In this blog, I want to discuss the issue of global hunger. My decision to write on this important topic is motivated by the following facts. According to data gathered from the World Count website, a kid dies of hunger every ten seconds. Every year, 3.1 million children die as a result of malnutrition and famine (The World Counts, 2021). That is nearly half of all children under the age of five who die (The World Counts, 2021). The children perish as a result of a lack of fundamental nutrition in their bodies (The World Counts, 2021). Undernourishment affects 822 million people worldwide (The World Counts, 2021).Source of the pic: https://www.worldvision.ca/stories/food/world-hunger-facts-how-to-help
What is the problem?
World hunger refers to areas of the human population that do not have enough food on a regular basis (Owen, 2020). The number of hungry people is rising for the third year in a row, with more than 821 million people enduring chronic food insecurity as of 2017 (Owen, 2020). One out of every nine persons on the earth is affected (Owen, 2020). Poverty is the world’s leading cause of hunger (What Causes Hunger, 2021). The majority of hungry individuals are in extreme poverty, defined as having a daily income of $1.90 or less. Smallholder farmers in developing countries are the world’s largest group of people living in extreme poverty (What Causes Hunger, 2021).
Its influence on poverty and hunger has been immense in just a year’s time. More households are falling into extreme poverty as a result of job losses, supply chain disruptions, and the pandemic’s worldwide economic impact. Globally, the number of people who are food insecure is expected to nearly double by the end of the year, from 135 million at the start of 2020 to 265 million (What is the best way to solve world hunger?, 2021).
What can you do:
The resolutions to hunger are both simple and complicated. The treatments themselves are basic, with many of them being simple measures that may be performed immediately. Making that transformation endure and sustainable, as well as identifying the correct blend of solutions for each community, is more difficult. According to ZeroHunger by 2030, (2021) below you find 8 solutions that may help toward the hunger issue:
1. Climate Smart Agriculture.
2. Responding to Forced Migration.
3. Fostering Gender Equality.
4. Reducing Food Waste.
5. Disaster Risk Reduction.
6. Supporting Hygiene and Sanitation.
7. Controlling Infestations and Crop Infections.
8. Enhancing Crops with Biofortification.
In my opinion, every individual should help and think about this issue since we feel we are far away from it, but by educating ourselves about all the people dying just because they do not have enough food or money to feed their children. We are in the year 2021, and people still lack one of the most basic human rights: food. Individuals should take action by constantly teaching them about the issue and taking steps to assist them.
Theworldcounts.com. 2021. The World Counts. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 June 2021].
Owen, J., 2020. World hunger: facts & how to help. [online] Worldvision.ca. Available at: [Accessed 24 June 2021].
Bread for the World. 2021. What Causes Hunger. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 June 2021].
Concern Worldwide. 2021. #ZeroHunger by 2030. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 June 2021].
Concern Worldwide. 2021. What is the best way to solve world hunger?. [online] Available at: <https://www.concern.net/news/what-best-way-solve-world-hunger> [Accessed 24 June 2021].
The issue arises repeatedly: Our consumption of
plastic is excessive. We need to increasingly focus on sustainable methods of
consumption. However, which are the causes of the increased appeals in society?
Which opportunities are available in Switzerland?
What is the problem?
The Swiss demand for plastic is considerable. Almost
100 kg of plastic waste per capita is produced in Switzerland every year – more
than three times the European average.
More than 75% of the plastic consumed in Switzerland, totalling one million tonnes, is disposable packaging. The question of whether it makes more ecological sense to incinerate or recycle this packaging has been debated for years. Since 2000, waste is no longer disposed of in landfills anywhere in Switzerland. Waste that is not recycled is incinerated to generate energy (Feldges, 2021).
According to a report by the industry association, Switzerland recycles around 25% of its plastic waste, lagging well behind Norway and Sweden (over 40%) and Germany, the Czech Republic, Ireland, and Spain (over 35%).
To reduce plastic pollution, many African countries as well as Bangladesh and France have banned plastic bags. The UK is imposing a nationwide levy on plastic (Plastik in der Schweiz: Top beim Verbrauch, Flop beim Recycling, 2021).
By this summer, plastic microbeads used in products such as toothpaste or facial scrubs will be banned in several countries. And the European Union is working on a plastics strategy to ensure that by 2030 all plastic packaging used in its 28 member states can either be recycled or reused (Plastik in der Schweiz: Top beim Verbrauch, Flop beim Recycling, 2021).
Switzerland, which is not an EU member, has no such plans to reduce plastic waste (Plastik in der Schweiz: Top beim Verbrauch, Flop beim Recycling, 2021).
What can you do:
As long as Switzerland does not take greater care of the recycling problem and the consumption of pet bottles, plastic cans, and plastic bags is still heavily used by the population, a strong rethink must be demanded. Instead of buying a pet bottle or accepting a plastic cup when buying a coffee at Starbucks, buy a glass drinking bottle to reduce your consumption. Instead of using the small plastic bags for vegetables, buy the small cloth bags especially for vegetables and always bring a carrier bag or backpack with you. Instead of covering your food with cling film, buy reusable beeswax. With small changes, per capita consumption can be reduced.
