Archive for the ‘Waste’ Category

Sep22

Innovation of the Week: A Low-Cost Composting Toilet

Share
Pin It

By Sarah Alvarez

Across the Asia-Pacific region, millions of people have inadequate access to sustainable sanitation infrastructure—in other words, they don’t have a safe and sanitary place to go to the bathroom. In the Philippines alone, 28 million people do not have access to the sanitation services needed to prevent contamination and disease. As a result, millions of people suffer from preventable diseases like dysentery.

Low-cost composting toilets can improve sanitation in less developed areas. (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

The Water, Agroforestry, Nutrition and Development Foundation (WAND), a Philippine-based organization focused on eco-based solutions to human development challenges, has developed a low-cost composting toilet called Ecosan (Ecological Sanitation) that uses local materials to minimize water contamination and create fertilizers from human waste.

The WAND Foundation has developed several dry composting toilet models, some of which were recognized at the 2011 Tech Awards at Santa Clara University. At the conference, Cora Zayas-Sayre, executive director of the WAND Foundation, explained that by using local materials, the organization has been able to build 275 toilets at a cost of US$30 per toilet. She added that this innovation has already impacted the lives of 3,000 people.

This innovation simultaneously addresses two challenges that prevail in developing countries: the unsustainable and costly use of water-sealed toilets, and the hygienic management of human waste. Water-sealed toilets require pumping mechanisms to transport water and sewage between 300 and 500 meters away from the home, a method that is economically and environmentally unsustainable. Inadequate management of human waste can lead to a host of health problems in developing areas, and dramatically impact quality of life.

(more…)

Mar14

Readers’ Responses: Curbing Food Waste to Improve Human and Environmental Health

Share
Pin It

In our February newsletter, we wrote about the environmental and humanitarian consequences of food waste. Worldwide, 30 to 40 percent of all food produced is either lost or wasted between the stages of production and consumption. We asked readers to send us their ideas on how to curb food waste, and we got many thoughtful and innovative responses.

Many readers responded to our February newsletter about how to reduce food waste. (Photo credit: Zero Waste Europe)

Some of our readers who own or work on farms wrote about their methods of recycling excess organic matter. Jan Steinman of Vancouver, Canada, wrote: “I live on a co-op farm, and nothing is wasted. We have a ‘three bucket’ system in the house. What people don’t want goes in the goat bucket, as appropriate (vegetable trimmings, etc.). If it isn’t suitable for the goats, it goes in the chicken bucket (moldy bread or cheese, cooked grains or legumes, etc.). Finally, if neither humans nor goats nor chickens will eat it, it goes into compost.”

Noting that many readers do not raise their own goats or chickens, Jan added, “If they go to a farmers market, they can surely find someone who will put their ‘waste’ to a higher use.”

For farmers who have more produce than they can sell or eat, organizations are cropping up to help get this food to hungry consumers. Peter Burkard wrote, “Here in Sarasota, Florida we have a food gleaning project run by Transition Sarasota which saves food from the fields that would otherwise go to waste and donates it to the local food bank.”

(more…)

Feb08

Food Waste and Recycling in China: A Growing Trend?

Share
Pin It

 By Wanqing Zhou

Note: an earlier version of this article was previously published, in two installments, by Brighter Green.

Waitresses clear tables in Guangzhou, Guangdong province. (Photo credit: China.org.cn)

As household incomes, urban populations, and overall food consumption in China continue to rise, the country faces serious problems of food waste, natural resource scarcity, and overflowing landfills. Currently, over 200 billion Yuan’s (US$32 billion) worth of food is thrown away annually nationwide, even as 128 million Chinese live below the poverty line and often lack sufficient food.

In November 2012, the Rome Film Festival premiered “Back to 1942,” which tells the story of a famine in the central Henan Province during World War II.  The film spurred discussion about the Great Famine, in which 45 million people starved as a consequence of the Great Leap Forward, the country’s modernizing effort back in the late 1950s. Today, the Great Famine still affects the psyche of the average Chinese citizen—higher average incomes have led, in many cases, to overconsumption and waste of food.

