It is about time that we decrease our meat consumption!

I want to take this opportunity to talk about the current issue we all are facing with meat consumption. Even though many of us enjoy tucking into a juicy steak, we have to start to consider to reduce our consumption of it, or even better; become a vegetarian! This might sound unreasonable for some of you; however, hopefully, I will be able to convince you during this short text.

The consumption of meat has increased significantly throughout the world in recent decades with devastating consequences for both the environment and us consumers. In Sweden, the average consumption of meat is the staggering number of 85,5 kilos per person, and this number is quite similar to all of the industrial countries (, 2017). Some people may ask why meat would have a harmful impact on themselves since we have been eating it from the beginning and it has been a vital part of our existence. However, research has shown that the extreme amount of meat we eat on an average basis is leading to health-degrading conditions such as cardiovascular disease and if you are unlucky even cancer. And if this was not enough… The ever-increasing consumption has equally bad impacts on the environment on many different levels and areas. Some of the environmental effects that are connected with this current issue are habitat and biodiversity loss, carbon released by deforestation and fossil-fueled machinery, and land and water degradation (

I think most of us are aware of the deforestation that is currently happening in the Amazon rainforest. But for what exact reasons? Well, unfortunately, the rainforest is one of many areas that have to pay the price as the demand for meat is increasing. An estimated 65-80 % of the deforestation that has occurred in the last decade in the Brazilian part of the Amazon is due to cattle ranching ( The once beautiful forest with a rich and versatile plant and animal kingdom is slowly but surely decreasing alongside the land that gets transformed into a pasture for the cattle grazing.

These animals are then slaughtered and exported to countries in Europe but lately mainly to countries such as China and Russia, where the demand of meat has increased considerably in the last couple of years due to rising average individual incomes and by population growth (H. Charles et al., 2018). Moreover, this has a significant impact on the actual wildlife in the Amazon as well since other animals are forced to flee and in the worst-case scenario even become endangered. And as long as the demand for meat is increasing, the current pace of deforestation will continue if not increase even more. We have already lost around 17 % of the Amazon forest in the past 50 years, so it is time to turn this trend around (

Now when I have done some research on this subject and have an overall deeper insight of the current matter, I feel both ill at ease but strangely enough quite calm and collected. Even though the meat consumption is increasing, I think that the awareness regarding the environmental problems we are facing is growing throughout the whole world and that more and more people are trying to act more in an environmentally friendly way. However, many of us (including myself) have to begin to think about our consumption of meat and change our eating habits. And the most effective and easiest way to change something? Start with yourself! Replace, or at least decrease the weekly amount of meat with a more herbal diet which is much better for your health, our climate and our forests.

I know that I will!



Global Meat Production and Consumption Continue to Rise | Worldwatch Institute. (2017). Retrieved from

Industrialized meat production – rainforest on our plates – Rainforest Rescue. Retrieved from

  1. Charles et al., (2018). Meat consumption, health, and the environment. Retrieved from

Unsustainable cattle ranching. (2018). Retrieved from

Ökande köttkonsumtion hotar klimatet. (2018). Retrieved from

Deforestation | Threats | WWF. (2018). Retrieved from

Devlin, H. (2018). Rising global meat consumption ‘will devastate environment’. Retrieved from

Single-use plastic bags

It’s hard to imagine everyday life today with no plastic products. Plastic has found its way into all areas of life and our modern society can no longer be imagined without it. A major obstacle is the use of single-use plastics. The most common finds during international coastal cleanups are food wrappers, plastic grocery bags, plastic lids, straws, plastic beverage bottles and other kinds of plastic bags. Plastic packaging accounts for almost half of all plastic waste worldwide, and a large part of it is disposed of within minutes of first use.

Environmental and human health impacts illustrated by the example of plastic bags

Although it is still uncertain, some studies suggest that plastic bags can take up to a thousand years to decompose. Soil and water are polluted and there is a significant risk of swallowing, suffocation and confusion for wildlife on land and in the sea. Because of their light weight and balloon-shaped construction, plastic bags are very easy to blow into the air and will eventually end up on land and in the sea.

In developing countries with poor solid waste management regulations, plastic bag litter can worsen the pandemic. By blocking sewage systems and creating breeding grounds for mosquitoes and other pests, plastic bags can significantly increase the spread of vector-borne diseases such as malaria. As noted above, plastic waste and micro-plastics can get into our food chain when absorbed by fish or other marine animals. Microplastics have already appeared in table salt, tap water and bottled water. While research into the effects of microplastics has increased, very little is known about the specific effects on human health.

Possible actions to minimize plastic bags

Introduction of a plastic tax: This could trigger behaviour change in consumers and promote the use of reusable shopping bags. This concept was first introduced in Ireland in 2002. The Irish government introduced a tax on plastic bags at points of sale, known as the “PlasTax”. During the first year after the introduction of the tax, the number of plastic bags used in Ireland decreased by more than 90% and per head from 328 to 21 bags per year. The successful Irish tax on plastic bags shows that the adoption of a tax at a sufficiently high level can influence consumer behaviour.

Voluntary reduction strategies and arrangements: Strategies to reduce the use and phase-out of disposable plastics have recently been explored in a number of countries. Contrary to restrictions and taxes, the benefit of reduction strategies is that they do not try to enforce sudden changes in the market. These strategies are based on the idea that change can only be sustainable if it is voluntary and decision-based. They acknowledge the complexity of the needs associated with the use of bags and often let consumers choose. For reduction strategies to be successful, appropriate social awareness is needed. The introduction and encouragement to use reusable bags as an alternative to plastic bags is one of the many examples of a possible reduction strategy where the costumer has the choice.