Feldges, D., 2021. Der vermeintliche «Recycling-Weltmeister» Schweiz schneidet bei Plastikabfällen schlecht ab | NZZ. [online] Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Available at: <https://www.nzz.ch/wirtschaft/der-vermeintliche-recycling-weltmeister-schweiz-schneidet-bei-plastikabfaellen-schlecht-ab-ld.1528742#register> [Accessed 6 June 2021].
SWI swissinfo.ch. 2021. Plastik in der Schweiz: Top beim Verbrauch, Flop beim Recycling. [online] Available at: <https://www.swissinfo.ch/ger/ressourcen_plastik-in-der-schweiz–top-beim-verbrauch–flop-beim-recycling/44085230> [Accessed 6 June 2021].
What about sustainability in this topic and do these two things go together at all?
The topic of blockchain, crypto, mining, bitcoin and so on is more topical than ever these days. Through tweets about the cryptocurrency Bitcoin and its mining process by Elon Musk, the energy consumption of cryptocurrencies is also coming more and more into the focus of the general public. But what about the sustainability of cryptocurrencies?
I have also asked myself this again and again in recent times and would therefore like to work through the issue in this blog post. Because I ask myself whether there is sustainability in this area at all, which will probably be mandatory in the future.
What are cryptocurrencies?
Cryptocurrencies are digital or virtual currencies secured by cryptography, which makes them nearly impossible to counterfeit. Many cryptocurrencies are decentralized networks based on blockchain technology – a distributed ledger. A key feature of cryptocurrencies is that they are not, in principle, issued by any government authority, which makes them theoretically immune to government interference or manipulation. However, cryptocurrencies also bring with them the issue of energy-intensive mining.
What is mining?
Mining serves two purposes: To create new coins and to keep a log of all transactions of existing digital tokens. As with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, “miners” around the globe contribute their computing power to verify and add all transactions to a public ledger. This public ledger is known as the blockchain. Ether’s blockchain, for example, is called Ethereum. Once a transaction is added to the Ethereum blockchain, it cannot be modified or deleted, providing observers with a permanent and verifiable record. To keep a record of Ether exchanges, miners run a computer program that calculates millions of mathematical equations. But miners don’t solve all these math problems in a vacuum. They compete with miners around the world to be the first person to verify a block of transactions. Someone wins this race about every 13 seconds. And whoever wins gets two newly minted Ether. They also receive a transaction fee. (CNBC, 2021)
When I started looking into the topic of mining, I came across the environmental issue relatively quickly. According to a study published by researchers in the journal Nature Sustainability, 30.1 billion kilowatt hours of electricity were consumed for the so-called mining of Bitcoins alone by mid-2018. Denmark had an electricity consumption of 31.4 billion kilowatt hours in all of 2015. This brings home to one relatively impressively the problematic nature of mining and the conflict with sustainability. (FAZ, 2018)
While doing further research, I came across this exciting video, which I would like to show you
Despite the high consumption of energy, technology offers new opportunities precisely in the energy sector. Especially when it comes to the trade of renewable energies. In a survey in Austria, it was found that around one-fifth of the decision-makers surveyed believe in the disruptive potential of blockchain technology. (Springer, 2019) Central to a promising deployment in the energy transition is that technology development addresses the problem of energy intensity. Blockchain can accelerate energy transformation, but it cannot replace sustainable energy policies. (Germanwatch, 2018)
Although the use of blockchain technology may not be the most energy-efficient solution from a purely technical perspective, what matters is the energy savings that can be achieved through the use of the technology. The potential in the cross-industry and cross-sector use of IT is particularly great. This is because, for economic or political reasons, it is often not possible to implement a central, digital platform in these scenarios. When used, it can be assumed that the associated automation of processes can save resources not only from a financial perspective, but also from an energy perspective. Here, it is the task of business informatics to identify the existing potential for energy savings and climate protection. The prerequisite for this is that the consumption of resources (e.g., through a CO2 tax) is priced in such a way that no ecologically harmful distortions occur and therefore the economic incentive mechanisms promote the development of such solutions. Finally, at this point, further research in this area is encouraged. (Springer, 2020)
Central to greater sustainability is moving from the proof-of-work to the proof-of-stake consensus method. This would drastically reduce power consumption. However, the proof-of-stake method does not meet the same safety requirements. Combinations of proof-of-work and proof-of-stake can, in perspective, fulfill the advantages of both methods and reduce energy consumption. (Germanwatch, 2018)
In my opinion, we should definitely give this extremely exciting technology a chance to develop. It might just offer a chance for sustainable developments at the end of the day. Besides, the current financial system is not very sustainable either. In the end, as with many things in life, it will be a matter of weighing up the pros and cons. On the one hand the sustainability problem and on the other hand the secure system with limited quantity. I’m curious to see what research will find out and how the whole thing will develop in the future.
Chancen und Risiken der Blockchain für die Energiewende, 2018
Hold on, close your eyes and try to remember the last night you were able to see the stars shining over you. Do you remember? Well, if it was not long ago, you should call yourself happy and privileged. In metropoles like New York, Paris and London, you will probably not have the possibility of seeing them, or you won’t see them as bright as you used to. I love to be in huge cities but thinking about the biodiversity there and the problems they have caused by the light pollution I can say I prefer keeping it for holidays.
