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World Environment Day. Credit: UNEP.

Think. Eat. Save. for World Environment Day

Posted on: 05.06.13 (Last edited) 7 June 2013

Reducing the amount of food we waste will help address ‘the largest single driver of biodiversity loss’, says UNEP.

On 5 June, people across the planet will be marking World Environment Day, the biggest and most widely-celebrated day for environmental action.

This year’s theme is ‘Think. Eat. Save.’ – a campaign that encourages people to reduce their environmental footprint by reducing the amount of food they waste.

Statistics produced by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) show that 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted every year – that’s the same amount as is produced in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa.

Not only does this have implications for the millions of people who suffer from food shortages, it also comes at a high environmental cost, as food production depends heavily on natural resources.

Eat less water. Credit: Chiara Alfiero/United Nations/Drop by Drop.

According to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), “global food production occupies 25% of all habitable land and is responsible for 70% of fresh water consumption, 80% of deforestation, and 30% of greenhouse gas emissions. It is the largest single driver of biodiversity loss and land-use change.”

This is even more shocking when we consider that a third of this food is then wasted or lost.

That’s why this year we’re urging you to take a look at the UNEP website and think about how you can reduce your ‘foodprint’.

But what is Fauna & Flora International (FFI) doing to help ease the pressure that food production places on biodiversity?

Supporting sustainable honey producers in Romania

The Zarand landscape corridor in Transylvania, Romania, is a mosaic landscape consisting of forested areas and small-scale farms that supports a diverse range of fauna and flora and provides an element of wilderness that allows large carnivores to move between the Western and Southern Carpathian Mountains.

The stunning Zarand landscape. Credit: FFI.

The stunning Zarand landscape. Credit: FFI.

One of the key ways to maintain this landscape is to help small-scale farmers and other local producers generate enough income to support their families, so that we do not lose the clear conservation benefits that small-scale farming and other traditional land uses can bring.

As part of this work, FFI is working with a local beekeepers association to help them improve their income from honey.

In cooperation with the association, FFI processed, bottled and labelled 300 jars of Zarand honey and tested sales within local food networks and fairs. The team found that consumers would be prepared to pay as much as €5 per jar of Zarand honey, which equates to around €25 per kg – a significant improvement on current revenue for the association, which generates only around €1.50 per kg.

FFI and local partner, Zarand NGO, are now working to develop the capacity of the association to effectively brand and market their honey products. In addition, the team is working to set up a honey production centre: a local hygiene-certified facility where producers can process and bottle their honey locally for marketing and sale across Romania and hopefully the EU.

The plant would operate alongside a local hygiene-certified milk collection facility that will allow small farmers to sell their milk at a reasonable price to markets. In the future, the team aims to help local people expand the facility to include the production of jams and preserves, cheese, butter and yoghurt, either for local consumption or for selling on.

Sustainable fisheries

The world’s oceans are facing significant threats from human activities, with over-exploitation of fish stocks one of the most pressing issues.

According to the latest figures published by FAO, over 87% of marine fish stocks are either fully-exploited or over-exploited. This includes most of the top ten species, which account for around a third of the world’s total catch.

Declining fish stocks and the ecosystem damage caused by destructive fishing methods affect more than just the environment and local livelihoods however; they also impact the bottom line for fishing companies.

This was clearly illustrated by a University of York study which found that the UK trawl fishing fleet has to work 17 times harder to catch the same amount of fish today as it did when most of its boats were powered by sail. What’s more, unsustainable practices expose these businesses to the risk of catastrophic stock declines such as that of the Grand Banks cod fishery in Canada, which collapsed in the early 1990s.

Sardines. Credit: Jeremy Holden/FFI.

Most sardine stocks are now considered fully- or over-exploited. Credit: Jeremy Holden/FFI.

There are also knock-on implications for those who invest in the fisheries sector: not only do financial returns depend on healthy fish stocks, there are also reputational and other risks associated with investing in unsustainable activities.

There is therefore a real incentive for the financial sector to take fishery sustainability into account when making investment decisions, which can in turn act as a powerful force for positive change by directing finance towards more sustainable projects and companies.

FFI has therefore helped set up the Sustainable Seafood Finance initiative, a collaboration between the financial services sector, the seafood industry and NGOs to develop a credible and useful global tool to help the financial sector evaluate the sustainability of the fishing companies in which they invest, and to apply stricter sustainability criteria in their credits and investments.

Working through the Natural Value Initiative and using existing certification schemes (such as the MSC), the Sustainable Seafood Finance initiative aims to drive more sustainable fisheries behaviour.

We all have a part to play

These are just two examples of FFI’s work to address sustainable food production. Because we work with communities, sustainable livelihoods (including food production) forms a major component of many of our projects around the world.

Other examples range from our work with palm oil producers to reduce impacts on biodiversity, to our work to promote sustainable harvesting of natural resources in Central Asia’s amazing fruit & nut forests.

What’s clear is that we all have our part to play: be it producing food responsibly, or ensuring that we minimise waste.

What are you doing to reduce your foodprint? Leave a comment to share your idea with others.

Written by
Sarah Rakowski

Sarah is Fauna & Flora International's Communications Officer (Media & Publications). With a BSc in Environment, Economics and Ecology, she has long been fascinated with the challenge of balancing human needs and environmental protection. Whilst at university, Sarah developed a keen interest in marine conservation and conducted an opinion survey into public attitudes towards Marine Protected Areas for her dissertation. Her love of marine conservation also led her to spend a summer conducting ecological surveys on the coral reef off the coast of Andros Island, Bahamas (it’s a tough job…). Since graduating, Sarah has held a variety of communications roles, most recently in the private sector, where she worked as the European PR Manager and Communications Specialist for a leading technology firm.

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