Over-consumption of meat in the world



What is carbon footprint?

The official definition is:

The total amount of greenhouse gases produced to directly and indirectly support human activities, usually expressed in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide (CO2).

So this includes:

  • the air we breathe out
  • the motor vehicles’ emissions
  • the cutting of trees down
  • the by-products of waste gas during the production of our goods or services
    • the meat and dairy that humans eat

We all knew that the meat and dairy we eat, the production of it, is one of the largest contributors to the production of greenhouse gases and the world’s growing carbon footprint.

It’s not news that meat and dairy are among the largest contributors to the world’s growing carbon footprint, but lamb, beef, cheese, pork, and farmed salmon, in particular, generate the most greenhouse gases—sometimes four times more than other animal products and 13 times more than plant-based proteins.

Yet, even with the rapid world population growth, the demand for meat had increased at an even faster rate.

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The total demand for meat in the world had increased by 325% from 1961 to 2011, even though the total amount of people had gone up from 3 billion in 1961 to 7 billion in 2011 (267%).

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The total meat consumption demand had increased by 653% in China (Population: 0.65 billion in 1961 to 1.35 billion in 2011), again higher than the rate of increase in population size.

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The percentage increase in the Hong Kong is by far the largest:  2364% increase in meat consumption from 3.2 million (1961) to 7.1 million (2011) people. The average meat consumption in Hong Kong is 695 grams / day, 32% of our total daily diet! It’s the highest in the world (the world average is only 9%!) This pattern of our diet had significantly increased Hong Kong’s carbon footprint.

Please see National Geographic for more details about What the World Eats, to see the world and each country’s changing patterns in Daily Diet patterns and Meat Consumption percentage.

From the Guardian article, study of British people’s diets – meat-rich diet of more than 100g per day, resulted in 7.2 kg of Carbon dioxide emissions. If in Hong Kong, where the meat consumption is almost 700g per day, this may result in almost seven times: back 50kg of Carbon dioxide emissions!

The production of 1 kg beef causes about 13.3 kg of CO2. The same quantity of CO2 is released when you burn about 6 liters of petrol!

ASSUMING if each day, every person in Hong Kong eats 695 g of beef, it will produce 9.3 kg of CO2! The same quantity of CO2 released when you burn 5 liters of petrol…

The production and consumption of beef produce more CO2 than driving cars.

As primary consumers, we all have a role. As humans, we have to think of our environmental consequences to our future generation. Though eating less of the delicious beef is easier said than done, sometimes, it’s important to think of the consequences of our actions.

Let’s start eating less beef, today!



National Geographic – What the World Eats

The Guardian – Giving up Beef with reduce Carbon Footprint more than Cars

Time for Change – Eat less meat: CO2 emission of our food






Hong Kong: King of Wastage


How much waste are you producing everyday? Yes, we all know there’s environmental problems to care about. But how much action have we put into it to solve the problem?

I live in Hong Kong, one of the most wasteful cities in the world. In 2010, we were coined the most wasteful city in the world.

This graph below shows the total amount of waste disposed in landfills daily by year. From the graph, despite the environmental policies the government had implemented throughout this decade, the rate at which solid waste was disposed at Hong Kong landfills had not decreased (and only increased).

Basically, just more and more waste is generated in Hong Kong.


Source: Monitoring of Solid Waste in HK: Waste Statistics for 2014

Imagine all that waste we are creating each day. In Hong Kong, in 2014 alone, almost 15000 tonnes of waste were disposed each day. Imagine that number multiplied 365 days in a year.

Almost 10000 tonnes were created by Domestic, Commercial and Industrial Waste. This means the trash from our households, offices and factories. This is waste we can save!

As a normal Hong Kong citizen, I didn’t know until this moment that the Environmental Bureau of the Hong Kong Government had built up a plan “Plan E” (I guess E for Environmental) to change our city to become environmentally friendly. This table is a summary of the goals:


Source: Hong Kong Blueprint for Sustainable Use of Resources 2013-2022

Plan E

The Vision of this Plan E (I think E for Environmental) is “To instill environmental-sustainable culture in Hong Kong people’s daily life“. The target, “to reduce Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) by 40%  on a per capita basis by 2022, will specifically aim to reduce the current per capita MSW disposal of 1.27 kg per day to 0.8 kg per day by 2022“.