In fact, light pollution is a driver of insects extinction. The presence of artificial light disturbs photosynthesis, which is essential for the growth of plants, and so also has an impact on insects and animals. Not only does it impact nature, insects or animals light pollution also harms human health.
There are many easily made solutions regarding this problem. I have to say, in Switzerland, a lot has been done regarding this issue. I will write down 3 possible answers regarding our everyday life, which can be done by every one of us.
First, reduce the use of decorative lighting during day and night. If you plan a BBQ, try to use a fire or candles to make light. It has more charm, but it is not easy to enlighten the place like it is daylight. By using these alternatives, you first create a wonderful ambience but also conserve energy!
Second, if you have a garden and you really want to use lights there use LED lights which is facing directly downwards. As more light goes off to the sky, it gets more dangerous for birds to recognize whether it is daylight or night.
A third easy solution would be to use a fancy light system that goes on when someone is walking towards your house. You don’t need to have an always shining light during the night. Be aware of your personal usage of energy and try to reduce it to the max.
Let’s now take a look at the SDG Goals referring to light pollution.
The inevitable part of the issue is the 7th UN SDG Goal called Affordable and Clean Energy. By using LED lights and the modern technology of automatisme, you are going in the right direction.
Another SDG Goal, which has to do with the community, is the 12th UN SDG Goal called Responsible Consumption and Production. The other thing regarding your usage would be to check which energy model you personally have. Is it sustainable, or do you still go with atomic energy? Only changing the bulbs does not make you a sustainable user of energy. So try to continue your effort by investing in sustainable energy!
Compared to this issue, the last UN SDG Goals I will present is the 15th Goal called Life on Land. I refer this one to all the insects, animals even migrating birds we disturb by our usage of lights during the night. We all should stand together and find a way to live our lives without worrying about biodiversity.
We may be privileged that in Switzerland, our state tries to do as much as possible to reduce unsustainable behaviours. Let’s try to expand this understanding we may have here to communities that are not informed about these challenges.
Last month I had a YouTube Video in my recommendations and just with the name alone, it had piqued my interest:
The video talks about 5 points that, when bringing up the topic of environmental impact of meat, often get talked about.
The video was met with heavy criticism from the vegan/vegetarian community, calling out certain flaws and inconsistencies within the argumentation of the video:
Let’s take one of the video’s criticisms (water consumption for meat production) and compare both the points made in the original video and in the Debunked video.
Fresh water consumption in the agricultural sector
The video states that 70% of the used ground water worldwide is used on irrigating crops. “53% of the groundwater for crops goes to rice, wheat and cotton. “(https://doi.org/10.1038/nature21403). The video then compares the effectiveness and the nutritional values of beef meat and rice, saying that, compared to the usage of water, beef has more nutrients and is more efficient in delivering the human body with proteins, vitamins and minerals than rice. They also use the almond plantations in California as an example for a plant with heavy ground water usage. (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2017.12.063)
Both sides argue with evidence and scientific facts that support their claims and ideologies. The debate between both sides is very emotional and heated. No solution or middle ground between both parties can be achieved.
In most of the debates centered around the environmental impact of the meat production cycle, the main point that doesn’t get talked about is the fact that the current agricultural system in the U.S is inherently flawed and unsustainable at its core.
Soils get dried up and ground water gets used extensively due to the lack of raining water. The climate conditions for California may be excellent due to the warm temperatures but the amount of rain per year leaves a lot to be desired. Extensive monocultural agricultures and their environmental impact have been the subject of many scientific papers and research over the last 50 years. The general consensus in this research area is that, at least in the U.S, the agricultural land and its soil have to be evaluated as to where the mix between climate (temperature and amount of rainfall per year) and soil properties (types of materials in the soil) can be used as optimally as possible to be less dependent on ground water, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. The long term stabilization of the surrounding ecosystems is the goal.
Altieri and Nicholls (2001): “Evidence also shows that the very nature of the agricultural structure and prevailing policies in a capitalist […] In turn, lack of rotations and diversification take away key self-regulating mechanisms, turning monocultures into highly vulnerable agroecosystems dependent on high chemical inputs (Gliessman 1997).”
Soil diversity is the keyword of the solution. Dynamic crop rotations and local farmers with a large number of different livestock (Cows, Sheep, Chickens etc.) that work with soil that was been classified as “properly suited for agricultural purposes” can be the way to a more sustainable agricultural system.
Brussaard, de Ruiter and Brown (2007): “Under resource limitation both water and nutrient use efficiencies are increased in the presence of (burrowing and mulch-processing) soil fauna and associated with increased plant and mycorrhizal diversities and aboveground production. With higher functional dissimilarity of the soil fauna, the net diversity effect on ecosystem processes is higher. This will be an important finding in explaining the contribution of soil biodiversity to the efficiency of resource use, which is still to be substantiated.”
How can sustainable agriculture be achieved?
