Steps to becoming a responsible consumer
Goal 12: Responsible Consumption
One of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development that we have been focussing this year is Goal 12: Responsible Consumption. A report in 1987 defined sustainable development as, “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” The problem is that in many areas of the world humans are exceeding the needs of the present and this is leading to problems.
In order to achieve Goal 12 and ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns, the UN states agreed to halve the amount of global food waste per person, by individuals and companies. Recently the issue of the amount of food waste produced by larger supermarkets has become the target for many campaigns. This happens at both ends of the production line: vegetables are discarded because they don’t conform to size and shape regulations and large amounts of food (fresh and packaged) are dumped at the end of the day. This food is often still edible and could be donated to food banks. It’s shocking that there is so much waste in some parts of the world when other parts of the world are struggling to find food.
In America the issue was highlighted by Rob Greenfield, who spent a year travelling across the country, living out of dumpsters, which contained perfectly good food that had been ‘dumped’. He actually put on weight! He would pull out all the edible food that had been discarded by shops and companies at the end of the day and display it for the public to see. It shocked people.
Since the issue of food waste has been highlighted some shops around the world are tackling the amount of food that is wasted and passing it on to food banks but there is still a lot more work that needs to be done.
On a personal level, we can also become more aware of the amount of food that we waste. It’s easy to fill up the supermarket trolley with food for the week ahead but find that a few days later something sits at the bottom of the fridge uneaten, past its best.
The UN states also agreed to reduce the generation of waste through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse. Reducing the amount of waste that we produce means not producing as much as we currently do and reducing our impact on the planet. We can do this by reducing the amount of water that we waste, reducing the amount of energy that we consume, reducing the amount of meat and fish in our diets and reducing the amount of actual waste, particularly by purchasing products that have less packaging. Much of our packaging is plastic but this material does not biodegrade and is not often recycled or easily recycled. It is having a damaging effect on our environment as it is dumped in landfill sites, in our countryside and streets and in rivers and oceans, impacting on the marine life and ultimately us. In response to this issue, we’ve thought hard about how we can act responsibly so we are making an effort to refuse to buy single-use plastic bottles, refill bottles rather than buy single-use plastic and remove plastic beverage litter from the environment.
Small steps to leading a sustainable life
It isn’t easy to lead a sustainable life and it does involve some effort but it doesn’t have to take over your life. We’ve made small attempts to adapt our lifestyle to become more responsible global citizens. They do not involve radical changes but help us to contribute to the Global Goal for Responsible Consumption: