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Promoting Sustainable Lifestyles

Sustainable living means understanding how our lifestyle choices impact the world around us and finding ways to live better and lighter. Most people do not wake up with the intention to harm the environment - nor to help it. But our future depends on our behaviors and how we choose to live, work and play as global consumers.

Minimizing Food Waste

One-third of all food produced in the world – approximately 1.3 billion tonnes – is lost or wasted every year. Globally, if food waste could be represented as its own country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter, behind China and the United States. The resources needed to produce the food that becomes lost or wasted has a carbon footprint of about 3.3 billion tons of CO2.

In the U.S. alone, an estimated 133 billion pounds of edible food (worth over $161 billion) goes to waste every year. Food waste also contributes to the largest volume of material in U.S. landfills accounting for 21 per cent of the waste stream. Food waste costs Canadians $31 billion annually or about two per cent of the country’s GDP.

Target 12.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals aims to halve food waste by 2030. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration are committed to meeting this goal.

To learn more about the issue of food waste in the region, UN Environment Programme (UNEP)’s report Waste Not, Want Not: Reducing Food Loss and Waste in North America Through Life Cycle-Based Approaches examines the issue of food loss and waste, as well as how it can be reduced through effective policymaking. 

Greening the Entertainment Industry

The entertainment industry has a large environmental footprint, with concerts, films, and performances consuming enormous amounts of energy and producing large amounts of waste.

UNEP North America partners with REVERB, a nonprofit organization that unites with musicians, festivals, and venues to green the concert industry. REVERB was founded on the belief that music has the ability to make people feel, care, and act. From eliminating single-use water bottles at live music events to sourcing local food and sustainable biodiesel, they take practical and impactful steps to green the industry.

UNEP’s North American Goodwill Ambassadors, including Jack Johnson and Dave Matthews Band, are also in on the action. With the support of REVERB, Dave Matthews Band has eliminated over 121 million pounds of CO2 and 478,000 single-use plastic water bottles from their tours.

Reinventing Fashion

The fashion industry is the second-biggest consumer of water and is responsible for 8-10 per cent of global carbon emissions - more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. The average consumer buys 60 percent more pieces of clothing than 15 years ago, yet each item is only kept for half as long.

The UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion, launched at the fourth session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-4), seeks to halt the environmentally and socially destructive practices of fashion by setting sustainability targets, safeguarding workers – especially women - reducing waste and limiting carbon emissions.

Educating the Next Generation

Our office supports the UNEP Youth and Education Alliance (YEA!), which works with both higher education and youth networks from around the world to increase environmental awareness and education among students and young people to accelerate the environmental changes that urgently need to be made in this decade.

UNEP North America also supports the UN #ActNow campaign, a global call to adjust individuals behaviors for climate change. In addition to promoting individual climate action, the campaign encourages young people to become Climate Action Superheroes through a series of environmental missions.