Becoming paperless

Everyone knows the situation where they find themselves in front of a screen. One tries to read a document online, but then decides to print it out for comfort’s sake. As a result, we print more than necessary. A large part of it ends up in the garbage in the twinkling of an eye, which encourages the waste of paper. What does that mean for companies that are forced to do a lot of administrative work?

Paper consumption is increasing from year to year. Compared to 2017, it recently exceeded 400 million tons per year. China, the USA and Japan consume more than half of this, while Europe bears a quarter. In comparison, Africa has a meager share of 2% and North America the highest. A person wastes an average of 55 kg. In North America it is four times as much, i.e. 215 kg per person. The increase in paper consumption in Asia is significant, whereas it is declining in North America (Environmental Paper Network, 2018).

The following graphic shows us the worldwide consumption of paper per person:

Source: (Environmental Paper Network, 2018)

Paper consumption in the office
The individual is not the only main consumer of paper. An office covers its paper consumption with digital prints, notepads or toilet paper. In the USA, an office worker consumes an average of 10,000 sheets of paper per year, this figure only refers to the printouts. Almost half of it ends up in waste. For a company this represents a loss of 120 billion dollars per year, for the forms alone that are printed. After all, paper consumption in business does not decrease. It is growing at an average rate of 22% per year, which will double paper consumption in three years (Record Nations, 2016). In addition, it is important to mention that most of the paper used in the global industry, is for packaging. As can be seen in the following graph, more than half of the paper is used for these purposes (Environmental Paper Network, 2018).

Source: (Environmental Paper Network, 2018)

The problem with relying on paper
A problem with the use of paper is the increased risk, because data loss is a big problem for companies. Lost, damaged or misplaced documents can lead to data breaches or loss of customers. Manual input of paper also increases the risk of errors. Employees become frustrated because they have to fill out, organize, and file long and tedious forms so that they can be retrieved when needed. All this leads to wasted space, lost productivity and ultimately increased operating costs, considering that searching for filed documents can take up to 30-40% of working time.

Source: (Device Magic, n.d.)

In addition, up to 20% of print jobs are never retrieved from printers. So it happens that sensitive data is accessible to everyone. Remember, many employees either don’t have access to shredders or simply don’t use them. This is how data protection is violated on a daily basis (Device Magic, n.d.).

Environmental harm
Paper production has an important effect on the environment. Deforestation has become a major problem caused by the high paper consumption. In addition, the paper industry has an impact on the environment due to air pollution. During production, they cause pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides and carbon dioxide. Nitrogen and sulphur are dioxides responsible for acid rain and carbon dioxide is a cause of climate change. Environmental damage in paper production is also affected by other problems such as water pollution. Companies produce other substances such as alcohol or inorganic materials such as chlorates. This type of environmental impact pollutes rivers and lakes. 26% of solid waste is paper thrown away (Worldatlas, 2018).

Source: (Exposing Truth, 2015)

For a further insight on this topic watch this video:

5 tips for offices to go paperless
To make it easier for companies to gradually approach the process of becoming paperless in the future, here are a few tips:

  • Create an understanding and get everyone on the same page
    As the company is dependent on its employees, a deeper understanding of change must be fostered so that everyone pulls in the same direction. Workshops or presentations on sustainability will help to show your staff how beneficial the reduction of paper use could be to the company, to the individual and to the world.
  • Invest in the right technology
    If an office copier is essential for your work, you should consider good quality and sustainability. A model with a built-in scanner and software is particularly suitable. Documents can be both copied and converted to a digital format. In the long-term this means further savings in expenditure for the company (Ross and Ross International, 2017).
  • Use digital services like Dropbox or Google Drive
    Dropbox, Google Drive or Evernote are good examples of how you can sort and store your data online. In addition, they can also be accessible to others as needed, saving time and money as these services will cost less each year. Make sure your employees are familiar with these tools and train them as needed to ensure they all have the same level of knowledge (Lifehacker, 2018). Paper consumption is estimated to be reduced by 10-30% with targeted use of available technologies (WWF Panda a, n.d.).
  • Reuse the paper
    Paper always ends up in the trash with only one side labeled. You can counteract this by using the paper or envelopes for notes or idea sketches, for example. Once the paper is completely written on, it can end up in the trash specifically for paper (NIBusinessInfo, n.d.). In addition, double-sided copying of images saves up to 50% of paper costs (WWF Panda b, n.d.).
  • Leave out unnecessary prints
    Before you go to the printer, you should consider whether you really want to print the document. Many documents can also be processed digitally in a simple and time-saving way. In addition, every printout costs money. This money, which is saved, could be used for other purposes, which provide added value for the employees and the company (WWF Panda c, n.d.).


Device Magic, (n.d.). What Paper is Actually Costing your Business. [Online] Available at:[Accessed 03 November 2018]

Environmental Paper Network, 2018. The state of the global paper industry. [Online] Available at:[Accessed 30 October 2018]

Exposing Truth, 2015. [Online] Available at:[Accessed 30 October 2018]

NIBusinessInfo, (n.d.). Office resource efficiency. [Online] Available at:[Accessed 02 November 2018]

Lifehacker, 2018. How to take steps toward a paperless office. [Online] Available at:[Accessed 01 November 2018]

Record Nations, 2016. How much paper is used in one day. [Online] Available at:[Accessed 30 October 2018]

Ross and Ross International, 2017. Top 10 Paperless Office Technologies that will Increase Your Productivity. [Online] Available at:[Accessed 02 November 2018]

Worldatlas, 2018. What is the environmental impact of paper. [Online] Available at:[Accessed 01 November 2018]

WWF a. (n.d.). Using technologies and better systems. [Online] Available at:[Accessed 01 November 2018]

WWF b. (n.d.). Use paper more efficiently. [Online] Available at:[Accessed 01 November 2018]

WWF c. (n.d.). Use paper more efficiently. [Online] Available at:[Accessed 01 November 2018]

How smartphones harm our planet

Do you remember when you got your first smartphone and what changed with it? Exactly eleven years ago the first smartphone got presented. Since then a lot has changed. Most people take pictures with their smartphones, paper maps turned to google maps, internet is omnipresent and electronic calendar became usual.