A good example for a more sustainable agricultural system is the avocado production in the Dominican Republic where small, local farmers incorporate their avocado trees into the already existing rainforest to fully profit from the heavy rainfall and the very nutritious soil of the region. With regular plantation rotations, the nutrient balance of the soil is stable. The end product needs less ground water and is eco-friendlier than its counterparts from Peru, Mexico or Spain. A video from the german TV channel ZDF about the avocado production is linked below for those interested (The video is in german only).
So what is the conclusion of our analysis? Firstly, both sides of the meat consumption discussion have to acknowledge that the real problem with sustainable agriculture is way bigger than just deciding to go vegetarian / vegan. The modern veganism / vegetarianism of today (aside from religious or health reasons) comes from the luxury of having the choice to say no to meat, having cheap meat overflow the market. Think of it that way: Would you stop driving your car or traveling in general if the prices for fuel or the tickets for said transportation method were too expensive?
The same change of habit would happen, if the prices for current staples of the vegetarian / vegan cuisine would be too high for the middle class.
The agricultural system of the U.S is flawed. The focus on profit and mass production made monocultures and extensive usage of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides the norm for most farmers. Rather than cultivating the most water efficient plant, the solution is to evaluate if the land is even suitable for agricultural usage. Then supply the soil with a diverse crop rotation and the optimal crops for the ecosystem of the region. Monocultures have and never will work, that’s why we don’t have them in our nature. But in a capitalistic society where profit and power are the main forces behind decisions, no-one wants to sacrifice or lower their current standard of living on purpose.
What I’ve learned: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGG-A80Tl5g (Accessed 25 May 2021)
Mic the Vegan: https://youtu.be/G44CDBdC8CA (Accessed 26 May 2021)
ZDF besseresser: https://youtu.be/GCyUejTEEzg (Accessed 29 May 2021)
Dalin, C., Wada, Y., Kastner, T. et al. Groundwater depletion embedded in international food trade. Nature 543, 700–704 (2017). Available: https://doi.org/10.1038/nature21403 [Accessed 26 May 2021]
Fulton, J., Norton, M., Shilling, F. Water-indexed benefits and impacts of California almonds. Ecological Indicators Volume 96, Part 1, Pages 711-717 (January 2019). Available: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2017.12.063 [Accessed 26 May 2021]
ourselves through many different things and one of them is clearly fashion.
Through clothes we can express our character and wearing certain brands or
styles allows us to show others what we are into, what kind of mindset we have.
For some years it has become more and more of a trend to buy secondhand
clothes. This movement plays an important part in regards of sustainability as
fast fashion has a huge impact on the environment. Studies have shown that fast
fashion is responsible for almost a tenth of all greenhouse gas emissions
worldwide. To put this into perspective, this is almost as much as the European
Union produces(Quantis, 2018).
impact is manly caused from apparel, shoes are less of a problem. The main
problem of fast fashion is that it requires big amounts of water throughout the
production(Niinimäki et al., 2020 S. 189). Cotton is
widely used in all sorts of clothes and requires fair amounts of water to grow.
Further water is used in the dyeing process, which is also a big contributor to
the global water pollution(Quantis, 2018). Over the last forty years the
consumption of clothes has more than doubled(Garside M, n.d.). This mainly has to do with globalization.
Companies can outsource production to countries with lower wages for workers
and thus save money. The same principle applies to the materials that are used
in production. The supply chain is typically vertical disintegrated – this allows
for companies to have different departments each specialized on one process of the
production. This practice has the downside that downstream manufacturers, as
well as consumers, often can not tell where the raw materials originated(Niinimäki et al., 2020 S. 190).
is therefore the whole supply chain in itself. The problem, as in any
problematic market, is demand. First world countries have an extremely high
demand for the current garments. In addition, the companies design ever larger
collections and bring to the market. The cheap prices attract the customers.
This knows one probably also from own experiences. One buys a garment for a
particular occasion or to complement an outfit and then wears it only to
individual or one occasion. While one could actually assume that it is common
sense to bring his no longer needed clothes in a clothing collection or a
thrift store, this is unfortunately often not the case. Researchers found out
that in America approximately forty kilograms of textile waste is generated,
per Person and year(Pensupa et al., 2017). This clearly shows that,
regarding recycling, there is still a lot of potential.
the best possible scenario would be that people would just stop buying clothes,
they don’t need this isn’t very likely to happen, at least not in the near
future. There are however new solutions aside from thrift stores and clothing
collections. Clothing libraries might be the next big thing for a more
sustainable fashion market. People could lend clothes much the same way as they
would books in a normal library. This allows for people to wear that exact piece
they need for the evening without the risk of never using it again and
eventually throwing it out. While I personally am a bit sceptic if such a model
can thrive, I really hope it does. And I really hope at least you, dear reader,
are gonna ask yourself if you really need those new jeans when browsing
Niinimäki, K., Peters, G.,
Dahlbo, H., Perry, P., Rissanen, T., & Gwilt, A. (2020). The environmental price of fast fashion. Nature Reviews Earth &
Environment, 1(4), 189–200. https://doi.org/10.1038/s43017-020-0039-9
Pensupa, N., Leu, S.-Y., Hu, Y., Du, C., Liu, H., Jing, H., Wang, H.,
& Lin, C. S. K. (2017). Recent Trends in Sustainable Textile Waste
Recycling Methods: Current Situation and Future Prospects. Topics in
Current Chemistry, 375(5), 76. https://doi.org/10.1007/s41061-017-0165-0
Rising sea levels, increased flooding, drought and water shortages are a few of many causes of climate change. The South Indian metropole Chennai with 11 million inhabitants is affected with all the climate change causes mentioned above.
