Objective: To highlight how people can eat better and lighter and show creative initiatives already underway to explore and explode sustainability.
29 September 2020
  • Sustainable Lifestyles and Education

'Changing how and what we eat: Who can lead the way?' is the sixth webinar from the broader series: ‘Sustainable Living 1.5: Empowering People to live better and lighter’.

Register here

Date: 15 October 2020 

Time: 17.00 - 18.30 Central Eastern Time

Context: Food brings us together. To survive, celebrate, connect and express our identity. With increasing concerns for the equity, health and sustainability impacts of food systems – magnified in the COVID-19 context – it’s time to take action. Swapping proteins, using all our food and growing our own are impactful ways we can address climate change, biodiversity, health and food security as an individual.

The webinar explores creative initiatives and approaches to inspire and help unleash needed energy for action. Speakers will discuss: 1. How can we take action for sustainable food systems as individuals? 2. How has the COVID context affected behaviours and created opportunities for change? 3. What motivates effective (more sustainable) behaviours? 4. What new forms of engagement are changing the landscape?


17.00-17.05 - Welcome to the Living Better and Lighter Series – Garrette Clark, UNEP

17.05-17.10 -The UN Food Systems Summit and the role of consumers -- James Lomax, Sustainable Food Systems and Agriculture Programme Officer, UNEP

17.10-17.25 - The impact of food choices on climate change at individual and country level -- Crystal Chissell, Vice President, Operations & Engagement, Project Drawdown

17.25-17.40 How food education creates lifelong sustainable food behaviours -- Angela McKee-Brown, Executive Director, The Edible Schoolyard Project

17.40-17.55 - Changing food waste behaviours and the COVID moment -- Richard Swannell, Development Director, WRAP

17.55-18.10 Leaps towards plant-rich diets in 2020 –Agnieszka de Sousa, Food & Agriculture Correspondent, Bloomberg News

18.10-18.30 - Moderated discussion and conclusions

Key messages from webinar #6 

Everyday, we all get up in the morning and make choices that have impacts on the world around us. Deciding what to put on our plates can have a huge impact on our climate and environment. To make sure there is enough safe, healthy and affordable food for everyone, we need to make significant changes to our food system, as well as in the way we eat and how we make food! The sixth webinar from the broader webinar series Sustainable Living 1.5: Empowering people to live better and lighter invited experts panelists to explore how people can eat better and lighter and what actions are necessary to shift towards a more sustainable food system.

1. The impact of food choices on climate change at individual and country level

The first panelist, Crystal Chissell (Vice President, Operations & Engagement, Project Drawdown) introduced the audience to Project Drawdown, an organization that seeks to help the world reach “Drawdown”— the future point in time when levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and start to steadily decline. To advance climate solutions, it’s important to understand the sources of emissions as well as nature’s means of rebalancing the climate system. From burning fossil fuels for electricity, mobility or heating, to manufacturing cement and steel or clearing forests and degrading eco-systems, all these activities emit green-house gases into the air. But agriculture, land use and food production are - to a great extent - responsible for green-house gases emissions and thus, there is incredible potential within the food sector to reduce these emissions in the atmosphere. One solution to bring food related emissions down is to minimize food waste from all stages of production, distribution, retail, and consumption as roughly a third of the world’s food is never eaten! If 50 per cent of global food waste is reduced by 2050 - through diverted agricultural production, avoided land conversion and ecosystem protection - we could achieve a reduction of the equivalent of over 87 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions. Moreover, reducing food waste can also contribute to eliminating hunger by diverting food wastage to feed undernourished people. Another interesting insight is that if 50 percent of the world’s population adopts a healthy diet with an average of 2,250 calories per day, reduces meat consumption and purchases locally produced food, we could avoid the equivalent of over 65 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions. Hence, reducing food waste from all stages of production, distribution, retail, and consumption as well as shifting to healthy, plant-rich diets are among the most impactful climate solutions!