(more…)

Nov21

A Tale of Two Farms: Industrial vs. Sustainable Meat Production in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic

Share
Pin It

By Carol Dreibelbis

Most food in the United States comes from industrialized, intensive farms. Meat and dairy are no exception: nationwide, 40 percent of all U.S. food animals are raised in the largest 2 percent of livestock facilities. And these large-scale facilities, commonly referred to as factory farms, continue to grow. Between 1997 and 2007, the U.S. factory farming industry added 4,600 hogs, 650 dairy cows, 139,200 broiler chickens, and 1,100 beef cattle each day. On a global scale, industrial animal production now accounts for 72 percent of all poultry production, 43 percent of egg production, and 55 percent of pork production.

Pastured broiler chickens feed on grass and grain at Virginia-based Polyface Farm. (Photo credit: Polyface, Inc.)

Although factory farms provide large quantities of relatively inexpensive meat, the associated environmental, social, and human health costs are high. Factory farms rely on massive inputs of water, fossil fuel energy, grain-based feed, and other limited resources. Feed production alone accounts for an estimated 75 percent of the energy use associated with factory farming; growing animal feed also requires the input of water, fertilizers, and pesticides, and it occupies arable land that could be used directly to grow food. An estimated 23 percent of all water used in agriculture goes to livestock production.

Industrialized meat production also creates huge amounts of waste, contaminating nearby air and water and threatening the health of humans and wildlife. Some large factory farms produce more waste than large U.S. cities. The livestock industry is also responsible for approximately 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions—more than the entire global transportation sector. By contributing to climate change, factory farms affect people both locally and around the world.

(more…)

Oct16

21 Awesome Policies Changing the Food System!

Share
Pin It

Today we celebrate World Food Day in commemoration of the founding of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). It is a chance to renew our commitment to sustainable and equitable agriculture as a means of ending world hunger.

Around the world, governments and organizations alike have made huge strides towards achieving the principles on which the FAO was founded. Governments on every continent have taken significant steps to change food systems for the better, making them more sustainable, healthy, and accessible to all. Today, we showcase just 21 of the many recent policies and laws enacted by governments worldwide that are helping to change the food system, promote sustainable agriculture, and eradicate hunger.

1. The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act was passed in 2010 with a focus on improving the nutrition of children across the United States. Authorizing funding for federal school meal and child nutrition programs, this legislation allows the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to make real reforms to school lunch and breakfast programs and promote healthy eating habits among the nation’s youth. Read more about the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act and 15 innovations making school meals healthier and more sustainable on the Nourishing the Planet blog.

2. The Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB) was founded in 2011 to help improve the provision of services to farmers in the country. It focuses on adapting its policies to local needs, developing sustainable production systems, and providing farmers and consumers with education, techniques, and services to help supply Rwandans with better foods. The RAB has received praise for its efforts from organizations like the Executive Board of the Forum for Agriculture Research in Africa.

3. Beginning in 2008, the Australian government committed $12.8 million for 190 primary schools across Australia to participate in the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program. Hoping to encourage healthy and nutritious eating habits in young Australians, the program works with primary schools to teach students how to grow, harvest, prepare, and share fresh food.

(more…)

Oct12

Celebrate World Food Day on October 16th!

Share
Pin It

By Devon Ericksen

October 16, 2012, is World Food Day and Oxfam invites you to join in the celebration. By hosting a World Food Day dinner, you can become part of the movement that is happening all over America to talk about ways this country can fix its broken food system and make more food available to people who go hungry.

