Another benefit of zero waste: how it can help us to tackle climate change

WHAT YOU CAN DO

In 1992 at The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, also known as The Earth Summit, world nations agreed to create the very first international treaty against climate change – The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which in turn led to the Kyoto Protocol and the recent Paris Agreement. The UNFCCC objective is to “stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”.[1] Since then there have been held multiple conferences and meetings regarding climate action, however none of them led to drastic changes to prevent climate change from happening.

During this period, we have released into the atmosphere almost as much carbon as in the whole of the previous century. The record high heat waves and other extreme weather events are now occurring more and more often than in the past.[2] A large part of the West Antarctic ice sheet, as reported by scientists, is destined for destruction, which means that sea levels will rise by at least 1.2 meters in the coming centuries and possibly much more.[3] Air pollution, water-related diseases and shortage, hunger and malnutrition will only increase. We are already changing the map of the planet, especially in areas where animals, plants and people can live.

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In the last half century, we have created a world where people cross the ocean within a day, use single-use plastics even not paying attention to it and use a personal car to commute daily. Fossil fuel has contributed to this – but if we want to prevent a climate disaster, we must go ahead without it by the second half of the 21st century.

Zero Waste is a recent movement. It aims not only to restrict consumption of goods, recycle or repair things, but also to avoid other polluting practices less related to waste – such as refusing excess energy consumption, buying eco certified goods or not purchasing products containing palm oil. Personal consumption does matter.

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One of the important but less discussed principles of Zero Waste movement is to reduce energy consumption. Swiss scientists say humanity could limit its environmental impact if only 2 kilowatts of energy were consumed each year per person.[4] On average, the US population consumes almost 13 kilowatts per capita. In Bangladesh, this figure is 0,31. [5] This implies that the main challenge is to reduce consumption in the Global North. Changes in lifestyle, such as the abandonment of exclusive housing or switching to green solutions, would help to reduce these figures. Energy choices now and in the nearest future will have a major impact not just on the global climate, but also on water supplies and the resilience of energy systems that currently depend heavily on them.

Due to climate change, we will experience greater drought, more rain in the off-season, and less snow in mountain areas. The problem is that we “eat” more water than we drink. It is estimated that the average American uses about 7570 liters of freshwater per day. However, only five percent of this water (about 380 liters) runs through the taps and toilets. The rest of it is “hidden” in the food we eat and the products we buy.[6] It takes 1670 liters of water to produce 0.45 kilos of beef. And the demand for meat is on the rise. More important than water consumption of the animal farming is its carbon and methane footprint. The livestock sector is estimated to account for 15% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.[7]

Zero Waste movement can also reduce the meat and dairy consumption. The supporters of zero waste are usually more aware of meat or dairy alternatives as they have better knowledge and cooking skills, acquired by the practice of avoiding ready-made meals.

The way we produce, transport, consume and dispose of all our stuff accounts for huge percentage of total greenhouse (GHG) emissions. Consumers are responsible for more than 60 percent of the globe’s greenhouse gas emissions.[8] If we would consume less, our carbon footprint would also decrease. Minimizing excess consumption provides both psychological and financial benefits. Getting rid of unnecessary items might result in smaller bills, cleaner rooms, having more time spent outdoors or having a good time with family.

Recycling is one of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint. It uses less energy and produces less pollution than making things from raw materials. For example, for glass bottles, 315kg of CO2 is saved per tonne of recycled glass even after taking into account the transportation and processing.[9] Reducing food waste and composting also helps a lot. If not composted, the waste has to be transported and it also produces methane as it decomposes in landfills. Methane is more efficient at trapping radiation – it contributes 25 times more to global warming than carbon dioxide per kilogram.[10]

The choices we make about our consumption has a larger impact than driving a car or heating our homes. However, in addition to your everyday zero waste efforts, to ensure the future of mankind, we need a global move towards a circular and sharing economy. We need long-lasting goods, while looking beyond business-as-usual model and discarding planned obsolescence. By switching to circular economy, we could reduce the demand for energy, raw materials and fossil fuels, and, consequently, the volume of greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere would be significantly reduced.

