Twelfth in Bare Necessities - Zero Waste India’s series on SDGs in relation to zero waste, circular economy methodology and sustainability is Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production.
There are a wide range of areas across the globe that require responsible consumption and production, from fashion where “overproduction and overconsumption are both massive issues for the fashion industry… (where) research shows that the average person buys 60% more items of clothing than they did 15 years ago” (source). To energy use where there is a need to move from energy derived from fossil fuels to sustainable methods such as wind and solar. The way food is consumed and produced needs to be addressed as well. Currently, each year, “an estimated one-third of all food produced- equivalent to 1.3 billion tonnes worth around $1 trillion- ends up rotting in the bins of consumers and retailers, or spoiling due to poor transportation and harvesting practices” (source).
It has been noted that within the textile industry, within India, that one of the major reasons why there is so much waste (the third-largest producer of waste in most Indian states behind plastic and paper) is because of a lack of awareness and education about how fashion can fit within a circular economy (source). This differs from reports that the country, which has a high dependence on fossil fuels for energy use, now produces the cheapest solar power in the world (source). Cheaper solar panels in India, as well as numerous other locations through Asia and further afield, have helped to make clean energy more affordable and therefore wean humanity away from the use of fossil fuels. Thus, also demonstrating that a higher level of focus on a particular area that needs to have more sustainable consumption, energy, changed the rhetoric, the technology and the way it is being used. Clearly, it is only the start of a transition away from environmentally degrading practices but it shows to other industries, such as fashion, what can be achieved, especially when the consumer is asking for a more sustainable option.
Similarly, food waste is a complex issue that needs a concerted effort to be consumed in more sustainable measures. The current food system “exerts a considerable impact on the environment. It drives deforestation and biodiversity loss, contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and accounts for 70 per cent of water withdrawals” (source). This is a problem that affects every individual on the planet no matter where one is standing but has the potential to disproportionately affect locations with larger societal inequalities- “almost 2 billion people go hungry or undernourished” (source) across the globe.
Both consuming and producing waste in our entire ecosystem needs to become more sustainable as the world population grows. The facts are clear to all, for example, “the way food is produced, processed, transported, and consumed has a great impact on whether sustainability is achieved throughout the whole food supply chain” (source). Yet, it is ensuring that these facts don’t become forgotten statements in a consumer-driven culture that does not understand the impact of fast fashion, energy derived from fossil fuels or food waste. Instead, they need to be a binding force in bringing stakeholders together whether that is in fashion, energy or food, “to achieve sustainable consumption and production… stakeholders need to be coordinated and to have their views reflected in an optimised manner” (source). Additionally, all stakeholders need to be on board. For a stronger society, where production and consumption are integral parts of any industry or consumer habits that function perfectly within a circular economy, not leaving people or industries in the dark through lack of education and awareness, such as the textile industry noted above, is paramount to our capacity to waste less.