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  • Julia Carlow's avatar
    Julia Carlow 4/20/2020 5:16 AM
    Food waste is a topic close to my heart. Growing up, my parents taught us to serve small portions and only reach for seconds if we were still hungry. Our plates were expected to be empty at the end of each meal as food was considered precious in our home. As an adult, I can now fully understand the cost of wasted food, not just in terms of "money down the drain" but also in terms of "impact on the environment". Living in a culture characterized by  abundance and endless, year-round supply of affordable food, being conscious about food waste almost feels rebellious. Here are some of my strategies that have proven to be effective in minimizing food waste in my home:
    1, Choose quality of quantity.
    It sounds counter-intuitive at first, but spending more money on high quality, organic products makes me appreciate them more and gives me an added incentive to use them consciously. Added bonus: you actually end up eating tastier, healthier food that is grown without harming the environment.
    2, When you shop for groceries, think about how you are going to use each item in the coming days/week (especially when it comes to fresh, perishable food). Yes, something might be on offer this week, but think realistically about how many yogurts your family can really eat before the expiration date.
    3, Check the items in your fridge regularly and try to do some rough meal planning around the items that need to be eaten soon. Remember to eat up your existing food items first before restocking your fridge/pantry.
    4, Before heading to the supermarket (or online store app on your phone), make a detailed shopping list. Try to stick to your list the best you can and don't get tempted by impulse buys. Your wallet will thank you!
    5, Try to be realistic about how much food you / your family really eats in one meal. I tend to err on the cautious side to avoid leftovers. If you still feel hungry after your meal, well then there is always dessert.... or a nice cheese platter...
    6, If you have leftovers, try to use them up as soon as you can. The longer my leftovers stay in the fridge, the less likely I am to eat them.
    7, Learn how to be creative about using up scraps and not-so-fresh produce. Vegetables can easily be turned into nutritious stocks that can be used as a base for soups, braises or risottos (they also freeze pretty well for later use). Fruits can be turned into smoothies, jams or baked goods (banana bread for the win). Leftover pasta makes for a good pasta bake and leftover rice is ideal for an Asian-inspired fried rice.
    8, The freezer is your best friend. Freeze fresh produce to keep it fresh longer (especially meat and fish, but also butter, cheese and bread). Freeze leftovers as soon as possible to avoid contamination.
    9, Regularly organize your fridge and move things that need to be eaten soon towards the front where they are easily visible and won't be forgotten. An "eat-me-first-box" maybe a good idea if you live with family members who are less likely to check expiry dates.
    10, Last but not least, try not to order take-away when your fridge is brimming with fresh food. Save food deliveries for those days when the fridge has nothing left to give. Your wallet and your planet will thank you.
    I hope you find this information helpful. If you have any tips on how to avoid food waste in our homes, please share with the group!
    Best wishes, Julia

  • Julia Carlow's avatar
    Julia Carlow 4/15/2020 3:27 AM
    Eco Challenge Team,
     
    Thanks for your participation in our EcoChallenge so far. We hope you find it a helpful tool to identify and understand different ways in which you can positively impact climate change.
     
    This week we are focusing on food waste. According to a recent study, a third of all food available for human consumption does not make it from farm to fork and ends up being wasted (https://edition.cnn.com/2020/02/20/health/global-food-waste-higher/index.html). Climate experts have identified food waste as one of the top sustainability problems worldwide and the United Nations environment program states that "Globally, if food waste could be represented as its own country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter, behind China and the US." (https://www.unenvironment.org/regions/north-america/regional-initiatives/minimizing-food-waste). Producing uneaten food squanders a whole host of resources—seeds, water, energy, land, fertilizer, hours of labor, financial capital—and generates greenhouse gases at every stage—including methane when organic matter lands in the global rubbish bin. Food waste is an issue in both high- and low-income countries. In places where income is low, wastage is generally unintentional and occurs earlier in the supply chain—food rots on farms or spoils during storage or distribution. In regions of higher income, willful food waste dominates further along the supply chain. Retailers and consumers reject food based on bumps, bruises, and coloring, or simply order, buy, and serve too much. (https://www.drawdown.org/solutions/reduced-food-waste)
     
    If you are like my family, you are currently eating all of your meals at home. This presents us with a unique opportunity to take a comprehensive look at the food we throw out over the course of a week and come up with strategies to mitigate food waste in our homes.
     
    Our Week 3 action is: “For the next 7 days I will keep a daily log of food I throw away, either because it went bad before I ate it, I put too much on my plate, or it was scraps from food preparation."
     
    Step 1: Keep track of your food waste.
    You can either make your own chart or print the following food waste diary:
    What to record:
    - which meals cause the most food waste?
    - what kind of food items are thrown out?
    - what amount of food was wasted?
    - how was the waste disposed of?
    - why are you throwing away this food?
    - estimate the value of the food you threw away.
     