Time has come for us to realize our smartphones despite their grand mighty also come with a great price. (Techradar, 2015) This article will show you how unsustainable our smartphones actually are.

The lifespan of a smartphone can be put into four periods:

  • Production
  • Customer use
  • Transport
  • Recycling
Figure 1: Greenhouse Gas Emission of a Smartphone

Smartphone’s production holds from far the major responsibility for CO2 emissions (80%) of this product life cycle, as users averagely dispose of it for two years (Wirtschaftswoche, 2015). Furthermore, leading smartphone producers use and abuse of programed obsolescence both on hardware and software, bringing the global production to more than 7 Billion in less than 10 years. Every human could then potentially be smartphone equipped by now (Greenpeace, 2017).

The production
Permanently increasing, the demand almost tops 1,5 Billion by 2016. It is a long road since 2007.

Figure 2: Produced smartphones (units/year)

Besides of CO2 emissions, smartphone production conceals variety of polluting factors. Made out of 60 different materials, 30 of them are metals just as copper, gold, silver, palladium and aluminum. (Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz und nukleare Sicherheit, 2014)

 Demand increasing thrives the mining of raw materials, destroying forests, mountains and natural habitats. However, extraction is only the first step of a long treatment process. Chemicals are then used to refine rocks and obtain the final merchandise, polluting rivers, grounds and threatening any close living organism. Very few are the company able to sustainably produce their smartphone today.

The usage
Despite their relatively small size, smartphones can be real battery devourer. Every message sent, every app downloaded every call made contribute to carbon emissions. Their use also hides another reality, not only the device in itself is energy greedy, but also infrastructure at use to operate the system. By 2040 the impact of technology will be one of the main climate changer (Lotfi Belkhir, 2018). Approximately 14% of the complete carbon footprint could directly be related to this industry, representing half of carbon footprint made by transportation industry. (Fossbytes, 2018)

The recycling
German household alone holds 124 Million smartphones unused and unrecycled. (ZDF, 2018) Likewise, rare earth scarcity generates economic, political and environmental issues. Therefore, there recycling becomes a global stability stake for nations sake. So far only 16% of the world-wide e-waste gets recycled properly and it is estimated that less than 1% of smartphones get a proper recycling(Fastcompany, 2018). One million smartphones could thus deliver nearly 16 t of copper, 350 kg of silver and 34 kg of gold (BBC, 2016).

Nowadays, more than 80% of the e-waste are not recycled and end up in landfills causing further damage to water, soil and air. Unfortunately, recycling still comes at a high economic cost, and hardly comes as an attractive market for private companies although the environmental cost is way higher. Recycling turns to be even more difficult with smartphones complexification. Most of them are built to be hardly disassembled (Greenpeace, 2017). Even a lot of recycling companies sell the phones to other retailers and most of the time they end in developing countries (Wirtschaftswoche, 2015).

What can we do?
Do the following steps to keep your phone longer than two years:

  • Turn your phone on to airplane mode at night. This helps preserving the battery.
  • If needed, changing the battery represents a cheaper alternative to buying a new phone or an upgraded version (incremental innovation make the newest version just slightly more performant).
  • Optimise your settings (dimming your screen, using Wi-Fi rather than cellular network when accessing data to preserve the battery)
  • Update the software regularly
  • Avoid exposing it to high temperatures. Remove the case when charging to avoid excess heat and damage to the battery (ABC, 2016)

Conserve your smartphone as long as possible, changing it if only absolutely necessary. Remember they can be repaired and recycled!

What the industry does so far
Ultimately, there is one smartphone which is created for a longer life, easy to repair and produced in ecologically conditions: The Fairphone.

Even though Apple officially only uses renewable energy, their smartphones are still extremely difficult to repair and are not made to last long. The recycling is difficult due to the complex composition.

Figure 3: Ranking of smartphones

What could the industry do?
As the consumers get more concerned about the environment, the industry has to adapt.

Using recycled materials
Reducing the need of raw materials in using more recyclable materials.

Avoiding harmful substances
To be able to have an effective end-of-life treatment, the smartphone industry should stop using toxic substances in the designing / production phase.

Easy repairable smartphones
Instead of making the smartphones more and more complex, the brands should start to make their devices easy-repairable. Software updates should not be harming the lifespan or even terminating the product.

Renewable energy
The phone industry should be forced to minimize their emission and use renewable energy.

Over long-term, the phone industry should focus on creating a complete circular economy.