Oxfam invites you to host a World Food Day dinner on October 16 (Photo Credit: Oxfam)

Even though this planet produces enough food to feed everyone, almost one billion people are hungry. This is because about one third of the food produced is wasted between farm and fork, food that could have fed people in need. Bring this issue and others to the table on World Food Day by hosting a dinner discussion. Oxfam will send tons of free materials, from a discussion guide to placemats and recipe ideas. Share photos from your dinner on the World Food Day Instagram site using the hashtag #WFD2012 and join in the celebration.

Want to ensure your World Food Day dinner is sustainable? Follow the Oxfam GROW Method’s five simple strategies for feeding your family equitably and sustainably. These strategies involve saving food, eating only seasonal produce, eating less meat, supporting small farmers, and using smart, energy-efficient cooking methods. Following these strategies helps consumers reduce the impact of their meals. Got a recipe that follows these principles? Oxfam also invites you to share GROW method recipes on the Pinterest Grow Method Cook Book by tagging your pin with #GROWmethod to add it to the book.

Bring the topic of food justice to the table by joining in the global movement. Host a World Food Day Dinner and share your experience!

Devon Ericksen is a media and communications intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE.

Sep20

Innovation of the Week: Gathering Waste and Making Good of It

Share
Pin It

By Jeffrey Lamoureux

In most of the world’s slums, sanitation is a daily challenge. In the absence of sewage systems, people living in slums in Nairobi, Kolkata and São Paulo rely on rows of pit latrines shared by hundreds of other people, while others use “flying toilets” to dispose of waste. Disease and infection spreads easily in such environments.

Sanergy units can be built quickly and easily with affordable materials (Photo Credit: Sanergy)

But some social entrepreneurs in Nairobi are picking up where the government has left off and attempting to provide sanitary options to the slums. Sanergy, for example, is a company launched by a group of students at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Sloan School of Management. The group has designed low-profile sanitation centers that can be constructed anywhere to provide hot showers and clean toilets. These facilities can be built quickly and easily with affordable materials. Waste from the centers is deposited into airtight containers that are collected daily. Then it’s brought to processing facilities that can convert it into biogas. The biogas generates electricity, while the leftover material is made into fertilizer.

The company won a USD $100,000 grant from MIT and has been building its first units in Nairobi. It charges a low pay-per-use fee and hopes to grow by franchising the operation of its units, creating an income opportunity for enterprising residents. As the number of toilets proliferates, so too will the amount of energy the company is able to generate from its processing facilities. It hopes to eventually generate enough energy that it can sell its power to the national grid.

The company’s unique and innovative approach is notable for the way it combines the decentralization of waste collection with the centralization of waste processing. Retrofitting the slums with proper sewage drains is a near impossibility and can be an expensive and potentially politically volatile effort in areas where landownership is at best ambiguous. The self-contained units grant access to sanitary facilities to even those far off the grid. But by centralizing the processing of waste, Sanergy’s facilities will take advantage of the economies of scale present in the waste conversion process.

By creating products of value out of the waste, the company creates an incentive for others to set up their own facilities in partnership with Sanergy. The company hopes that there may eventually be facilities on every neighborhood block, significantly increasing the number of people with access to clean sanitation. The energy generated through the waste production will be a clean option to power a growing economy, and the fertilizer is a nutrient-rich alternative to expensive petroleum based fertilizers.

Do you have any other examples of innovations that are addressing the problems of sanitation within urban slums? Share them with us in the comments below!

Jeffrey Lamoureux is a research intern with Nourishing the Planet.

To purchase your own copy of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, please click HERE.

Sep18

The Global Food Waste Scandal

Share
Pin It

By Carol Dreibelbis

Check out this TED talk on food waste by Tristram Stuart, author of Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal, founder of Feeding the 5000, and author of Chapter 9 in State of the World 2011, “Post-Harvest Losses: A Neglected Field.” Stuart discusses shocking data on food waste, such as the fact that most European and American countries stock up to two times as much food in stores and restaurants as is nutritionally required to feed their populations; the surplus is either lost as waste or eaten in excess. Stuart explains how reducing food waste could be one of the easiest ways to reduce pressure on the environment.