    Step 2: Identify a pattern.
    Review your food waste diary regularly and try to understand why food gets thrown away in your household. Is it because you are buying too much food? Are you unsure about the best way to store perishables? Or are you making meals too big/ over-pouring beverages?
     
    Step 3: Strive to improve.
    Sit down with your family members and try to come up with ideas on how to reduce the amount of food waste. What strategies can you employ to minimize the food waste in your household? For example, making smaller meals, buying fewer perishables, planning meals in advance, learning how to use up leftovers, learning how to correctly store fruit and vegetables are just a few tactics to try.
     
    Thanks again for your participation! Your actions matter!

  • Julia McAllister's avatar
    Julia McAllister 4/12/2020 10:47 AM
    For a long time I have thought of myself as an avid recycler. It is hard for me to throw things away that could possibly be recycled. More than once, I have brought a glass or plastic drink bottle home with me to recycle if recycling wasn’t available. Before moving to the UAE I lived in a city which offered single stream recycling, and I would put all of my plastic, glass, paper and metal waste into the recycling bin each week. I didn’t pay much attention to the different types of plastics. I was under the impression that all plastic could be recycled and I didn’t question it.  

    When I moved here, I thought that the recycling system would be the same. I soon realized that it was very different. This realization started when I heard that often times our waste is sorted by hand and pickers take the recyclable materials out of the general waste. I now know that this system can lead to many potentially recyclable items getting contaminated with liquid or other waste. With this knowledge, I started sorting my recycling and placing it in the segregated bins on campus. I thought that doing this would make sure that things were getting recycled. After I learned that Bee’ah only recycles #1 and #2 plastics, I became even more diligent about checking the type of plastic that I put into the recycling bin. I do this because I want to make sure that as much of our waste gets recycled as possible. Now I also notice how much plastic I end up throwing away because it cannot be recycled. 

    Knowing what can and cannot be recycled makes me think about what I buy and what type of packaging it comes in. For instance, I prefer buying yogurt in glass jars, even though I know even this isn’t a perfect solution. I also try not to order delivered food from restaurants that use a lot of unrecyclable packaging. I buy products made from recycled materials, like paper towels and toilet paper. I’ve heard that over 90% of the aluminum and metal cans that Bee’ah receives are recycled. So that encourages me look for metal options when buying drinks at the grocery store. 

    Documentaries like “Plastic Wars” by Frontline on PBS and the segment that Rose posted from Fortune Magazine (links below) highlight how long plastic disposal has been a problem. It is cheaper to make new plastic than to process and reuse old plastic. If we choose products that are stored in more easily recyclable materials like aluminum, we can feel better about the prospect of it being recycled. 

    It isn’t easy to steer away from unrecyclable materials, but knowing what can and cannot be easily recycled can help us all become wiser consumers with less waste going to the landfill. 

    Frontline PBS, Plastic Wars : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jkUPahh7to

    Fortune, Plastics Global Recycling Problem: https://fortune.com/longform/plastics-global-recycling-problem/


  • Rose Armour's avatar
    Rose Armour 4/08/2020 3:23 AM
    Making an Impact! Week 2 of our EcoChallenge!

    Eco Challenge Team,

    Thank you for joining AUS Sustainability on our journey to reduce our impact on climate change in honor of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. We hope that this journey will help all of us consider small actions we can take and if multiplied can have a great impact, today and in the future.

    This week we are focusing on recycling. On campus the AUS community has access to recycle a number of different types of materials, including office paper/cardboard, aluminum/tin cans, #1 & #2 plastic bottles (look at the bottle of plastic bottles to find the numbers, for more information: https://learn.eartheasy.com/articles/plastics-by-the-numbers/)  and glass. 

    Our Week 2 action is “Recycle Everything I Can”. 

    Step 1: Recycle as many household items as possible. 

    Step 2: Track how much you recycle, for example two 50L bin bags, so approximately 100L total. (Note: the standard bins provided in AUS housing are 50L.) 

    Recycling is an imperfect system, with many plastics, papers, tetrapaks, etc. not being recyclable. This is why it is the last option in the three R’s (Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle). After tracking your recycling for the week, is there one action you could take to reduce or reuse any of the items that went into your recycling bin?

    Thank you to those of you who took part in the Week 1 action and for those of you just joining the EcoChallenge, there is still time to have your carbon emissions counted towards the total AUS CO2 emission saved through remote working. For more information, check out the 1st message on your EcoChallenge dashboard.