Figure 4: Circular Economy


ABC 2016. Environmental impact of the iPhone. Online: abgerufen (15.11.2018)

BBC, 2016. Your old phone is full of untapped precious metals. Online:

Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz und nukleare Sicherheit, 2014. Handyproduktion – Umweltfolgen und Arbeitsbedingungen. Online:

Fastcompany, 2018. Smartphones are killing the planet faster than anyone expected. Online:

Fossbytes, 2018. Smartphones are destroying our planet faster than we think. Online:

Greenpeace, 2017. What 10 years of smartphone use means for the planet. Online:

Lotfi Belkhir, A. E., 2018. Journal of Cleaner Production

Techradar, 2015. Our smartphone addiction is costing the Earth. Online:

Wirtschaftswoche, 2015. So umweltschädlich ist der Handy-Verbrauch. Online:

ZDF, 2018. Energieintensive Herstellung: Smartphones 2040 die grössten Klimakiller. Online:

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Figure 3:

Figure 4:

“Juicy” tomatoes

Source: Sativa – Bush tomatoes

Did you know that our diet is responsible for one third of the damage to nature, caused by every consumer each year? It is even ahead of mobility with car journeys and holiday flights. We know that animal products or products from overseas pollute our environment. When it comes to overseas products, however, we often only think of avocados or mangos but there is another fruit, which should be considered: the tomato. I was surprised when I heard that the tomatoes we use for a good Italian pasta sauce do not necessarily come from Italy, Spain or France.  China, for example, is one of the largest producers of industrial tomatoes and tomato puree. They deliver 1000 tons of tomato puree per week to Italy. How come? The demand for tomatoes, tomato sauces and purees is high all year round. In Switzerland, Tomatoes are the most popular vegetable after carrots with 6.93kg per capita consumption in 2016. If the consumption of sauces would be included as well, it would certainly be more because 1 kg of tomato sauce needs 6 kg of fresh tomatoes. In the supermarket, tomatoes are offered throughout the whole year despite the fact that they are only in season from July to October. To meet this demand, tomatoes in Switzerland are produced in greenhouses or imported from abroad. California is the leading producer (followed by China and Italy) -approximately 96% of total US tomato production and 31% of total global tomato production is located there.

We often believe that greenhouse tomatoes from Switzerland are more sustainable than tomatoes from China/California or vice versa. Therefore, I asked myself which option is the most sustainable or is there even a sustainable choice? Transport requires diesel-oil and greenhouses requires heating-oil. In a study of the University of British Columbia, they compared local greenhouse-grown tomatoes to Florida field-grown tomatoes. The two methods of tomato harvesting were compared based on the global warming potential and human toxicity potential. The pictures show the quantities of CO2 emissions produced per kilogram of tomatoes in each production process, once with transport and once without transport to the same end consumer. The result shows that the physical process of producing field tomatoes in Florida has a lower global warming impact than the process of producing tomatoes in local greenhouses. However, if transport is added, greenhouse tomatoes have a lower global warming potential.

Sources: The University of British Columbia (2010, S. 12) – Overall Global Warming potential of the BC Greenhouse Growers Association (locally) and Florida field-grown tomatoes with and without transportation.

The situation is similar with the human toxicity index. Local greenhouse tomatoes have a lower impact on human health than Florida tomatoes mainly due to the emissions of the transportation phase of the Florida tomato to the market.

Sources: The University of British Columbia (2010, S. 13) – Overall Human Toxicity potential of the BC Greenhouse Growers Association (locally) and Florida field-grown tomatoes with and without transportation.

Due to the continuously improved heating and insulation technology in the greenhouses, natural gas consumption has been reduced by approximately 50%. Also, greenhouses use less water and the water collection technology eliminates the effects of water pollution.

It can be assumed that vegetables grown in local greenhouses are more sustainable than vegetables, which were harvested in Florida. To mention is also the significant social and economic impact of buying locally grown products, even if they are more expensive. Buying locally also means supporting fair labour practices and working conditions. Due to the price war of the competitors, there are even larger producers who want the big profit and do not care about working conditions. In China, for example, the working conditions for field workers are unfair; they earn 0.01 Euro per kilo. China is currently expanding into Africa, where employees are paid even less. The regional market collapses under the pressure of cheap imports. Farmers in Africa cannot keep up with the low prices of the big Chinese companies. Such situations lead to poverty and misery. Economic refugees are not accepted in Europe, even though our consumption and eating habits are to some extent responsible for poverty in Africa.

Anyway, it is not only important to buy local but also to buy seasonal organically grown products because even greenhouse tomato production requires high amounts of fossil fuel (water, oil, nitrogen fertilizer etc.) as it can be seen in the graph.

Sources: Dartmouth – energy required for field tomato production (2008, S. 4)

In addition, greenhouses require huge areas and not all are equipped with the latest technologies.

Unfortunately, I have never managed to buy only seasonal and regional fruit and vegetables. Sometimes I just didn’t know which product was more sustainable. I will certainly pay more attention to the origin of my products. Thanks to my seasonal calendar, I know that there are plenty of tasty vegetables in winter available. Here some tips: various types of cabbage, root vegetables such as parsnips, beetroot or Jerusalem artichoke, leek, lamb’s lettuce and mushrooms are in season in winter. Carrots, potatoes and pumpkins are usually left over from autumn. Bon appétit!