As ideal as this scheme sounds to everyone, had it not occurred that the disposal of MSW in Hong Kong had just been kept at around the same level in the past decade?

I had been particularly concerned with policy direction #2

“Make all out efforts to mobilize the community to participate”

The reason why I’m so surprised, is that I sent the image above (in green) to about 10 of my closest friends and family (all Hong Kong local residents), and literally none of them realized that the government had such great environmental goals for Hong Kong.

How could these goals be succeeded if the community of Hong Kong don’t even know about the plans of the government?

At least, the government needs to educate the citizens and make them voluntary participate.

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When comparing Hong Kong to other Asian countries, the daily domestic waste generation rate per capita is 1.36kg, significant more than Taipei, Seoul and Tokyo.

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This bar chart above shows the proportion of waste in which it is waste is managed.

Hong Kong, already with the highest generation of waste (from Figure 2), has the most inefficient waste management structure.

HK’s waste is 52% in landfill and 48% in recycling. 

Whilst other larger developed Asian cities have moved to incineration or other waste-to-energy processing technology and almost no landfill, Hong Kong’s main waste processing method remains as LANDFILL, 52%. Japan literally has no landfills, Singapore and Taiwan are at a mere 1and 2%, with South Korea at 19% but working on it to reduce their waste with great waste managing technology.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong says that its recycling 48% of its waste. I am wondering how trustworthy is the source of the information that had came from the official government documents. A few days ago, an article by South China Morning Post mentioned that only 17% of water bottles are successfully recovered for recycling, whilst the world international average was 37%.

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Pie chart showing the compositions of different MSW in Hong Kong.

In a typical rubbish bin, there may be a lot of food and leftovers of bones (40%), as well as other things. Putrescibles are actually organic, and when other in the countryside, it can be just thrown away as it is bio-degradable.

This is what we can do first – we can sort by sorting out our rubbish! In each household, we should put a small big that contains things we can bring to the recycle bin.

If you would like to know more about the nearest recycle bin by GPS:

iTunes Appstore: https://goo.gl/p5XUsP

Google Play: https://goo.gl/VpUY3m

Watch more about FOOD WASTE. A whooping 1/3 of the waste in Hong Kong comes from leftover food. When you order too much and leave food…think about where the waste goes in Hong Kong. Landfills only. Let’s not compromise our future generations…

Please watch this TED Talk: Tristram Stuart: The global food waste scandal


Hong Kong Blueprint for Sustainable Use of Resources 2013-2022 (2014). Retrieved May 31, 2016 from The Government of Hong Kong, Environment Bureau Web site: http://www.enb.gov.hk/en/files/WastePlan-E.pdf

Monitoring of Solid Waste in Hong Kong – Waste Statistics for 2014 (2015). Retrieved May 31, 2016 from Government of Hong Kong, Environmental Protection Department Web site: https://www.wastereduction.gov.hk/sites/default/files/msw2014.pdf




Must a luxurious life mean Wastage?


What does it really mean to be ‘luxurious’? Is it creating a lot of excess, making a lot of wastage? LUXURY from the dictionary means “a state of great comfort or elegance, especially when involving great expense.” It is typically an inessential item that is expensive. WASTE is the unusable or unwanted material that is discarded after its primary use – during production, transformation or consumption – has been completed (adapted from the definition from the United Nations.

Since when I was young, I was taught to finish all the food on my plate (unless the excess leftovers could be taken home). It’s just basic ethics – my parents had very traditionally taught me that I ought to be grateful that I am being fed, whilst there are many children and people in poorer developing countries that may have no food to even survive.