In 2019, Chennai belonged to the first major cities in the world which ran out of water, trucking in 10 million litres a day to hydrate the population of Chennai. On 19th June 2019, the city officials declared that “Day Zero”, the day when almost no water is left and when the four main reservoirs supplying water had run dry.
The city is intersected by four main rivers (reservoirs) which are heavily polluted and drain into the Bay of Bengal. This has been a trading link connecting the near far east and a gateway to South India.
The main reason for Chennai’s water crisis is poor planning. While the city grew, vast areas of the surrounding floodplain disappeared including lakes and ponds, e.g. the construction of the IT corridor in 2008, which took 230 square km marshland. It is predicted that in 2030, 60% of the ground water will be degraded. At the same time, the flooding increased.
Water scarcity and floods have the same cause: Urbanisation, mismanagement of precious natural resources, unplanned construction in an unfavourable area and lack of rainwater storage mechanisms.
Due to the crisis, many social conflicts incurred like unfair share of waters or violation during replenishment. The population is relying on government tankers for the access to clean water. Those tanker-waters has quadrupled the price of water due to the scarcity. In addition, usually each households gets four small drums of water, but due to the crisis everyone has to share them. Most of the population also pay a high amount for private companies to supply water to their homes.
Climate change activists have long argues that this crisis will be an important political discussion of the 21st century. Today, according to the United Nations, ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all is the goal number 6 (SDG, 2021).
In the future there are several possibilities to avoid extreme water scarcity. One of them is to increase wastewater reusing and recycling to satisfy Chennai’s demand of water. Which means to launch more desalination plants to tackle the water crisis and to improve the water recycling.
Another solution, which is linked to the solution above, could be more rainwater harvesting, which means to “save” rainwater especially for planting, pasture improvement and also to provide drinking water.
In the future, the Indian government must be aware about the value of scarce resources and must mindfully plan further construction to avoid the consequences and keep implementing new solutions.
The Economic Times, How Chennai, one of the world’s wettest major cities, ran out of water, 2021. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/how-chennai-one-of-the-worlds-wettest-major-cities-ran-out-of-water/articleshow/80680182.cms?from=mdr [Accessed 06.06.2021]
DownToEarth, Chennai water crisis: A wake-up call for Indian cities, 2019. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/water/chennai-water-crisis-a-wake-up-call-for-indian-cities-66024 [Accessed 06.06.2021]
Mongabay, Chennai water crisis once again exposes the city’s climate vulnerability, 2019. https://india.mongabay.com/2019/06/chennai-water-crisis-once-again-exposes-the-citys-climate-vulnerability/ [Accessed 06.06.2021]
The new Indian express, Chennai’s water crisis is man-made, 2019. https://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/chennai/2019/jun/26/chennais-water-crisis-is-man-made-1995588.html [Accessed 06.06.2021]
United Nations, 2021. https://sdgs.un.org/goals/goal6 [Accessed 06.06.2021]
BBC News, Chennai water crisis: We can’t do anything, 2019. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-48674775 [Accessed 06.06.2021]
Water Technology, Minjur Desalination Plant, Tamil Nadu, India, year unknown. https://www.water-technology.net/projects/minjurdesalination/ [Accessed 06.06.2021]
A word that you have surely heard several
times. Maybe you watched a documentary on Netflix or read a blog entry? But
what is minimalism exactly?
Minimalism has traditionally been an art movement that began in the 1960s and early 1970s. But in the meantime, the terminology has grown to mean more than that.
A minimalist lifestyle is the process of identifying what is essential in your life and having the courage to eliminate the rest. When you remove the unnecessary, you free up your time and capacity to focus on the things that truly matter in your life. Less is more.
Our society always wants more and always has to
have the latest edition of everything. H&M is launching a new collection
with a famous designer? There’s bound to be a piece you have to have! The new
iPhone was launched? Everyone says that it’s indispensable!
But does it really make us happy to have one more thing? Will this new piece of clothing or the new mobile phone really change our lives for the better? Is what we consider a given in today’s consumer society, namely more → success → security, really the case?
There must be more to life than having everything!
Rather the opposite is the case: A 2010 study analyzed 30 middle-class dual-income families and showed a direct correlation between cluttered and more stressful homes and the women of the family’s high cortisol level. Cortisol, also called the ‘stress-hormone’, helps (in small doses) regulate the blood pressure and blood sugar level. But high doses of cortisol can, among other things, lead to headaches, increased blood pressure, anxiety or depression. Good reasons, therefore, to rethink your consumer behavior and reassess your priorities in life.
