Let’s be honest, Episode 9: Responsibility

Let’s be honest is a Food Circle’s project with the aim to open up the conversation about the challenges when being or becoming a member of the SC (Sustainability Club). This series will shine a light on the different approaches to make life more sustainable, as well as the step-backs and difficulties that arise. Being more kind and understanding, instead of critical, will hopefully help to encourage us to try, instead of giving up when facing a step-back or failure. This is made possible thanks to Sapient, the mother company of Food Circle, which every year offers internships to students from all around the world creating a uniquely multicultural environment.

Let’s celebrate the achievements and give room for honesty and struggles!

Following our last Faces of Food Waste article, I feel passionate to talk about something important: responsibility. To clarify, the intent of the blog series was never, and will never be, to solely blame the consumer and buyer. The individual level is important and inherits more influence and power than one might think but the power for change on the individual level is limited. For a social and environmental change, collective, political and societal transformation is necessary.

To exemplify, the interlinking of the different spheres means societal and structural shifts resulting in environmental change. Escaping poverty sadly means creating emissions in nowadays society. A lot of the rich societies and countries are basing their secure and wealthy situation on environmental damage.

There are different suggestions and approaches on how to transform sustainably enough to reduce our emissions and change our harmful impact. Some argue for more market freedom and some for the opposite, getting rid of capitalism and some argue mostly on the individual level.

One of the biggest challenges to prevent climate change and more environmental harm is food. Our food industry cannot work without generating greenhouse emissions or organic waste. Huge amounts of land and resources are needed for the current amount of meat we consume and produce. If less meat is generated, less land area will be needed for the animal’s livestock. These areas can regrow the destroyed ecosystems and enormously reduce our harm to the environment.

This can serve as an example for the problem arising with every matter touched when trying to reduce our harmful impact: “In the end it is pretty simple: Eating less meat alone won’t stop climate change but we also can’t stop climate change without eating less meat” (Kurzgesagt- In a Nutshell, 2021). Every step we take on the collective level, but also on the individual one, alone won’t save the planet. Nevertheless, these steps are necessary to stop climate change. We just need collective actions in various areas and not only one.

Changing transportation, less packaging, less waste in the households, shorter supply chains, busying regional and seasonal, etc., are all ways in which the individual is taught to achieve change. With the Corona pandemic, many had to stay home, reduce their consumption and not use transportation. This only resulted in a greenhouse gas emission reduction of 7% in 2020. This proves the limited power individuals have on their own. Just like it can be observed on the global level, solely the individual cannot stop climate change. For necessary results, we

require collective policies, actions, and actively reversed harmful implementations and regulations in nowadays societies and lifestyles (Kurzgesagt- In a Nutshell, 2021).

As Bill Gates puts it in his paper “ Financing the Clean Industrial Revolution”, it’s one thing to prevent further environmental harm and another to contribute to solutions. There need to be regulations, privileges, benefits, and rewards for new technologies and ideas saving our

planet. Investments need to prioritize sustainability for achieving the goal of zero-emission

in 2050. (Gates, 2021)

We as individuals are limited in our possibilities to achieve change when it’s the only action being taken. Stores not offering affordable and cheap sustainable options limits me in my power for change. Trains and buses being way more expensive than flights have the consequence that I might not be able to afford the sustainable option. Greenwashing and advertisements tricking me into overconsumption result in me not even realizing my negative impact and/or being encouraged to ignore the negative effects and to consume in a harmful way.

A system, society, government and encouraged way of living that is not prioritizing sustainability, limit me in my power for change. While now, the importance of action on all levels- micro, meso, and macro- is hopefully obvious, the significance of considering not only environmental but also social and structural inequalities and challenges, is as relevant. When transforming from fossil fuel to more sustainable alternatives, for example, the lost work and therefore financial issues need to be taken into account (Gates, 2021).

The individual alone will not be able to achieve change, nor will solely collective actions be enough. It’s a dialectic relationship of both that will hopefully achieve the necessary change. We need an active long-term commitment by many leaders, as well as many consumers and

buyers to achieve the change we aim for.

Author and Editor: Lea Annikki Kaiser


Gates, B. (2021). Financing the Clean Industrial Revolution. Gates Notes. https://www.gatesnotes.com/Energy/This-is-how-we-build-a-zero-emissions-economy

Gates, B. (2021, March 02). Don't forget about coal miners and cement makers on the way to zero emissions. Gates Notes. Retrieved March 2, 2022, from https://www.gatesnotes.com/Energy/Transitioning-to-the-green-economy

Kurzgesagt- In a Nutshell. (2021, September 22). Can YOU Fix Climate Change? YouTube. Retrieved March 2, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiw6_JakZFc

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