Deleu, X. & Malet, J., 2018. Rotes Gold – Die Geheimnisse der Tomatenindustrie. Little Big Story 2017. Online:–die-geheimnisse-der-tomatenindustrie-100.html (10.11.2018)

Der Verband Schweizer Gemüseproduzenten, 2017. Medien. Online: (17.11.2018)

Kelly, J., Macdonald, A. & Wilkes T. Life Cycle Analysis of Tomato Production. Comparing British Columbia Greenhouse-Grown Tomatoes to Florida Field Grown Tomatoes for use at the University of British Columbia. Report, Vancouver: The University of British Columbia. Online: (21.11.2018)

Kittl, B. 2011, Umweltbewusst konsumieren: Geniesser können warten. Der Beobachter. Online: (17.11.218)

Pydynkowski, K. et al., A Life Cycle Analysis for Tomatoes in NH, Dartmouth: College in Hanover, New Hampshire. Online: (15.11.2018)

Sativa Biosaatgut und Pflanzenzüchtung, 2018. Gemüse. Online:  (20.11.2018)

Utopia, 2015. Bio. Online: (17.11.2018)


Plastic – Coop reduces the plastic packaging of organic vegetables

World population has increased steadily from year to year and will continually do so in the future. Statistics have shown that it won’t grow as rapidy as it has in the years past, but still continuously grow. (Roser, 2018) Due to such a large portion of the population and the environment changing drastically, there is much more need of food productions than there were years ago. More land is necessary for the agriculture causing habitats to be destroyed. Human needs more resources than what mother nature is able to replenish, causing a lack of efficient founds for each ones needs. (Blanc, 2017)

Habitats are being destroyed at a rapidly pace and now causing and playing a large role in the eco system. We can now see how densely the ocean’s are afloat with plastic causing the marine life harm. The confusion these animals have on a daily basis of no knowing whether the objects in the water may be good or garbage. A downside from this all also leads to the saying “you are what you eat”. The is harmful to the humans as well if eating fish since the plastic is digested into the fish making the humans then so also digesting what ever the fish may have consumed. (McCauley, 2016) Other animals also suffering from the plastic waste. Furthermore plastic is not hundert percent recyclable. Incineration of plastic waste produces a harmful toxic, that becomes dangerous when released into the environment. (ScienceDirect, 2016)

Click to watch the video about “the plastic pollution, our oceans, our future…“

The illustration below indicates that almost 80% of the plastic production goes to landfills or natural environment. Just 12% is incinerated and only 9% recycled. (Sanapackaging, 2017-2018)

Source: (Sanapackaging, 2017).

A big part of food production has to be packed. Each manufacturer, seller or importer want to keep the costs low and try to be leader in the market. Concerning the economic perspective plastic is a practical packaging material. Plastic is light, cheap, allows a protect of the product good and is easy to recycle in comparison with other packaging materials. (Leena, 2015) (Sullivan, 2017)

Products have to stay fresh, especially when they are transfered from country to country. This gives them the possibility to survive the overships or flights over a long distance of time. The organic vegetable have to pass many stations until it reaches its destination. Organic is packaged and redistributed in boxes. It is then taken out of the boxes and then ready to be stocked onto the shelves. (Leena, 2015)

The food store Coop in Switzerland does not package any organic vegetable into plastic anymore. Coop will launche this for all the chosen vegetables. Instead of using plastic they use a sticker or elastic bands with a label around them that distinguish the specific items This is necessary that the customers can be sure that the food is organic and qualifies for the food standards. (Coop, 2018)

These pictures below demonstrate the process:

Source: (Coop, 2018).

Labeling requirements

Coop – and all other swiss sellers – have to consider the labeling requirements of organic vegetables. A few legal regulations in Switzerland are: correct description, country of origin, durability, name the producer and indication of quantity. All this is necessary that the customers are informed correctly about the product. (Bio-suisse, 2017)  Click for more and specific regulations.

Benefits in reducing plastic packaging

Reducing plastic packaging reduces waste and environmental impacts while saving money. The benefits are that less purchasing in packaging materials is necessary and along with this that it avoids disposal of packaging materials. This is not only good to save money but it has also many environmental benefits. It produces less transportation energy and emissions from packaging production and waste transport. (Achieve, w.y.)

What can we do?

Firstly, we should be aware how much plastic we use. One of the best solution is to reuse plastic. We also have to rethink if we really need plastic packaging over the environmetal friendlier alternatives. By doing so we need to support the labels as the organic vegetables of coop even when their more expensive than other packaged food. Take abag with you, which you can use more than once, and then dispose the plastic correctly. Or simply opt out for a reusable bag for your daily needs.

Most products are already packaged. The corporations should give the customers the option to choose how they will have packed their product. Furthermore they should rethink if they could also create a concept like Coop did.

Taking action to make our environment more economically friendly allows us toconnected together on the earth. We are the chance and we are the ones responsible for the protection of our environment.


Achieve, w.y., Reducing Wasted Food & Packaging: A Guide for Food Services and Restaurants. Page 16. Online:

Bio-suisse, 2017. Kennzeichnung biologischer Lebensmittel. Online:

Blanc, 2017. Environmental sustainability. Online:

Coop, 2018. Nachhaltigkeit. Online:

Leena, 2015. Nachhaltig-sein. Der Plastikwahn im Bio-Regal. Online:

Roser, 2018. Our world in Data. Population grow. Online:

Sanapackaging, 2017. Why packaging. Online:

ScienceDirect, 2016. Toxic Pollutants from Plastic Waste- A Review. Online:

Sullivan, 2017. Bizfluent. Different types of packaging materials. Online:


Coop, 2018. Nachhaltigkeit. Online:

Sanapackaging, 2017. Why packaging. Online:


McCauley,2016. Plastic pollution, our oceans, our future. Online:


Why waste management has to become a common thing all over the world

Unmanaged and improperly managed waste from decades of economic growth requires urgent action at all levels of society(Jorruang, 2018)”.

In 2016 the world’s cities generated 2.01 billion tonnes of solid waste. This is on average a footprint of 0.74 kilograms per person per day. Until 2050 the waste generation is expected to increase by 70% up to 3.4 billion tonnes (The World Bank, 2018).

