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Sustainable Food Guide
Environmental Practice at Work © 2005 Link:EP@W Ltd Web Site


 Internal Operations Issues...

Internal Operations can improve the environmental performance of any organisation and include how you manage and control waste, water and energy.

Waste minimisation

The Food Waste Report, by Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), estimates that we discard 1/3 of the food we buy - equal to 6.7 mtonnes of carbon (Food Waste pdf p4). Food production, processing, distribution and storage accounts for about 20% of all GHG emissions. If food waste was reduced to zero, there would be a saving of about 7% of all UK GHGs. WRAP's latest "The Food We Waste" report worked out that UK households now (2008) throw away £10 billion worth of food per year - equalling 6.7 m tonnes. This equates to about £600 per family/yr or 4.4 m apples, 1.3 m bananas and 1/2 mill chickens per day.

Waste strategies look to ways to control waste at work. The real costs of waste, are many times more than a lot of people think. Add up the costs of the raw materials that end up in the bin, the labour costs to clean them up, and transport to get it to the bin, and you soon see there are a lot more involved. The Waste Hierarchy says that the best way to deal with waste is to reduce the amount produced. After that, find out if the waste can be re-used (e.g. c omputers), and if not -are there ways to recover some of the waste? This could include repairing, re-using, recycling parts, composting or use to make energy. Only as a last resort should the waste be disposed, either to landfill or to air. New ways of dealing with food waste include making biogas (see Climate Change Plans) and biochar.

Resource Use
Resource use equals doing more with less. Good resource use maximises value while minimizing resources and adverse environmental impacts. Good resource use, often refered to as eco-efficiency, looks at both 'what' and 'how' things are made. Good resource use provides better quality goods using less of the environment. This tends to emphasise natural infinite resources. Examples of good resource use include:

  • Minimising the amount of material in goods and services
  • Enhancing material recyclables,
  • Maximising the use of renewable resources and products.

Material use
This relates to the choices of materials used and how they are made and their origin. For example paper napkins versus linen; bottles v tetrapax. We live in a throw away society where increasingly we are plundering the earth's resources to provide manufactured products using vast amounts of energy that are ultimately disposed of in ways that are costly to you and to the environment.

Water conservation
It may sound strange that with more flooding we need to better conserve water. All water used in the UK, whether for washing up, for the toilet, washing cars or any number of industrial processes uses water that is drinking water quality. Compare that with many parts of the world, where millions of people are suffering because they do not get access to fresh potable drinking water. We need to control quality, use and flow of water. This involves:

  • Preventing pollution, safe-guarding supplies.
  • Choice of water - whether to use potable or grey water.
  • Conserving water, by reducing leaks and wastage.
  • Managing flow, to develop equity in supplies.

Environmental Conservation measures such as more trees and better use of plants help to prevent flash flooding.

Energy use
One particular aspect of good resource use is Energy Efficiency. Every year, £12 billion worth of energy is wasted in the UK. That's 30% of the country's energy consumption! Energy Efficiency is driven by cost savings and ever more pressures to control emissions that contribute to climate change. Energy Efficiency tends to concentrate on how much energy is used, rather than whether it is a green source of energy. Energy efficiency looks at how the energy is being used, rather than where it comes from finite or renewable supplies. Follow Climate Change and Energy Efficiency in this guide for more about these issues.


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