 

1.U. N. (1999, April 23). United Nations Framework Convention On Climate Change. Retrieved June 21, 2018, from http://unfccc.int/files/essential_background/background_publications_htmlpdf/application/pdf/conveng.pdf
2.Mora, C., Dousset, B., & Caldwell, I. R. et. al. (2017, June 19). Global Risk of Deadly Heat. Retrieved June 21, 2018, from https://www.nature.com/articles/nclimate3322.epdf?referrer_access_token=g_uVry3TdI-vDGR1xw8ERtRgN0jAjWel9jnR3ZoTv0Nlcpopxh1V5GdQz8yAIWjClhZpJZ3HomV0Tkd0DRw8Cj2FQlWgefEGoctB6FYqCzxr7OgIBPKFQOsopiaLsqCkbTaLCt3g8whoBEjAk0uLOmn1wzsjR226DYcPohEchHFjbO2RT4maHEacsnDT5eOVS4RWes3JvpLpBxFyf1bDeFgUorRjNvGJbw7txwHXQvj3oGpAkhIEL9UF-uYCQwvx&tracking_referrer=edition.cnn.com. doi:10.1038/NCLIMATE3322
3.Gobbatiss, J. (2018, February 20). Global sea level to rise by up to 1.2 metres despite Paris agreement, say scientists. Retrieved June 21, 2018, from https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/sea-level-rise-climate-change-paris-agreement-global-warming-greenhouse-gas-a8219681.html
4. Morrow, K. J., Jr., & Morrow, J. A. (2008). Switzerland and the 2,000-Watt Society. Sustainability, 1(1), 32-33. doi:10.1089/SUS.2008.9992
5.Trading Economics (2014). United States – Electric power consumption (kWh per capita). Retrieved June 21, 2018, from https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/electric-power-consumption-kwh-per-capita-wb-data.html
6.Modern Agriculture. (2015, January 25). Climate Change and Your Hidden Water Footprint. Retrieved June 21, 2018, from https://modernag.org/water-conservation/climate-change-and-your-hidden-water-footprint/
7.Norwegian University of Science and Technology. (2016, February 24). Consumers have huge environmental impact. Retrieved June 21, 2018, from https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-02/nuos-chh022416.php
8.Norwegian University of Science and Technology. (2016, February 24). Consumers have huge environmental impact. Retrieved June 21, 2018, from https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-02/nuos-chh022416.php
9.Carbon Footprint. (n.d.). Recycling. Retrieved June 21, 2018, from https://www.carbonfootprint.com/recycling.html
10.Climate Change Connection. (2007). CO2 equivalents. Retrieved June 21, 2018, from https://climatechangeconnection.org/emissions/co2-equivalents/

 

Laura Treimane Written by Laura Treiman.

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Biking to the EYE in Strasbourg! (and back)

WHAT WE DO

To answer the most frequently asked questions about my bike journey to Strasbourg: The way towards Strasbourg, around 630 kilometers took me 8 days. Back, around 610 kilometers took me 7 days. My bike was a 15-year old Koga, which I bought second hand for 290 euros. I had my tent and a backpack with me which weighed 13 kg. My set of tires survived through sand roads. I had to change my brakes in Luxembourg after the hills in the Ardennes. I only slept in my tent twice, a hotel once and outside under the stars once. All other nights I slept at friends’ places or hosts I met through www.warmshowers.org.

So you can go on now with what you were doing, or read on and learn more about how I got inspired, the many kind people I met on my way, learn some biker’s wisdom and lots of things that struck me during the journey.

Inspiration to take the bike

Within the You(th) for Climate Ambition delegation, we challenged one another to take the most sustainable ways of transport, since transport could potentially increase the carbon footprint of this trip drastically. Cycling 1km by bike saves 250g of CO2 compared to 1km in a car (European Cyclist Federation). Thus, after inspiring talks with other long-distance bikers at Suderbyn Ecovillage, in particular, Maarten, who has biked from the Netherlands to Singapore, I decided to take a bike to the European Youth Event.