Waste management has a strong impact on a range of other global challenges and is therefore viewed as an entry point to address a range of sustainable development issues (Wilson, et al., 2018).

The developing countries are more severely impacted by unsustainably managed waste. 90% of the waste is disposed in unregulated dumps or openly burned which leads to serious health, safety, and environmental issues. The waste produces methane which contributes to global climate change, promotes urban violence and breeds the ground for disease vectors (The World Bank, 2018). In addition to that, it has aswell an impact on poverty, resource security and the sustainable production and consumption of goods (Wilson, et al., 2018).

It is a big challenge for many developing countries and cities to manage their waste but it is essential for building sustainable and livable cities. The problem is, that effective waste management causes a lot of costs, often comprising 20%– 50% of municipal budgets (The World Bank, 2018).

Annual municipal solid waste generated per capita (kilograms/capita/day)Figure 1: Annual municipal solid waste

Did you know that municipal solid waste per capita increases with income level (Wilson, et al., 2018)?

The Swiss are called the “Champions in waste management”. But although their great recycling quote, the among of produced rubbish in Switzerland is the highest in Europe. The waste produced, is on average 714 kilograms, per person each year. Switzerland is even higher in waste production than Germany which produces “only” 638 kilograms per capita (Tognina, 2018).

To provide a clean waste management all over the world, it is important to ensure access for everyone to basic waste services, that means to stop uncontrolled dumping and burning. Hazardous substances in wastes should be getting under control and the problem has to be tackled at the source, means to set the focus on waste prevention. Last, it is important to close a clean material cycle (Wilson, et al., 2018). In addition, my opinion is that it is important that the people, especially in the poor areas get better information on what happens when they are dumping and burning waste. It is assumed that those people are used to burn the waste because everyone does, so and they are just used to it, instead of rethinking the actual process.

And how can we do it?
We should take responsibility and build partnerships, means working together on clear strategic goals. Being proactive in policies and sound institutions. We should support those who can not afford to pay, because money matters. We should make sure that the availability and reliability of waste and resource management data should be generated for everyone (Wilson, et al., 2018).

Means if we are great recycler we should not think that recycling makes our consumption of waste “acceptable”. To help the world to be a healthier and more sustainable planet, we should not only concentrate to recycle rather reduce the waste we produce every day. Furthermore, we should try to help those countries who can not afford to have a sustainable waste management.

If we would have a clear waste management all over the world, we could stop the contamination of the oceans, the problems with drains and floodings. We would not transmit diseases via breeding of vectors, increase respiratory problems through airborne particles from burning waste and harming animals that consume waste unknowingly (Jorruang, 2018).


Jorruang, T. (2018). The World Bank. Available at: waste/challenges_to_the_solid_waste_sector.html accessed 14.09.2018

The World Bank. (20. 09 2018). The World Bank. Available at: accessed 14.09.2018

Tognina, A. (15. 01 2018). Swissinfo. Available at: Swisssinfo: accessed 14.09.2018

Wilson, D., Rodic, L., Modak, P., Soos, R., Carpintero, A., Velis, C., . . . Simonett, O. (05. 10 2018). ISWA. Available at: accessed 14.09.2018


Figure 1:

A world (and ocean) of plastic

Today, most of us could not imagine a life without plastic, unfortunately.
It’s the matter bottles, packaging, children’s toys and our electronics (most importantly our smartphones) are made out of.

Plastic Problems

Unlike natural materials, plastic does not biodegrade. Which means that plastic stays in the environment for ever if not recycled by us.
There is also a process called photodegradation which has more of an effect on plastic. When it’s exposed to UV rays the molecules of plastic start to fall apart which can turn one plastic bag in many small plastic particles also refered to as microplastic. This is not a good message however, because these microplastic particles release poisonous chemicals like bisphenol A, also known as BPA.

No problem as long as plastic is not exposed to sunlight right? Think of the following questions for one second. Where do we usually live? What covers 70% of the earth’s surface? Where does our plastic waste end up? To answer the first two questions: We’re land-based mammals who throw our plastic waste into the habitat in which we don’t live. This is where plastic is exposed to a lot of sunlight. But what about the third question? Where does it all end up?

The seven seas of plastic

A study from Cózar et al. (2014) estimates that there are up to 35’000 tons of plastic in the open ocean of which the majority is concentrated in so called garbage patches which form because of ocean currents. There are five of these patches, one in the indian ocean, two in the atlantic ocean and two in the pacific ocean. Another study perfromed by Eriksen et al. (2013) in which they collected 48 samples throughout the south pacific garbage patch shows similar results as the map from the study from Cózar et al. (2014).

The first picture shows the picture of Cózar et al. (2014) and the second one is from Eriksen et al. (2013). Both pictures show how the south pacific garbage patch is built with the ocean currents that form gyres, resulting in concentrating most of the plastic in the middle.

Referring back to the problematic photodegradation; it is commonly known that the deeper something is in the ocean the less light reaches it as it’s reflected more and more by the water. After 1000 meters no sunlight can penetrate the water anymore.


Most of the plastic does not go down that deep.

According to a study of  Reisser et al. (2015) most of the plastic is found between the surface and 0.5 m depth. Both in terms of pieces and mass per cubic meter they found more than in the other 4.5 m analyzed. Even at 5 m depth plastic is  exposed to lots of sunlight which ultimately causes it to decay into the abovementioned toxic substance BPA.

Plastic food

And then? Marine animals such as fish, wales and sea birds eat these microplastics and eventually die as they aren’t able to digest the plastic. But hey, this does not cause us any harm right? Wrong.