The basic idea of Minimalism is that material
things do not make us happy, but rather burden us. We should liberate ourselves
from things so that we feel freer and have time for the really important things,
such spending time with our family and friends.
Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important – so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.
Since the end of 2020, I have been exploring minimalism and have already adapted my lifestyle quite a bit. I don’t easily buy new things anymore and if I have the feeling that I really need something, I first spend some time analyzing different options and do research about the materials and the production. Thanks to this new attitude and more conscious shopping, I came across the term ‘fast fashion’ at the beginning of the year (read more about fast fashion here). I realized that – because of minimalism – I have subconsciously become more sustainable.
Using the example of jeans, I will illustrate the benefits of minimalism on sustainability: During the production of a pair of jeans, chemicals that are used for the manufacturing process are released. These do not only poison and destroy the environment, but also harm the health of the workers. Around 35% of the annual cotton production is used for jeans, with 10,000 liters of water used for one kilo of cotton. Cotton is made more resistant with the help of chemicals and pesticides – these damages and destroy the environment.
If I no longer buy 5 pairs of jeans per year, but only one pair, I already save about 32’000 liters of water – not to mention the chemicals used in production, cotton farming and the unspeakable labor conditions. Notice that we are talking about 32,000 liters of water that one person can save in one year just by reducing the number of bought jeans to the amount that one actually wears. Because let’s face it, about half of the clothes we own we almost never or even never wear.
Now imagine applying this mindset to each area of your life. Buy less, but in a considered way. You can imagine the impact that such a lifestyle change would have on the environment if you could already save over 32’000 liters of water on only your jeans…
There is a great need for the introduction of new values in our society, where bigger is not necessarily better, where slower can be faster, and where less can be more.
Dealing with the subjects of minimalism and sustainability has brought up a lot of questions for me:
Do things (objects) really make me happy?
Why do we always want to have the newest stuff?
Why do we spend money on so many unnecessary things?
Why do we think that more is better?
Perhaps it would not only help us to be more
sustainable, but also help ourselves to think about why we depend so much on
objects. Why we think that we can buy happiness in the form of a piece of
clothing, a mobile phone, shoes or technical gadget.
Does that mean that minimalism is the ultimate solution for sustainable living? Certainly not… But it is one way of changing your life in the right direction and make a difference.
Theminimalistvegan.com. What is minimalism?. Online: https://theminimalistvegan.com/what-is-minimalism/ (Accessed: 19.03.2021)
Darby E. Saxbe, Rena Repetti. No place like home: home tours correlate with daily patterns of mood and cortisol. 2010. Online: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19934011/ (Accessed: 06.06.2021)
PremierHealth. Beware High Levels of Cortisol, the Stress Hormone. 2017. Online: https://www.premierhealth.com/your-health/articles/women-wisdom-wellness-/beware-high-levels-of-cortisol-the-stress-hormone (Accessed: 06.06.2021)
Theminimalists.com. What Is Minimalism?. Online: https://www.theminimalists.com/minimalism/ (Accessed: 19.03.2021)
Goodonyou. What is Fast Fashion?. 2020. Online: https://goodonyou.eco/what-is-fast-fashion/ (Accessed: 19.03.2021)
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think of chocolate, I see people, usually children like my 3-year-old son,
happily and enjoyably biting into a piece of chocolate and enjoying life. The
child from the “Kinder Schokolade” packaging or from the “Kinder
Pingui” advertisement capture this very well. Chocolate is seen as something
unhealthy, but still as something beautiful and a sweetener of life.
I won’t go into the way cocoa is grown, including the clearing of rainforests, destruction of biodiversity, or that unsustainable cocoa farming leaves the soil unusable (Mighty Earth, 2021). It’s much more about a matter of the heart for me, especially as a father. It’s about child labour, specifically child slave labour in relation to cocoa. But what is considered child labour? According to Unicef, child labour is defined as working full time or too many hours a day at too young age and keeping the child from attending school. However, it is not considered child labour when children spend weekends helping their parents with their work, in this case, for example, harvesting cocoa. (Unicef, 2021)
Chocolate and child labour
Côte d’Ivoire is one of the world’s largest cocoa producers, producing 46% of the world’s traded cocoa (Kakaoplattform, 2021). The cocoa is not grown by corporations, but by small farms, mostly small family farms, which sell their cocoa to trading posts, which sell them to middlemen for export. A cocoa farmer earns on average 1 Euro per day, which is not enough for the family. As a result, the parents cannot send their children to school and they have to help their parents full time on the plantation. According to an interview with Public eye (SRF, 2019), 250’000 children are affected by child labour in West Africa. Of these, 10’000 are considered child slaves. The International Institut of Tropical Agriculture stated in 2002, that 625’000 children were involved in at least one aspect of cocoa production in Côte d’Ivoire, and of those, 12’000 children had no local family connection (IIAT 2002, Page ). Most of the child laborers are believed to be below the age of 14 (Boas M., 2006, P. 14). Almost all of these children have never had a piece of chocolate themselves.
