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World Environment Day puts spotlight on food waste across the globe

Thousands of people across the world are gearing up for World Environment Day (WED) tomorrow with celebrations this year centred on a theme of cutting the world’s staggering amount of food waste. 

The June 5 celebration is hosted by Mongolia this year with the theme “Think. Eat. Save. Reduce your Foodprint”.

According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), a co-partner of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which organises this movement, an estimated one third, or 1.3 billion tonnes, of all food produced ends up in the garbage of farmers, transporters, retailers and consumers alike. 

This is not only a waste of food but also a waste of the natural resources used along the production and supply chain process. It also leads to the release of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere for no significant purpose.

The two organisations are now encouraging people to think about food in a whole new light, to be more conscious of the simple decisions revolving food. 

For example, FAO and UNEP said, to produce one hamburger, 16,000 litres of water are used. For every hamburger that is thrown out, that is 16,000 litres of water that could have been used elsewhere.

The 1.3 billion tonnes of food waste generated each year is enough to feed the 870 million people who go hungry daily.

In Mongolia, the 2013 host country, food waste is a rare occurrence. The country is steep in food preservation traditions due to the influence of its large nomadic population, who, through the centuries, have devised ways to store food for long stretches of time. UNEP and FAO point to Mongolian practices as possible solutions to current food problems.

On Saturday, Mongolia began its World Environment Day celebration targeting children with various activities promoting the environment such as flash mobs and parades right on Ulaanbaatar’s Central Square. Over the weekend, the celebrations gathered more support from the health and fitness community or those who participated in the Ulaanbaatar 2013 Marathon, which was flagged off by UNEP Patron for Clean Air and current marathon world record holder Patrick Makau.

Since Monday, the campaign has attracted organisations that are giving the campaign a boost. In particular, business executives, government leaders and other stakeholders gathered for the National Forum on Green Development, which aims for the establishment of clean energy sources and creating more sustainable growth that builds on Mongolia’s existing environmental measures, like the Clean Air Fund project and soon-to-be finalised Green Development Strategy. 

In addition, clean tech investor Newcom Group and construction and mining firm Leighton Asia are launching Mongolia’s first wind farm today as part of the World Environment Day festivities.

And to commemorate the special day tomorrow, UNEP with the World Resources Institute will release a paper on “Sustainable Food Futures”, solutions to reduce food waste and food loss.

Different celebrations are also set to take place around the globe. In Australia, the University of South Wales is hosting a debate on the campaign’s issues with representatives from political, academic and social circles, and non-profit food excess collecting and redistributing group Oz Harvest and UNEP. 

In China, WED will be celebrated at Shanghai’s Tongji University’s International Student Conference on Environment and Sustainability (ISCES), focusing on “Food, Health and Sustainable Development”. Other events include the appointing of Environmental Protection Envoys, a concert, and a UN Forum on Sustainable Consumption in Beijing.

Meanwhile, in India, the youth sector will take part in runs, awareness-raising activities and tree-planting ceremonies from Bangalore to Chennai. 

 

The United States is also expected to have major festivities for World Environment Day. The City of Portland will act as local host and conduct its popular Rose Festival Parade in line with this year’s campaign, as well as other environment-oriented arts and crafts events.

On top of these, over half a million people have registered their own personal activities online for the event. Once registered, people can also join the ”WED Thunderclap”, a unique communications feature that will send a resounding message to the world. 

As UNEP declared, “Every individual and organisation can make a difference.”

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