OSC Recycling & Sustainability Service Group

A reflective blog exploring recycling & sustainability initiatives at the Overseas School of Colombo

Food Resources Consumption at OSC

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Today there is widespread concern about global warming and the mutlitude of environmental problems. Traditionally, we are bound to blame industries, automobiles and developed countries. However, have we ever thought about ourselves? If think critically, the answer will be: No! So, for the sake of our environment, we have to start from somewhere. I decided to start this from our school’s cafeteria by calculating the consumption of major selling products. This is what I got:

Figure 1: Daily consumption Source: Rukshan (canteen in-charge)

Figure 1: Daily consumption Source: Rukshan (canteen in-charge)

Figure 2: Carbon footprint of different products Sources: Tetrapak, TLC, Huffington post, How bad are bananas: The Carbon footprint of everything

Figure 2: see below

Figure 2: Carbon footprint of different products Sources: Tetrapak, TLC, Huffington post, How bad are bananas: The Carbon footprint of everything

In the figure 2, we can see the carbon dioxide emitted during the production of these products. If we calculate the total carbon emitted during 180 days of school, it sum up to 40 tonnes! And this is just from few products of canteen. This doesn’t include greenhouse gases emitted during the disposal process of these products.  The biggest challenge that we are now facing is ignorance or lack of awareness of the fact that we are emitting much more carbon dioxide than we think. Also, we are not paying for all of the destruction caused to environment because of production and disposal of these products. Environmentalists call this as ‘externalized cost’. At present, we are only paying for the ‘production cost’ which only includes cost of raw materials, manufacturing, packaging and transportation. Since, we don’t have enough ‘time’ (or we don’t bother) to force government and corporates to include this externalized cost, we need to take steps to control this externalized cost. In context of our canteen consumption, I suggest following steps:

  • Reduce plastics: At OSC, we have water dispensers that give us fresh/cold/hot water at free of cost. Despite of this facility, some people buy the bottled water from canteen. Personally, I have no idea why people do this because when we can have free water than why we want to buy the water? Not only from economic point of view, but it is harmful for us from environmental point of view. We all know that plastic are very dangerous for our environment. Not only there production is harmful for nature, but also the disposal creates much bigger environmental problems. Thus, we need to stop this practice and should consider keeping a metal or hard plastic bottle with us and refilling it using the dispensers. It is much more efficient and environmental friendly (and also pocket friendly).
  • Reduce the chicken consumption: The biggest carbon dioxide emitter of all products is chicken which emits about 6.9 kg of carbon dioxide per kg during the production. According to canteen in-charge, we consume about 20 kg of chicken per day. Since, I am a vegetarian due to religious reasons, this is too much. But from environmental point of view, the chicken in school canteen alone adds about 25 tonnes of carbon dioxide to the environment. To reduce this, we can substitute the chicken products with vegetarian products such as cheese. However, I would suggest we should become more vegetarian because it is better for the environment (you can read more at: 10 ways vegetarianism can help save the planet)
  • Use more glass bottles: According to the graph, glass bottles produce more carbon dioxide than other packaging materials. However, these are only production figures. The biggest difference between glass and other materials is that they are effectively reused and recycled which is not possible for tetrapacks and plastic bottles. Hence, we should start using more glass container over plastic containers and tetrapacks.

All these changes might look small and we might think how individual contribution will affect the planet. But big changes came from small changes. If all pledge to contribute to planet, it will certainly help in solving the environmental problems. Being environment friendly is not for the planet, it is for our own benefit.

Article Copyright Shwetank Varma, 2013.


Written by recycling1011

2013-06-03 at 7:41 AM

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