The problem of supply chains and labels like Fairtrade or UTZ
Fairtrade and UTZ stand for advocating fair working conditions, fair pay and against child labour. However, due to the supply chains in Côte d’Ivoire, this is difficult to control. One trading post buys the cocoa beans from over 40 legal as well as illegal farmers, opens the bags, mixes the beans and sells them on to a middleman. For these certified middlemen or their customers, it is therefore not possible to determine the origin of the cocoa beans and to ensure that they come from a plantation where no child labour or even child slave labour is practiced. Companies like Cargill try to prevent this by means of contractual cooperative certified networks, but due to the circumstances in Côte d’Ivoire this is difficult to achieve (ZDF, 2019). According to Mighty Earth, traceability is the main key to fighting this problem.
Also, the World Cocoa Foundation decided to put an end to child labour as early as 2001. However, 20 years later the problem still exists.
Are there any good examples?
Many companies that want to source fair trade cocoa therefore switch to Ghana, as they are already more advanced in the area of child labour. Cargill advertises the advanced technology in Ghana in the area of cocoa traceability as well validation (Cargill, 2021).
Companies like Tony’s Chocolonely from the netherlands also rely exclusively on cocoa that can be traced back to the farmer and thus checked to see if there is child labour or even child slave labour in the cocoa beans (Tony’s Chocolonely, 2021). They are also the manufacturers for the German brand Jokolade. However, the collaboration with Barry Callebaut of Tonys has come under criticism as they cannot guarantee 100% child and slave labour free products.
net sales of chocolate were around 100 million euros, of which only 6% went to
cocoa farmers. To improve the average wage of 1 euro per day, Ghana and Côte
d’Ivoire, which together produce 63% of the world’s cocoa, joined forces in
2019 to achieve a 30% wage increase among farmers. For farmers, a fair cocoa
price leads to the ability to send their children to school and avoid child
As the Mighty Earth organization has also made clear, product traceability is essential to combating such problems. Labels such as Fairtrade or UTZ are worthless if the origin of the cocoa bean is not clear and thus it can also be ensured that the wrong behavior is not being practiced.
Personal closing thoughts
my family still partly consumes products that contain cocoa, which is
guaranteed to contain child slave labour, I not only see my happy son sitting
on a park bench and delightfully biting into the chocolate, but also the
children who have to work without any perspective and partly far away from
their families, without ever seeing their relatives again, and I ask myself
again and again how we can tolerate such a thing.
Boas M. (2006). “Child labour and cocoa production in West Africa – The case of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana” Fafo, Norway: ISBN 82-7422-530-9
I sit on the beach and enjoy the sun. I hear the beautiful sound of the sea, which calms me, and decide to go for a swim. Once in the water, I let myself float a little. Suddenly I feel something on my arm. I am startled and open my eyes. It’s an empty, dirty plastic bottle that the water has washed up against me. I look at it in disgust and wonder where it came from. This is not the first time I have noticed something like this in the sea. I leave the water angry and think to myself, “Is it no longer possible to swim without plastic?!”.
Plastic pollution of the sea is indeed becoming a bigger and bigger problem. Incorrectly disposed waste, such as plastic bottles, plastic bags, or even old shoes, always ends up in the sea sooner or later. Plastic is the biggest problem because it is not biodegradable. About 86 million tonnes of plastic are already floating in our oceans. Between 4.8 and 12.7 million tonnes are added every year. (WWF, o.D.) Most of the plastic enters the sea in Asia. Globally, 10 rivers can be identified as sources for 90% of the plastic that enters the oceans through rivers. Eight of these ten rivers are in Asia. For example, the Jangste River alone, which flows through Asia, carries about 33,000 tonnes of plastic into the ocean every year. (Journal für Didaktik der Naturwissenschaften und der Mathematik, 2019)
At the moment, it is not us humans who are feeling the effects, but the animal’s dependent on the sea. Plastic often ends up in the stomachs of fish, sea turtles, whales and seagulls. Since plastic is not degradable, the rubbish gets stuck in the animals’ throat, for example, or clogs their digestive tracts. Consequently, they suffocate, or their food intake is blocked. Due to the plastic, young animals often get skin irritations or even get deformed in the course of growth due to the plastic. The plastic disrupts the marine food chain.
Besides the land plastic, fishing also contributes to the plastic pollution of the oceans. Many fishing nets are lost at sea or fishermen deliberately throw the broken nets back into the water. These fishing nets are dangerous for the animals too. They get tangled in them and mammals like whales and dolphins drown. (WWF, o.D.)
Apart from plastic fishing nets, fishing also has other environmentally damaging characteristics. Whilst it is hard to define sustainable fishing itself, three most recognizable problems of unsustainable fishing are: large bycatch, overfishing and illegal fishing. (Delphinschutz.org, 2012)
One point I would like to comment on briefly is bycatch, as I think that only a few people know this problem. Bycatch is, for example, when fishing specifically for tuna, the vessels throw all the other fish of the catch back into the sea. In the process, most of the fish die or are seriously injured. Exact figures of the amount of bycatch are not known. However, Greenpeace estimates several million sharks and rays, 250,000 sea turtles, more than 300,000 whales and cetaceans, and a few million seabirds per year are harmed in that way. In shrimp fishing, it is said that as much as 80% is pure bycatch. (Greenpeace, o.D.) However, the bycatch is not thrown back into the sea everywhere. Norway, for example, has legislated that the entire catch must be returned to the harbour. The EU, on the other hand, even has a bycatch ban – bycatch must be thrown overboard. (BMELV, 2016) You don’t have to think long to come to the conclusion that recycling the bycatch is much more environmentally conscious and sustainable. Therefore, it is not surprising that sustainability organisations pay attention to the issue.