In the past week, I’ve been living in the shoes like a luxurious food lover. I’ve brought around my friend who came to visit Hong Kong, the city most famous for good and a large variety of food. Now it’s like living the life of a glutton (by definition: a person who over-indulges and over-consumes food to the point of extravagance or waste). We ordered many things – most of the time too much in terms of portion – but ended up order more than we could eat, as we ordered additionally food so to ‘try a large variety of foods’ (another way to say it would be greedy). However, when the food arrives and some photo-taking, I’ve observed some people tend to take a bite or two, then says “had enough of it” “can’t eat anymore of the same thing” “need to save the stomach for the next meal” “what food are we going next?”

Honestly this gluttonous and insatiable attitude in the past week haunts me; since I terribly dislike the idea of wastage.


Tai Ping Koon Restaurant – Lunch

This photo above was from lunch past week at Tai Ping Koon Restaurant, a famous traditional Chinese-Western fusion restaurant in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. The food looked great and tasted delicious, but it was too much for six people to finish. By the end, we left two portions of pasta and rice untouched, so the waiter came by and said “Finished? Sure?” I felt very embarrassed of us wasting so much food We really tried our best to eat as much as we could, but actually now that I think about it, eating in excess after we’ve reached the necessary level of food, is it counted as waste too? Waste that is stored in our bodies instead. I almost couldn’t tell the difference.


Today I passed by Hong Kong’s recent ‘trendy’ supermarket, 759Store. It’s a low-end supermarket which sells almost all kinds of packaged foods you can think of. They sell a large diversity of direct-import popular Korean and Japanese snacks, instant noodles, kitchen utensils, hygienic products (even expanding into proper canteen-like restaurants). From its first store in 2010, it had expanded to 247 stores all around Hong Kong, Kowloon and New Territories in March 2015 (see its official website).

All the products sold here are relatively cheap to anywhere else. This is their main business strategy

  • Fast horizontal expansion
  • Economies of scale (buying in bulk results in lower long-run costs per unit)
  • Lowered costs of food supply
  • More packaged foods are demand at the lower price (higher consumption!)

For example, 759Store is famous for its variety of instant noodles. Read my other post about Instant Noodles vs Palm Oil.

As cheap as these supermarkets or for all food may be, the “consumers are not paying for the true cost of food”. Jason Clay, TEDGlobal 2010. For all the food that we consumers buy, and think about all the raw materials the producers i.e. the farmers input water for irrigation, actually “the farmer didn’t receive enough money to pay a decent price for water in any of those commodities” – this term being “externality – a subsidy from nature“. (Listen to TEDTalk by Jason Clay)

Think of all the externalities, benefits or costs done to the third party, before consuming a product. For every action we take, we ought to know how to think about the consequences behind it. This works for everything in life. We can’t take the Earth for granted.

For example, self-control comes in hand when we stop ourselves eating the next cookie knowing it’s more than you need, and you think of the consequences eating the next cookie – you will get fat.

We can put this ideal for the environment too. As luxurious as you can eat now, waste food now, be selfish, but our finite resources will run out one day at this rate. So we ought to think of the consequences we do for our future selves or kids.

Too much waste is produced. We should use less We, as consumers, in this process we just buy the products. So what can we do?

  • Think before purchasing. Do I really need this? Be practical and rational.
  • Once you’ve bought it, you’re responsible for the product you’ve bought (includes its residues and remains).
  • For example, for food:
    • Don’t waste food. Order just ‘enough’ food. You can order less first to get an idea of portions.
    • Bring an environmentally friendly container to bring away leftovers.
    • Mark down expiration dates on the fridge or a memo.

Population is growing rapidly, and this prediction comes from many CENSUS reports, the current world population in 2016 (May) is 7.4 billion people (source). The projection for world population in 2050 is 9.6 billion people (source from the UN).

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Whatever was sustainable on a planet of six billion is not going to be sustainable on a planet with nine.” – Jason Clay, TEDGlobal2010.

  • In 2016, the number of Earths that we need at this moment to sustain us is 1.6 Earths (we are using 60% more than the Earth’s natural capacity).
  • What will happen when it’s 2050?!


