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From production to waste: the food system

We are using more and more of natural resources due to population growth, lifestyle changes and increasing personal consumption. To tackle our unsustainable consumption, we need to address the entire resource system, including production methods, demand patterns and supply chains. We take a closer look at food.

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What makes us buy what we buy?

Europeans of all ages are consumers. What we choose to consume and buy plays a role in determining what is produced. But how do we choose what to buy? Is it a rational or an impulsive decision? We asked Lucia Reisch, from Copenhagen Business School, about consumer behaviour in Europe.

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Living in a consumer society

Decades of relatively steady growth in Europe have changed the way we live. We produce and consume more goods and services. We travel more and live longer. But the environmental impacts of our economic activities at home and abroad have become bigger and more visible. Environmental legislation, when implemented thoroughly, achieves results on the ground. After taking a look at what has changed in the last twenty years, however, can we say that we are doing our best

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Living in an interconnected world

'…the sheer weight of the combined aspirations and lifestyles of 500 million Europeans is just too great. Never mind the legitimate desires of many other billions on our planet to share those lifestyles.... We will need to change the behaviour of European consumers. To work on people's awareness and to influence their habits.' Janez Potočnik, European Union Commissioner for Environment (March 2010).

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Consuming unsustainably

Key message: A major reason why consumption negatively affects the environment and causes over-use of resources is because the costs to society of environmental and resource degradation are not fully reflected in the prices of goods and services. Many goods are cheap even though they harm the environment, ecosystems or human health. (SOER 2010)

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Sharing nature's riches

Of the 8.2 billion tonnes of materials consumed in EU-27 Member States in 2007, minerals accounted for 52 %, fossil fuels for 23 %, biomass for 21 % and metals for 4 % (SOER 2010)

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Golf courses and washing machines: obstacles and opportunities for sustainable water management

Rising standards of living often boost demand for water-intensive goods and services. Only by managing water consumption — using measures such as water pricing and incentives to adopt new technologies — can we ensure sustainable public water access alongside economic growth.

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Not in my back yard — international shipments of waste and the environment

Waste without borders: Zhang Guofu, 35, makes EUR 700 a month, a huge wage in provincial China, sifting through waste that includes shopping bags from a British supermarket chain and English-language DVDs. The truth is that waste placed in a bin in London, can quite easily end up 5 000 miles away in a recycling factory in China's Pearl River delta.

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