2. How food education creates lifelong sustainable food behaviours

The second speaker, Angela McKee-Brown (Executive Director, The Edible Schoolyard Project) explained why food education is important and how it can create lifelong sustainable food behaviors. Founded by Chef and Owner of Chez Panisse Restaurant, Alice Waters, the Edible Schoolyard Project aims to transform the health of children/students by designing hands-on educational experiences in the garden, kitchen, and cafeteria. On the one hand, experiences of growing and cooking food helps students to understand the time and work that goes into the food they eat. On the other hand, it supports students to cherish, appreciate, and value food as it is so much more than simply what is on the table! Students begin to learn about food in all its dimensions and this learning experience is key as adolescence is a time when youth are firming up their identities and values. By supporting student’s health and sustainability, but also by building connections in their communities and family, amplifying their experiences and stories and providing a hands-on program for all learners, Edible Education shows how leaning about food can be joyous and enriching. On top of that and as response to COVID-19, the Edible Schoolyard Project has created online lessons that celebrate the lived experiences of their students and explore the multifaceted nature of food while providing academic learning opportunities at home. Moreover, the organization has distributed over 6,000 Organic CSA (community-supported agriculture) boxes to provide safe access to fresh and delicious food - all solutions that are truly inspiring!

3. Changing food waste behaviours and the COVID moment

Next, Richard Swannell (Development Director, WRAP) discussed why it is  important to tackle food waste and how citizens’ food habits, behaviours and attitudes have changed during the Covid-19 pandemic. For example, did you know that for every 2 tonnes of food we eat, another tonne is wasted? Or that the amount of food wasted in the UK in a year equals 10 times the volume of the St Peter’s Square? Therefore, WRAP, a not-for-profit, is working with governments, businesses and citizens to create a world in which we source and use resources sustainably. Their work focuses on the entire life cycle of the food we eat, the clothes we wear and the products we buy, from production to consumption and beyond. To drive change, WRAP, developed the internationally renowned Love Food Hate Waste campaign to empower consumers to waste less food and save money through practical advice, effective tools and helpful tips. As a result, between 2007 and 2018, in the UK food waste has dropped by 27% leading to an annual reduction in food waste of around 1.7 Mt in average – which represents enough food to feed the UK population 3 meals a day for 2 entire months! Moreover, Covid-19 has affected citizens’ habits, behaviours and attitudes relating to food: the latest data shows that citizens adopted a suite of food management behaviours and that self-reported food waste levels dropped by 36% in the early months of lockdown, however, then partially rebounded by June when lockdown began to ease. Nevertheless, lockdown food management behaviours are enduring as the latest study shows that food waste September 2020 is 25% lower than in November 2019 in households. This is particularly true of checking date labels and on-pack storage guidance, using up leftovers, freezing items and checking the fridge before shopping. All of this suggest that citizens are increasingly adopting behaviours to reduce food waste and that now is the time to act - and it’s doubtless to say that information and guidance from WRAP is playing a key role!

4. Leaps towards plant-rich diets in 2020

Lastly, Agnieszka de Sousa (Food & Agriculture Correspondent, Bloomberg News) explored current trends in meat consumption in the context of the pandemic. According to data from the UN, global per-capita meat consumption this year is expected to drop by 3 percent- the biggest decline since at least 2000. According to Agnieszka de Sousa, there are several factors contributing to this change. First, the pandemic economic fallout means consumers are cutting down on grocery bills. Secondly, the shutdown of restaurant has hurt the overall demand in meat since people eat more meat when they dine out. Thirdly, forced shutdowns of meat factories – particularly in the US – due to coronavirus infections created supply problems and eventually contributed to a reduction in meat consumption. Moreover, China, which accounts for about a quarter of world consumption, is also forecasting declines because of Covid-19, lower supply, higher meat prices and concerns over food safety. As consciousness about animal welfare is rising and consumer interest in food safety, traceability and sustainability is growing, meat consumption is even changing in Brazil, the world’s third largest beef consumer. It remains to be seen how the pandemic will shift our dietary habit in the long run!


To find out more check out the following links:

Bloomberg article: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-07-07/pandemic-set-to-spark-biggest-retreat-for-meat-eating-in-decades?sref=omvmmwIg

Please find the webinar PDF here.

  • Sustainable Lifestyles and Education
Agriculture and Fishery