The support

The first kind people I met were members of my own delegation. I met with Rachel, Zanna, and Julie in Brussels after the first 70 kilometers for a lovely dinner at Rachel’s place. Next up was Perwez, where I met André and Lucienne who were willing to host me spontaneously. This was also my first test in speaking French at the dinner table, something I can say I managed pas très mal, en effet. They helped me with to choose a nice route along the RAVeL-network. After some serious ups and downs(hills) in Durbuy, Roche en Ardenne and Martelange my brakes were quite worn out. Consequently, at my first warmshowers host Duarte, my bike got new brakes and I got a lovely dinner with the family.

Biker’s wisdom

“Life is like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance, you must keep moving.” This wisdom was shared with me at my second warmshowers host in Luxembourg. Paul and Vanessa, the proud parents of a contestant in the world championship cycling for youngsters, helped me prepare my route for the next day to Saarbrücken. Along the river Saar, the road was all flat and free from holes. A long but smooth ride and honestly, I kind of missed the excitement of going up and downhill. After arriving in Saarbrücken I still had two days left to get to Strasbourg so planned to take it easy in order to be well rested for the European Youth Event to represent Ecolise and NextGEN-Europe.

Observations

During my journey I wrote down some notes of things that struck me, here are four of my observations:

  • There is too much plastic and other rubbish on the sides of the roads. Although more and more people are beginning to embrace the concept of zero waste, the side of the roads really is proof that there is still a lot to be done.
  • Too many die too young in road accidents. Every bunch of flowers or picture of a young man or woman along the roads was one too many.
  • In all the five countries I passed, Jesus has a place of honor in every corner of every little village. It reminds me of the great deeds one person can do and the tribute of this 2000 years later.
  • There are at least one or two households in each village that understand putting solar panels on your roof is a sustainable way of generating electricity. And more and more wind turbines are popping up.

General info:

From Hulst to Brussels 70 km, Brussels to Perwez 55 km, Perwez over Namur and Huy to Durbuy: 94 km, Durbuy to Bertogne 45 km, Bertogne to Ell 53 km, Ell to Waldbredimus 60 km, Waldbredimus over Saarburg to Saarbrücken 111 km, Saarbrücken to Rimsdorf: 52 km, Rimsdorf to Saverne: 38 km, Saverne to Strasbourg: 49 km. Strasbourg to Rimsdorf: 86 km, Rimsdorf to Waldbredimus: 130 km, Waldbredimus to St. Vith: 110 km, St. Vith to Liege: 90 km, Liege to Perwez: 70 km, Perwez to Brussels: 55 km, Brussels to Hulst: 65 km.

In total: 1233 km biked = 308,25 kilogram CO2 saved, compared with going by car.

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Description with pictures: With a 15 years old second hand bike, an outdoor basic survival kit and no clear plan, I set off for Strasbourg. In Brussels, I conquered the rain with this awesome red poncho. Being a lonely activist in the streets of Brussels: Make #ParisAgreement into REALITY. With my lovely hosts André and Lucienne in their beautiful garden in Perwez. My night under the stars in the Ardennes. The famous one-day classic race La Doyenne, “The Old Lady” Liège-Bastogne-Liège. I met with my sister in Durbuy. Together with Duarte and Annique, my first warmshowers hosts before my departure on a Sunday morning. Selfie with Paul and lovely dog Mabel. In Saarbrücken with Herbert, a retired physics professor, and my ws-host. Another ws-host couple and former teachers Marc and Hélène. My tent in their garden. Freshly arrived at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

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My bike with luggage in Strasbourg center. Being a tourist in the Cathedral, a nice view during a break. Biker wisdom in Luxembourg. Hanging out with Doudou, the cat of Marc and Helene. Street Art. Hanging out with one of the four cats of Elisabeth. Fun with the statue Mannenken Pis in Brussels. Peeking at the “open window” with Bruegel, a symbol for the Renaissance Humanists’ open view of the world.