According to an article from Miranda & Carvalho-Souza (2015) marine animals often mistake plastic particles for plankton and other “food”. Like this the plastic moves up the food chain until it gets into our stomachs.

That’s really not a nice imagination, to eat plastic we wasted in our oceans. Karma at its best!

THE Solution

Luckily there is hope.  One of the co-authors of Reisser et al. (2015), namely Boyan Slat, came up with an increadible idea in 2013. He wanted to start a project to free the oceans from plastic after he went scuba diving and saw more plastic than fish. The project “The Ocean Cleanup” was born. It raised $2’200’000 dollars through crowdfunding in 2014. Slat and his partners performed several studies and experiments in the following years to test his idea in reality.

How does it work?

This year on the 8th of September “System 001” was launched from the San Francisco Bay to target the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Two years from now in 2020, after having learned a lesson or two from system 001, The Ocean Cleanup team plans to launch “System 002” before scaling up to full potential with 60 fleets. They expect to get rid of 50% of the plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in only five years. After then installing these fleets in all five garbage patches they want to reach the goal of removing 90% of the plastic waste until 2040.

Below you can see two pictures, the first depicting how the Great Pacific Garbage Patch would look like in 2030 without Ocean Cleanup and the second how it’s projected to be in 2030 thanks to Ocean Cleanup.

Personally I really hope that this project will be a worldwide success because I love fish and seafood, but the imagination that I might eat toxic plastic particles with it feels very creepy.

Scientific papers:

Cózar, A. et al., 2014. Plastic debris in the open ocean. PNAS. 111(28), 10239-10244. Online: (Accessed: 18. November 2018)

Reisser, J. et al., 2015. The vertical distribution of buoyant plastics at sea: an observational study in the North Atlantic Gyre. Biogeosciences. 12, 1249-1256. Online: (Accessed: 18. November 2018)

Eriksen, M. et al., 2013. Plastic pollution in the South Pacific subtropical gyre. Marine Pollution Bulletin. 68, 71-76. Online: (Accessed: 18. November 2018)

Miranda, D. de A. & Carvalho-Souza G. F., 2015. Are we eating plastic-ingesting fish?. Marine Pollution Bulletin. Number of the volume/edition unknown, 1-6. Online: (Accessed: 18. November 2018)

Further sources:

William, H. 2010. How long does it take for plastics to biodegrade? Online: (Accessed: 18. November 2018)

The Ocean Cleanup, 2018. Milestones. Online: (Accessed: 18. November 2018)

The Ocean Cleanup, 2018. Technology. How it works. Online: (Accessed: 18. November 2018)

Why feminism is part of the recipe

In recent years the area of sustainability has increasingly gained the attention of people, businesses, governments and non-governmental organizations. The perhaps biggest player in the latter category, the United Nations Organization, has even developed a set of 17 goals which they envision to achieve until the year 2030 in order to guarantee a sustainable development of our world and the respective societies and businesses.

Among these goals, one will stumble upon the very obvious keywords associated with sustainability such as “poverty”, “hunger”, “climate” and “energy”. But one will also read about the term “gender equality” which is less frequently associated with sustainable development. So, one might ask himself: How is this related to the overall picture of sustainable development and how relevant is gender equality to the subject?

I’d like to approach the response to this question by drawing a mental picture: Imagine you are baking bread. The most important among all ingredients will be flour. Independent of the bread type and the recipe you have opted for you will most probably need a large quantity of flour. I would like to argue, however, that flour isn’t your most important ingredient. I would say that the most important ingredient when baking bread is yeast. Thought you only need a little bit of yeast, it is the one ingredient that will determine how big your bread will “grow” in the oven. And why do I talk about bread when the discussion truly is about sustainable development? Well, I think that if sustainable development was a loaf of bread and the UN goals were a recipe to bake that bread feminism would most definitely be part of that recipe. Feminism might be our yeast. I believe that though gender equality as one of many goals only makes a small part of the overall picture getting it right will determine to which extent we will be able to achieve or even exceed the targeted development.

Before diving any deeper into this conversation, it is important to understand what feminism is. Feminism is defined as the “the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes” (Oxford University Press, 2018). In my own words, I would say that a feminist is someone who believes that men and women are equally human, equally important and shall be treated the same way – not only by law but also in society’s perception and culture. In the Republic Democratic of Congo, however, the reality is still far from this.

About 70.2% of the population of the Democratic Republic of the Congo are women (Wikipedia, 2018). This represents almost three-quarters of the country’s 85.054297 million people ( The labor participation rate of women however only accounts for 49.8% of women (The World Bank Group, 2018). If one does the math this would mean that only 29.7 million women have a job. Questions that run through my own mind after doing this math are: Why is that? And how is a country supposed to grow if a major part of its population is not efficient?

Photo Credit: Marie Frechon/United Nations 

Based on my personal experience I believe that a big part of the reason behind this is the Congolese culture. Having Congolese heritage, myself I have been taught from a young age to aspire to things such as marriage and having a family. Education and career are often associated with men only and being an ambitious and thriving woman is perceived as bad by many aspects of the culture. Though there are many flaws in this type of thinking what makes me the most concerned is the fact that the country needs women to be active participants of the labor market in order to outgrow poverty.