One of the most well-known certification organisations for sustainable fishing is the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). You may have even seen it in the supermarket. After all, 10% of the fish caught in 2015 came from MSC fisheries. To get the seal, three criteria are looked at;
The state of fish stocks
The impact of fishing on the marine environment
The fisheries management systems
(Karlowski, MSC Annual Report, 2016)
But there is a fundamental problem with the incentives in the labelling process. The labelling is economically dependent on the fishers, for example the Netflix documentary “Seaspiracy” address precisely this issue. To explore this topic in more detail is beyond the scope of this blog. I just strongly recommend you watch the Netflix documentary “Seaspiracy”, which will give you a deeper insight.
Other pollution components
In addition, pesticides, fertilisers, and other chemicals pollute the sea. Nowadays, almost every living thing under water is contaminated with chemicals. The reason for this is that in the past it was assumed that the oceans could withstand and dilute the substances, and thus almost everything was deliberately disposed of in the sea. Even chemical weapons and radioactive waste ended up in the oceans. In 1972, a landfill agreement was finally reached. However, the sea is still struggling with the consequences of that time. Oil is another factor threatening the sea and its inhabitants. You have probably heard of some oil spills at sea, such as the incident on the Deepwater Horizon oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico. Although the incident happened over 10 years ago, the marine ecosystem is still struggling. For animals, such as penguins, the oil is dangerous because it sticks to their feathers and disables their biological functionality. (See the picture below). (WWF, o.D.)
Sometimes the smallest things are the biggest problem
Another topic that is essential to the issue of marine pollution is microplastics. You’ve surely heard about it before. Microplastics are pieces of plastic that are smaller than 5mm. There are two types of microplastic – firstly, there is industrial microplastic, which is already produced in such small quantities, and secondly, there is microplastic, which is produced by the decomposition of larger pieces of plastic. Wind, waves, sun, salt and also bacteria play a role in this.
Of the primary microplastic in the sea, over a third comes from synthetic clothing. Particles are dissolved by the washing process and enter the oceans via washing machines. The problem is that sewage treatment plants are not yet able to filter out these particles, or at least not enough of them. At 28%, the second largest factor of industrial microplastics in the ocean is tyre wear. The abrasion first accumulates on the roads. When it rains, the microplastic is then carried further. Finally, it ends up directly or indirectly in the ocean. Other causes include particulate matter from cities, road markings, marine paints, cosmetics and plastic pellets. (Other origins of industrial microplastics can be seen in the graphic)
The consequences of microplastics on animals are serious. This not only
affects the animals we usually hear about, such as sea turtles or dolphins, but
also the small creatures. Among them is also the plankton. Plankton refers to
all organisms floating in free water with no or only very little movement of
their own. What is significant here is that all living creatures under water ,
directly or indirectly, eat this plankton and are dependent on it. Now when
animals want to eat plankton, they confuse it with microplastic. The animals
cannot distinguish these two things. In addition, the plankton itself also
absorbs microplastics. As early as 1998, studies have shown that there are six
times more microplastics than plankton floating in the sea. As underwater
animals ingest microplastics, pollutants and toxins enter their organisms.
The exact implications on marine life are currently unclear, as the field is highly complex, and
research is only just beginning to take off. One thing is certain, however, and
that is that this is certainly not healthy for the animals. In the case of
mussels, for example, initial findings have shown that microplastics and the
associated pollutants and toxins lead to higher mortality.
A big difference to “normal” plastic in the sea is that microplastic can have a direct impact on us humans. The exact consequences are not yet 100% certain, because here too research is only just beginning. There are, however, initial studies to prove that microplastics have been found in foods such as honey or sugar. The impact of ingesting such microplastics and the associated pollutants and toxins are largely unexplored.
(Journal für Didaktik der Naturwissenschaften und der Mathematik (P/S), 2019)
Importance of the sea
But why is marine pollution so bad for the planet? The ocean and its inhabitants are an especially important organism. One of the most important creatures here are the whales. This is because whales promote the production of phytoplankton, and this phytoplankton is responsible for a full 50% of oxygen production. If there were no more whales, less oxygen would be produced, which would ultimately have serious consequences not only for the environment but also for us humans. (oceancare.org, 2020)
You see the ocean is polluted by many different components – plastic, pesticides, dead bycatch and microplastics are just a few of them. Unfortunately, there is no easy solution to marine pollution, but small changes can help, such as disposing of plastic properly, eating only local fish, or the next time you go on a beach holiday, taking a day to pick up rubbish lying around the sea. Be mindful so that the next time you go to the seaside, you don’t find a plastic bottle floating in your path.