 

 

And you, how much carbon do you “eat”?

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Food production is a major pollutant for our planet: soil impoverishment, desertification, deforestation… It is also a big source of greenhouse gases (GHG). Today, agricultural sector is the second largest emitter of the world, after the energy sector.

Changing our consumption is a way to act pragmatically against climate change, and turning to vegetarian and vegan diets can help us to reduce our personal carbon footprint. We hear a lot about carbon footprint. But what does it actually mean, especially when it comes to food?

What is carbon footprint?

Carbon footprint corresponds to “the total amount of greenhouse gases produced to directly and indirectly support human activities, usually expressed in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide (CO2).”, per year.

Carbon footprint takes into account direct emissions, as well as indirect ones. If we think about a car, direct emissions are the ones we produce by using it. On the contrary, indirect emissions happen during the production (energy required, transport of the materials, etc.).

“Carbon foodprint”: what does carbon footprint mean when it comes to food?

The carbon “foodprint” of what we eat mainly derives from agricultural production, that contributes 80%–86% of food system emissions. The “pre-production” (ex. fertilizer production), and “post-production” (processing, packaging, refrigeration, transport, but also retailers, catering, domestic use, etc.) activities also emit a significant amount of greenhouse gases.

  • Direct emissions

The main source of direct emissions of greenhouse gases is of course related with the transports. We should add as well all the means of production and cultivation, that still work a lot on petrol. Apart from CO2, direct production of greenhouse gases can come for example from the production and use of fertilizers.

  • Indirect emissions

The food system is very energy-intensive. An awful lot of energy is needed, for example for the refrigeration of products.

Another important source of indirect emissions is the “land-cover change”. Agricultural production implies using more and more lands, which means deforestation. Beyond the huge impact caused to biodiversity, replacing trees by crops means getting rid of very efficient CO2 catchers, which means more CO2 in the atmosphere.

Why reducing/cutting meat and animal products could drastically reduce our carbon footprint?

Remember that as long as we eat animals and products derived from animals, it means that we need to grow even more food in order to feed them. Therefore, it implies even more greenhouse gases coming from fertilizers, transport, cultivation…

Some emissions are also proper to animal breeding industry. They involve for example transport, processing of feed, etc. and all the energy used in the breeding process itself.

Even stopping to eat beef meat makes already a big difference: ruminants require more food to produce one kilogram of meat. Pigs and chicken, who have only one stomach, involve less emissions per kilogram of meat.

The infographics below shows how it is possible to reduce efficiently our emissions, just by changing some everyday habits.

Office cuisine Carbon Foodprints

Remember! Even if there is a focus on greenhouse gases and carbon footprint, let’s not forget that climate change is not the only concern! When it comes to food, there is also soil impoverishment, desertification and overuse of water, impact of fertilizers on the ecosystems… All these problems cannot be compensated by planting some trees. But reducing our footprint is definitely a start, and our planet is worth it!

 

Coline MAlet
Written by Coline Malot.

Article originally published on YEE food blog.

[BLOG] Finalizing the implementation of the Paris Agreement: a long and tenuous road

CONTRIBUTIONS, WHAT WE DO
article SofiaParties and observers meet for SB48 in Bonn, Germany

 

From April 30th until May 11th in Bonn, Germany was held the 48th sessions of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) and Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA).

What is it?

Every year, Parties to the UNFCCC meet to discuss international climate policy, what is known as COPs (Conference of Parties). Between each COP, Parties meet to advance technical matters and prepare negotiation texts during what are commonly called intersessionals. The last session was the 48th session (SB48) and aimed at advancing the elaboration of the Paris Agreement Work Programme (PAWP), that is the guidelines which will enable the implementation of the Paris Agreement at the national level.

As a member of the think-and-do-tank CliMates, which is recognized as an observer organization to the UNFCCC, I had the chance to attend this conference during the second week of negotiations. It was the second time I attended international climate negotiations and as last time, I was excited to take part in this important gathering of world negotiators and observer organizations representatives.