Like in many African countries, women make up a bigger chunk of the population than men do. I believe that if those women were not conditioned into thinking that they have to dedicate their lives to motherhood and marriage only they could move the country forward which would not only help with combatting gender inequality but this shift in thinking could also allow for women to have more access to higher income, improved health and a better education. Imagine if all these women were teachers teaching the future generations about how they all, boys and girls, could become anything they wanted to be? Imagine if these women were doctors treating the many diseases which have disappeared in Western societies? Imagine if all these women were businesswomen helping the country get access to the financial markets and getting the funds to run their own businesses? Moving into this direction would help reach so many goals for a sustainable development of not only the Democratic Republic of the Congo but the world as a whole.

The biggest problem, however, is that the change needs to happen in people’s mind, people’s thinking, people’s culture and changing one’s culture is a task which I myself would not know how to tackle. But it is important to keep in mind that as people change culture changes with them. So, if we could start educating and informing people on the issue perhaps we could start a movement which would shift the world citizen’s culture. As Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie put very nicely ”Culture does not make people. People make culture. If it is true that the full humanity of women is not our culture, then we can and must make it our culture.”

Ngozi Adichie, C., 22014. We Should All Be Feminists, London: Fourth Estate.
Oxford University Press, 2018. Feminism. 
The World Bank Group, 2018. Labor force, female (% of total labor force).
Wikipedia,2018. Women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo., 2018. DR Congo Population (LIVE).




Supply chain of a t-shirt

Everyone has it in their dresser. Everyone wears it. The plain T-shirt.

Whenever we buy a t-shirt, we are participating in a chain of events far reaching consequences (Goodonyou, 2017). But just because it only costs CHF 7.90 we buy it without further ado. The idea of this blogpost is to go through the life cycle of a t-shirt and try to explain, why it is important to think first before buying another t-shirt only because it has a funny motive on it. Lastly it should give an overlook at possibilities on how to act more sustainable.

Production of raw materials

The journey starts at a cotton plantation. To manufacture t-shirts usually cotton is used. The cotton needs to be spun into a fibre, weaved into fabric and lastly dyed and finished before it can be sold in the shops. To meet the high demand of the consumers, cotton grows in over 80 countries and is using up approximately 35 million hectare of land which equals the size of Germany (öko-fair).
No other plant is as much beset with pests, fungi, insects etc. as the cotton-plant. So cotton-farmers see themselves forced to use different synthetic and toxic chemicals in order to prevent a situation like this and to maximize the harvest.
According to the Worldhealthorganization annually ten-thousands of farmworkers die from the consequences of pesticide-intoxication and groundwater pollution.
Cotton production uses up a deluge of water. In order to produce 300 gr. of cotton (enough for one t-shirt) 2’500 liters of water are needed. So if we assume that one person buys three t-shirts, the usage of water would be at 7’500 liters just for the cotton production. With this amount of water, we could fill 45 bathtubs.


Once the cotton is collected and spun into fibre, the journey goes on to the factories where it is weaved into fabric, dyed and sewed. The fast fashion is driven by low prices and fast changing styles. The way that they can keep the prices low is through underpayment and poor working conditions. 63% of the earnings per t-shirt go to the prevailing store, 10% to processing of the raw material, 5% to the transportation and just 1% to the workers in factories. Forced and child labour is often found in the clothing and textile industry. According to the International Labour Organization there are almost 21 million people who are victims of forced labour within the textile industry (Goodonyou, 2017). To get the used look of jeans, they use the method of sandblasting and a lot of bleach which is very harmful to health and causing deaths. Often they can’t even afford protective wear.

Garment workers across the world face a daily grind of excessive hours, forced overtime, lack of job security, poverty wages, denial of trade union rights, poor health, exhaustion, sexual harassment and hazardous working places. Even in factories which on the surface look clean and modern, workers are often deprived of their internationally-recognized basic rights (Clean Clothes Campaign, 2012)

Distribution / Transportation

The manufactured clothes need to be transported globally to retailers and consumers (Goodonyou, 2017). Roughly 1/3 of clothing exports are exported from China (NZZ, 2013). This shows how long the journey of one single t-shirt actually is. The transportation-process leads to increased pollution by producing carbon emissions. One t-shirt covers approximately 20’000 km before it ends up in our closet. Along the supply chain it produces on average 5.5 kg of CO2, so if we assume that a person buys 3 t-shirts per year that would aggregate 16.5 kg of CO2per year.

Fashion Stores

Fashion Houses like H&M and Zara are members of the “Better Cotton Initiative” which supports sustainable cotton production but in the same time allows genetic engineering and pesticides. The lack of transparency on the part of the fashion houses misleads the end consumer (allnatura). In 2014 Inditex sold 10 Mio. textiles which were certified as organic cotton. But the amount of organic cotton was only 5% – 50%– the rest was conventional cotton (NZZ, 2016).

How to act more sustainable:


The idea with this approach is to maintain in the circle and with that, save valuable ressources.

Bring back / Recycle: A lot of stores take old clothes back and reuse the fabric so that it stays in the lifecycle and doesn’t go to waste.

Upcycle: Upcycling allows us to transform something old in something new without spending a lot of money or waste valuable ressources. Instead of buying ripped jeans we could easily transform an old pair of jeans by cutting some holes without risking any lives.

Look for lables: The quality label bioRe marks textiles made of organic cotton, grown in a sustainable and fair manner in the organic cotton companies of the bioRe Foundation in India and Tanzania. Throughout the supply chain, the way all partners work is guided by five values: Organic cotton, Fair production, Ecological and skin-friendly, CO2-neutral, Retraceable back to farming (Remei AG).

Reduce: A simple thing to do is to just reduce the amount of clothes we buy. Let’s be honest: who needs a douzen of t-shirts hanging in the closet?