    Thank you for joining AUS Sustainability in our EcoChallenge!
     Rose
     
     If you are interested in learning more about recycling check out these links below:
    The video in this article is informative - https://fortune.com/longform/plastics-global-recycling-problem/

  • Jessica March's avatar
    Jessica March 4/06/2020 6:26 AM
    I try to be mindful in the way that we live our lives as a family and take our carbon footprint into consideration whenever possible. There's always room for improvement!

  • Julia Carlow's avatar
    Julia Carlow 4/05/2020 5:53 AM
    When I first moved to the UAE I quickly realized that I would need to buy a car to get around. This was the first time for me to buy a car, as before that I either lived in small cities where I could ride my bike everywhere or in really large cities where everything was accessible by public transport. For this week's Eco Challenge action,  I calculated that between, school runs, errands and the occasional trip to Dubai my family travels almost 500 km in our car per week. That is a lot! I wish there were better public transport options available in the UAE as I really do not enjoy spending this much time driving.
  • Reflection Question
    Transport Conduct Virtual Meetings
    How can you ensure that your virtual meetings honor your values and your company's culture?

    Jeniece Lusk's avatar
    Jeniece Lusk 4/05/2020 3:28 AM
    I think that while covid 19 is definitely a catastrophic event, what it can teach us is how to make the best, most functional use of our time and resources--and the resources of the planet. There are so many articles about how this virus is impacting our environment, and I hope that such evidence can be convincing to such an analytical department such as mine when it comes to meetings (in particular those that definitely don't have any need for our physical presence).

    • Rose Armour's avatar
      Rose Armour 4/05/2020 5:58 AM
      Not enough companies were truly pushing the envelope with virtual meetings prior to Covid-19. I hope this will change, forcing people to use all of the available technologies, will push many to move forward in this manner. It is not an answer for everything, but I do believe that  a physical presence is not always necessary. I cannot imagine we will go back to business as usual after this. 
  • Reflection Question
    Transport Research and Consider Switching to a Hybrid or Electric Vehicle
    Reducing (or eliminating) exhaust emissions and improving public health are two benefits of green vehicles. What other motivators inspire you to consider switching to a more fuel-efficient vehicle?

    Jeniece Lusk's avatar
    Jeniece Lusk 4/05/2020 3:26 AM
    Considering that I have a young family of 5, saving money is definitely a bonus, as well as being a role model for my kids. Most importantly, I want my kids to get the message that I care about their futures.

  • Rose Armour's avatar
    Rose Armour 4/05/2020 2:17 AM
    EcoChallenge Team,

    Hello! I hope you are all doing well and adapting to our new normal. I completed my week one transportation challenge and found it very interesting. My family’s average distance traveled/week was 200 km, for a total .05 metric tons of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emitted/week. If you are like me, it is hard to visualize a metric ton. To get a better sense of this I calculated my weekly use by 52 weeks, giving me a rough estimation of my “annual” CO2 emissions as 2.6 metric tons. 

    I put this data into the greenhouse gas equivalence calculator, that clarified what a metric ton of CO2 looks like. This visualization tool showed that 2.6 metric tons of CO2 is equivalent to burning 2,885 lbs of coal or the amount of CO2 absorbed by 3.4 acres of forest in one year. 

    Wow, that is really powerful! My family’s driving really does have an impact. I have been giving some thoughts to what tweaks can I make to my driving to reduce my distance traveled every week. I can combine trips and we are all becoming much better at online grocery shopping. I have set a personal goal of reducing my weekly travel by 20%, which would be one less trip into Dubai a week. I am also seeing my reduction driving as a silver lining to the current remote working/social distancing. 

    Please take a moment to complete your week one: transportation challenge and share your insights and any way you can change your personal impact on climate change!

    Step to complete the week one challenge:

    Step 1: Estimate the distance your family usually drives on a weekly basis. This can be by car, taxi or other modes of transport. 
     
    Step2: Open the carbon footprint calculator, https://www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx, select the “car” tab and enter the weekly distance traveled in the “mileage” field (make sure you choose km), then select your vehicle type (Note: I used the US car database) and calculate. Your total car footprint will be displayed in the green box.
     
    Step3: Enter the calculated “Total car footprint” into the linked google form: CO2 Emissions.
     
    Step 4: The calculated amount of CO2 emissions, in metric tons, can be hard to visualize, We encourage you to put your CO2 emissions into the greenhouse gas equivalencies calculator: https://www.epa.gov/energy/greenhouse-gas-equivalencies-calculator. It might help to calculate your car emissions for the year, to get a better picture.
     
    All the best, 
    Rose

  • Ishraq Abdalla's avatar
    Ishraq Abdalla 4/03/2020 9:24 AM
    We rarely find direct solutions into how we can make an impact on our environment, especially that we do it individually. This is a great way to monitor your own progress into making an impact and in a greater effect too as we do at it together as a team!