Click here to watch Stuart’s talk.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE.

Carol Dreibelbis is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

Aug01

Going for the Gold in Sustainability at the London Olympic Games

Share
Pin It

By Katie Spoden

The Olympic games are known for fierce competition, great spectacle, tremendous celebration, and complete transformation for the host city. However, the London 2012 Olympic Games are trying to leave a greener legacy for future Olympic games. According to the official site of the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, the 2012 Olympics will be the world’s first truly sustainable Games. Towards a One Planet 2012 was created through a partnership between the London 2012 Olympic Committee, BioRegional, and the World Wildlife Foundation. The document sets the stage for an Olympic games “guided by the principle that the world should live within its means.

The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games will be the first ever truly sustainable Olympic and Paralympic games. (Photo credit: London 2012 Olympics)

One major element of the sustainability initiatives is the food served at the Games. More than 14 million meals will be served at over 40 different locations. Olympic organizers acknowledged feeding Olympic and Paralympic athletes and their fans is an enormous task that can have an enormous environmental impact. In preparation for this giant undertaking, London 2012 planners created the London 2012 Food Vision back in 2009.

The Food Vision is made up of five core themes: food safety and hygiene; choice and balance; food sourcing and supply chains; environmental management, resource efficiency and waste; and skills and education. These themes will be incorporated into food venues affecting the source of the food served, how it is served, and what it is served in.

In a commitment to use environmentally responsible sources, Olympic organizers have taken measures to lower London’s carbon foot print. Food vendors and caterers will maximize the use of local and seasonal produce, encourage the use of palm oil from sustainable sources, and seek out alternatives to unsustainable fish and livestock feed. Food services will measure and report their emissions from feeding the athletes and fans to be compiled with an overall London 2012 carbon footprint.

To increase nutrition, there will be wider use of grilling and steaming, use of whole grains, and appropriate meat portion sizes to encourage responsible eating habits. Olympic food organizers have won a Good Food on the Public Plate Award and a Good Egg Award from Compassion in World Farming in support of their commitment to sustainable, nutritious food. Olympic food organizers have also been recognized by the British pig industry for sustainable action supporting livestock.

Nearly 80 percent of waste from the Olympic Games comes from food waste and packaging. To reduce waste created from packaging, food vendors and caterers are instructed to bring in the least amount of packaging possible, the packaging that can’t be avoided must be reused, and what can’t get reused must be recycled or composted.

(more…)

Jul28

Saturday Series: An Interview with Shirley the Baglady

Share
Pin It

By Carly Chaapel

In our new Saturday Series, we interview inspiring people that our readers have nominated. These people are working on the frontlines to improve the global food and agricultural systems. Want to nominate someone? E-mail your suggestions to Danielle Nierenberg!

Shirley Lewis as Baglady. (Photo credit: Baglady Productions)

Name: Shirley “Baglady” Lewis

Location/Affiliation: Baglady Productions

Bio: Shirley Lewis is the founder of Baglady Productions, an organization that works with schools, individuals, and the government to put sustainable behavior into action. She is most well-known for her original campaign to say “no” to plastic bags.

You have become an icon for sustainability in Northern Ireland, Britain, Canada, and Australia. What inspired your campaign for sustainability, and why did you choose to literally become a “bag lady?”

We’re not living sustainably; it’s stirringly obvious. Our future is in danger, and we need to wake up to this quickly. I became the Baglady in 2001 in my first national campaign in Australia, called the National Plastic Bag Awareness Week. I had to go to a lot of meetings, and I invented the Baglady character out of boredom. It’s a very good image because our plastic bag usage is a world problem that we must solve without waiting for governments to pass laws. It’s an easily changed habit that is also really disgusting. And it fits in very well with my work now, which is living “ASAP,” or As Sustainably As Possible.

(more…)