What happened?

My expectations were high for this negotiations. Indeed, those were crucial for the elaboration of the PAWP which is supposed to be finalized and adopted at COP24, which will be held in Katowice, Poland in December 2018. Considering the amount of items that remain to be discussed, this conference was an important step towards the finalization of the implementation guidelines. Overall, the work on the PAWP moved forward by way of 21 different workstreams, and all of them made some, albeit small, progress. Unfortunately, negotiations went slower than expected and led to the decision of organizing an exceptional second intersessional which will take place in Bangkok in September 2018, a few month before COP24.

However, some of the work done in Bonn deserves to be highlighted. During week 1 for instance, Parties met for the Suva Expert Dialogue on Loss & Damage (1), a matter of great concern for countries already impacted by climate change. Parties also discussed the operational modalities of the newly adopted Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform (2), as well as the Gender Action Plan (3) and the Global Stocktake (4). Finally, the SB48 was the occasion to reflect on the first session of the Talanoa Dialogue  (5) which took place a few days before the beginning of the intersessions.

 

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Joséphine Raynauld and myself speaking on behalf of YOUNGO, during the meeting of observer organization with Mrs. Executive Secretary Patricia Espinoza

 

Which place for civil society?

Civil society, including youth, was very active and organized several side-events and actions on, among other things, health and climate change, conflict of interest in international climate negotiations and short-term pollutants. Overall, being an observer at UNFCCC conferences is both frustrating (seeing many closed session, including those on transparency) and stimulating as we can perceive the will and energy of observers, including young people to trigger climate action and ambition. Indeed, UNFCCC processes are one of the few in which young people are given a voice and opportunity to take part in the debate, with other observer constituencies, such as business, researchers and women and gender.

1.  The Suva Expert Dialogue is an important step towards furthering collective understanding of approaches to address Loss & Damage, associated finance needs, and sources of support.
2. This platform aims at involving non-party stakeholders in UNFCCC process, including by sharing knowledge in the fight against climate change and its impacts.
3.The Gender Action Plan was adopted at COP23 with the goal to increase the participation of women in all UNFCCC processes.
4. The first Global Stocktake will take place in 2023 and will aim at taking stock of the progress made towards the achievement of the goal set under the Paris Agreement. The stocktake will take place every five years from 2023 and will help Parties know how much more remains to be done in order to limit global average temperature to 2°C.
5. The Talanoa Dialogue is the first Global Stocktake, albeit less ambitious. Its format aims at being participatory and inclusive and invites all parties to share their stories on climate change. The dialogue aims at addressing three questions: 1) Where are we? 2) Where do we want to go? 3) How do we get there? 

 


 

 

For more information on the takeaways of SB48 check this article by Climate Tracker.

Sofia

 

If you want to get involved in international climate negotiations, don’t hesitate to contact me at sofia.kabbej@climates.fr.

 

[TRAVEL] Lars is biking to Strasbourg for EYE2018 !

WHAT WE DO

This morning in Brussels, on Wednesday 23rd of May, Lars started his journey to reach Strasbourg by BIKE ! As a member of our delegation Youth for Climate Ambition, he chose to take his bike to join the European Youth Event 2018 in Strasbourg. He will travel for more than 500km and will cross 4 countries to reach his destination.

Concerned by the urgency of tackling climate change, Lars chose to reduce his carbon footprint and to use climate friendly transports for traveling to EYE2018.

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“From the 31stof May to the 2ndof June I will be representing community led initiatives on climate change and sustainability at the European Parliament! What? The third edition of the European Youth Event (EYE) is held and I am part of the You(th) for Climate Ambition Delegation! During the former two editions, thousands of young people came to Strasbourg to engage in discussions with European parliamentarians. In my mind I am already imagining what to talk about with the parliamentarians. But before that is a reality, I need to get to Strasbourg. To reduce my personal carbon footprint and challenge myself, I will take the bike from Brussels to Strasbourg!” Lars.