and livestock operations currently co-opt more than 33% of Earth’s land surface and 75% of its freshwater resources. Agricultural activities are also some of the largest contributors to human emissions of greenhouse gases.”

The IPBES points out the risks to the planet and consequently to ourselves, that current human activity is generating. Unsustainable agriculture along with lifestyles are leading to an enormous percentage of food being wasted resulting in high inefficiencies in land usage plus in the food value chain, approximately 58% of its waste occurs during from production to distribution, the residual 42% is wasted due to human’s consumption habits. 79% of food waste occurs in Europe and North America. On average, each European and each North American wastes between 95-115 kg per year, the big wastage occurs with cereals, fruits and vegetables, according to FAO lastest’s available report. On the Spanish Tomatina day 145 tons of tomato are wasted yearly on the streets for fun, most probably these tomatoes have been produced under an EU subsidy scheme, “Giving pearls to pigs” a Portuguese proverb would apply here. Why is food wasted for fun when so many could have a better meal if those tomatoes would be given to them? Why do people pay tickets to get into that party instead of raising money for more ethical purposes?

Other food waste solutions like producing energy also seem quite unethical to me, when 1/9 people in the world are undernourished, according to UN data. Why wouldn’t a better solution for food waste be found when one of the global challenges is producing enough food for a growing population while maintaining the ecosystems, reducing GHG and land usage? Why using it to generate electricity when it can be generated from sustainable sources?

Changing consumers eating habits as well as improving agriculture along with its value chain is essential. Circular Economy examples are popping up with non-commercial food being reused in healthy productive processes. More of those are needed.

Note: The author has originally published this post on LinkedIn on the 9th of May 2019