Let’s Welcome Sustainable Palm Oil and say goodbye to Starbucks and Burger King


We’ve already heard of the dangers of growing Palm Oil Plantations. Developing countries like Indonesia and Malaysia had been severely cutting down and burning trees in order to make way to grow the high-demand palm oil (See my previous article for more insights). At this rate, they are presently only using up the finite resources of the Earth and destroying the futures of their people. This goes completely against the ‘sustainability‘ principle – “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs“.

As much as growing Palm Oil as a ‘biofuel’ is a type of renewable energy source (definitionenergy that is collected from resources that are naturally replenished), almost 80% of the world’s palm oil plantations are currently not up to the certified sustainable standard (RSPO: Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil).

Sustainable, GOOD palm oil (that is certified and up-to-standard by the RSPO) means that the “plantation was established on land that did not contain significant biodiversity, wildlife habitat or other environmental values, and meets the highest environmental, social and economic standards as set out by the RSPO” (taken from WWF), as well as using safe and sustainable irrigation and organic methods, with no hazardous chemicals. All-in-all, this increases traceability and decreases the input of chemical hazardous wastes into the ecosystem, therein minimising carbon footprint.


NOTE: This is NOT to say as consumers we should not use Palm Oil at all. As a vegetable oil in comparison to other alternative vegetable oil such as rapeseed, sunflower and soya, it already ranks as the highest-yielding oilseed crop (see Statistics from Oil World 2013). As responsible consumers, all we have to do is support GOOD PALM OIL, then the producers will shift their outlook on the necessity of using sustainable measures.

“We must realise that producers will only produce sustainably if consumers like us send a clear signal that we want a sustainable product.”

Darrel Webber, secretary general, RSPO

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(from The Guardian)

As the pie charts above show, which companies buy the most palm oil, and what proportion they buy is certified RSPO-sustainable.


“Good Palm Oil” Case Study: Unilever


As you can see, Unilever, global multinational consumer goods company that owns large brands such as Dove and Lux (bathroom products), Ben&Jerry’s and Magnum (ice-cream),  Lipton (tea) and Rexona (deodorant), uses 100% certified sustainable palm oil. With a newly announced Sustainable Living Plan in May 2016, it leads the world as a role model for sustainability strategies (Read this article).

  1. Zero-waste-to-landfill from their factories;
  2. Eliminated the use of coal as an energy source;
  3. Only using sustainable palm oil;
  4. Setting the trend to invest in green energy; and
  5. increasing transparency of company, to report on its green, sustainable progress.

Unilever‘s Vision: To grow our business, whilst decoupling our environmental footprint from our growth and increasing our positive social impact.


“Bad Palm Oil” Case Study: Burger King and Starbucks

Burger King had always had a bad reputation with using palm oil from questionable (most likely unsustainable sources) of plantations. Recently in a 2015 Union of Concerned Sciences (UCS) Palm Oil Scorecard, Burger King and Starbucks had obtained a low score of 10/100, displaying little commitment to using deforestation-free palm oil.

Lastly, what can we do as consumers?

  • Support and Demand products that use RSPO-certified sustainable Palm Oil
    • Producers will reflect to the demands of the consumers;
    • We cannot avoid palm oil, it is in 50% of our household products.
  • Urge Governments to reinforce laws enforcing sustainable production methods

There is lack of awareness in the society; as responsible citizens we should share these environmental issues with friends or on social media so everyone makes conscious and earth-friendly decisions.


Read more on http://www.rspo.org/consumers/goodbadpalmoil.

All it takes is 3 minutes to cook Instant Noodles. But how does it affect the Health of the Earth?


Why do we like to cook and eat instant noodles? It is tastily unhealthy and we love it. It’s inexpensive and the handiest of all types of staple food; we can put it in our cupboard for a long period of time without it going bad! All-in-all, it only takes 3 minutes to cook it. You may have heard how eating instant noodles is bad for you, but you may not know how terrible it actually is to your body, and even more disastrous as the health of our Earth.

The ingredients of instant noodles are:

  1. Wheat flour
  2. Palm Oil
  3. Salt
  4. MSG
  5. Preservatives (that’s why they have such a long shelf-life – called TBHQ
    – a by-product of petroleum which is carcinogenic if consumed in large amounts)
  6. Other substances that cause the risk of metabolic syndrome of adults, in particular women, to increase.

