Over-consumption of meat in the world

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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!

 

References:

National Geographic – What the World Eats
http://www.nationalgeographic.com/what-the-world-eats/

The Guardian – Giving up Beef with reduce Carbon Footprint more than Cars
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jul/21/giving-up-beef-reduce-carbon-footprint-more-than-cars

Time for Change – Eat less meat: CO2 emission of our food
http://timeforchange.org/eat-less-meat-co2-emission-of-food

 

 

 

 

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

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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

unilever-brands

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.

#goodbadpalmoil

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?

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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.

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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.

 

References:

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