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Columnists

Consumers key to sustainable economic growth

water pollution
Current agricultural practices rely on chemicals and pesticides, leading to air and water pollution. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Sustainable consumption and production have widely been acknowledged as the main driver of achieving long-term economic growth that is consistent with environmental and social needs.

The Sustainable Development Goal 12 underscores the significance of sustainable consumption and production in development, more so in reducing future economic burden, and strengthening global competitiveness.

According to the World Resources Institute Climate Analysis Indicators Tool report, agricultural sector leads in greenhouse gas emissions in Kenya, contributing 62.8 percent of the total emission.

Current agricultural practices rely on chemicals and pesticides, leading to air and water pollution. The livestock sector also produces methane and carbon emissions, which are linked to global warming and adverse climate change affecting the food systems.

Sustainable consumption in the food markets is a consequence of deliberate or unconscious actions of consumers to purchase sustainable products, in essence, minimising their effect on the environment and contributing to the local economy.

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Sustainable consumption laws play a central role in the transition to sustainable food systems. Proper labelling enhances knowledge about products and influences consumers choice of food, it also guides in storage and proper usage of products as well as aiding in planning for meals, thus reducing food wastage.

It is against this backdrop that the world marked this year’s the World Consumer Rights Day on March 15 under the theme ‘Sustainable Consumer’. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, globally, eight percent of total carbon emissions are from food and drink wastes, in essence minimising food loss and wastage will reduce the greenhouse gas burden.

A large percentage of food losses and wastage occurs at the production level, affecting the availability and access to food, leading to higher prices.

Besides, most consumers waste a lot of food due to poor planning of meals and during preparation as well as behavioural practices leading to spoilage. This has a great impact on economic, social and environmental costs.

Proper waste disposal of natural and artificial waste also reduces pollution and prevalence of foodborne diseases, simple practices like separating food waste from plastic ease garbage collection. Moreover, natural food wastes can be used in insect farms as feeds, or used as biofuels, plastic containers could also be recycled.

Sustainable eating and health go hand in hand.

Sustainable eating entails proper diet that promotes good health and limits diseases. From a health perspective, the double burden of malnutrition experienced in rural and urban Kenya is quite alarming. While a large population in Kenya are underweight, the overweight population is also rising quite steadily. This illustrates the inconsistency in our eating habits.

Sensitising the public, formulating and implementing relevant policies, changing our eating habits, for instance, minimising animal protein as well as developing personal responsibilities and moral norms among children and adults towards environmental conservation will enhance sustainable consumption.

The writer is project assistant at CUTS- Centre for International Trade, Economics and Environment.

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