Palm Oil is a type of vegetable oil. The instant noodles are fried in palm oil, so much that average pack of instant noodles are 20% palm oil by weight; all are saturated fat.

A brief overview about palm oil production:

A hectare of palm oil plantation yields on average 4 tonnes of crude palm oil per year. In 2013 alone, 59.6 million tonnes of palm oil was consumed; meaning more than 13 million of hectares of palm oil plantation were needed to fulfill the high consumption.

Imagine the speed of deforestation: Every 10 minutes, 5 football pitches of rainforest area are being deforested.

Developing countries in particular Indonesia and Malaysia (who make 85% of palm oil production) are clear-cutting or burning their own natural rainforests in order to plant more palm oil plantations to meet the high demand of this biofuel. Meanwhile, biodiversity decreases rapidly and animals e.g. orangutans are becoming endangered.

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The pure production of palm oil plantation had been causing farmers to exploit our rainforests and heavy deforestation.

Sepilok orang-utan sanctuary

Orangutans are soon-to-be endangered due to their loss of habitat in the tropical rainforest.

Not only the carbon sinks are being destroyed, the plant-burning action of deforestation causes a lot of carbon dioxide, in addition to the CO2 emissions during the transformation of the crude palm oil into processed palm oil, further using these oil to cook and fry instant noodles. Check out in this interactive.


Previously, I had never thought just a simple thing use as eating instant noodles or cup ramen took so much processing as well as produce heavy duty wastage. On average taken from the past 10 years, 100 billion servings of instant noodles are being consumed annually worldwide (check out the instant noodles consumption of your country from instantnoodles.org). This means that 100 billion instant noodles packaging are sent into the dumps annually. Most cup noodles packaging are foam cups which are non-biodegradable (will stay on Earth forever), made with non-renewable resources (fossil fuels) and also produces a large amount of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and HFCs are accelerate global warming!

Even though some companies’ corporate social responsibility departments are investigating into recyclable packaging, not all countries are prone to having a good recycling culture. Hong Kong and China are particularly lax about recycling – whilst other countries such as South Korea and Taiwan, use environmental-friendly recycling strategies that force households to sort out trash before disposal.

In conclusion, think about the consequences of the cup noodle in your house before using 3 minutes to eat it.

  1. The palm oil had went on to heavily disadvantaged to humans and the environment at a great cost.
  2. Think about the efforts to fell the rainforest and process in a factory in order to produce sufficient levels of the raw material – palm oil.
  3. Remind yourself after eating the instant noodles, there will definitely be a lot of unhealthy chemicals inside
  4. The action of throwing away the package of instant noodles, whether it is from cup styrofoam ramen or the plastic bag, and where those chemicals end in the environment later on.
  5. What is your environmental footprint?

Whilst I appreciate many companies putting a lot of effort into R&D for environmental solutions, for example to find more sustainable ways to produce their food products, using sustainably-grown palm oil or producing recyclable packaging, before all these measures, the average consumer must learn to be AWARE of the problems with the palm oil, learn to CARE about these issues, keep up to date, and also SHARE the sustainability knowledge we know to others.

Spread the message! Let’s not be unfair to our next generation. It’s high time we start taking notice of what we are doing to our planet.



Sime Darby Plantation (2014). Palm Oil Facts & Figures . Retrieved from http://www.simedarby.com/upload/Palm_Oil_Facts_and_Figures.pdf

Frazier, K. (2015). How Styrofoam is Bad for the Environment. How Styrofoam is Bad for the Environment. Retrieved from http://greenliving.lovetoknow.com/How_Styrofoam_is_Bad_for_the_Environment

Pang, H. Y., Lee, Y. W. & Lee, Y. H. (2016). The Impact of Instant Noodles on the Environment. Retrieved from http://www.step.com.sg/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Queensway-Secondary-School-The-Impact-of-Instant-Noodles-on-the-Environment.pdf