Ecological economics in the stomach #2 Resources

Demand for resources

Whilst demand for food, feed and fibre may increase by 70% by 2050, 60% of the world’s major ecosystems that help produce these resources have already been degraded or are used unsustainably. If we carry on using resources at the current rate, by 2050 we will need, on aggregate, the equivalent of more than two planets to sustain us, and the aspirations of many for a better quality of life will not be achieved.

Ecological analysis of CO 2 in an ecosystem
Image via Wikipedia

The problem with our economic system today is that it still encourages the inefficient use of resources by pricing some below true costs. We also can find not equally taxed products which will make a difference.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development estimates that by 2050 we will need a 4 to 10 fold increase in resource efficiency, with significant improvements needed already by 2020. Some dynamic businesses have recognised the benefits of a more productive use of resources, yet many enterprises and consumers have not yet realised the scale and urgency of the required transformations. Promoting efficient use of resources makes a lot of business sense and should help improve their competitiveness and  profitability.

Resource efficiency

Between the countries at the continent there should be agreements about promoting certain products and prising. It should be an integral part of the EU’s agenda for global competitiveness to promote passive building, using ecological products and offering the public better opportunities to buy biological and locally grown products. It also helps ensure a sustainable recovery from the economic crisis and it can boost employment.

Scales and Processes of the Global Carbon Cycle

Transformation will need a policy framework that creates a playing field, where innovation
and resource efficiency are rewarded, creating economic opportunities and improved security of supply through product redesign, sustainable management of environmental resources, greater reuse, recycling and substitution of materials and resource savings. Decoupling growth from resource use and unlocking these new sources of growth needs coherence and integration in the policies that shape our economy and our lifestyles. Action on climate change has already led the way in helping to decouple growth from the use of carbon.

Attitude of the consumers

People should be made aware that they themselves can help to make a better world to live in. First of all there is their attitute to one each other and secondly their attitude to nature. Awarenes of their influence on the environment is a major point. Changing the consumption patterns of private and public purchasers will help drive resource efficiency and can also frequently generate direct net cost savings. In turn it can help increase demand for more resource efficient services and products. Accurate information, based on the life-cycle impacts and costs of resource use, is needed to help guide consumption decisions.
Consumers can save costs by avoiding waste themselves, and buying products that last, or that can be easily repaired or recycled. New entrepreneurial models, where products are leased rather than bought, can satisfy consumer needs with less life-cycle resource use.

Ecology Society Economy diagram Environment background
Ecology Society Economy diagram Environment background

Not necessary limitations

It is wrong to think that we would be more limited by using only products of our regions in the appropriate season. Not having tomatoes in Winter shall have require an other vegetable choice for that period but shall help that certain individuals shall not receive an allergic reaction to that product. today we do account too many allergic food reactions because those products were used in the wrong amount and at the wrong time in the life of the reacting person.

It is good that Europe has set a Milestone. It would like to see that by 2020, citizens and public authorities should have the right incentives to choose the most resource efficient products and services, through appropriate price signals and clear environmental information. Their purchasing choices will stimulate companies to innovate and to supply more resource efficient goods and services. Minimum environmental performance standards are set to remove the least resource efficient and most polluting products from the market. Consumer demand is high for more sustainable products and services.
Economic growth and well-being should be decoupled from resource inputs and come primarily from increases in the value of products and associated services.

Recycling and information

Improving the reuse of raw materials through greater ‘industrial symbiosis’ (where the waste of some firms is used as a resource for others) across the EU could save €1.4bn a year and generate €1.6bn in sales.

The public should know what they get on their plate. There should be uniformity in the information they can get on the packet of the products available. Therefore the European Union wants to establish a common methodological approach to enable Member States and the private sector to assess, display and benchmark the environmental performance of
products, services and companies based on a comprehensive assessment of environmental impacts over the life-cycle (‘environmental footprint‘) (in 2012); Address the  environmental footprint of products, building on an ongoing assessment due in 2012 and following a consultation with stakeholders, including through setting requirements under the Ecodesign directive, to boost the material resource efficiency of products (e.g.  reusability/recoverability/recyclability, recycled content, durability), and through expanding the scope of the Ecodesign directive to non-energy related products (in 2012).

Getting to the goal

To get easier to the goals Member States, with the Commission should as of 2012, assess:

Options to increase market rewards for genuinely environmentally friendly products;
• Measures to extend producer responsibility to the full life-cycle of the products they
make (including via new business models, through guidance on take-back and recycling schemes and support for repair services);
• Actions to optimise the resource efficiency of packaging.

Member States should:
• Put in place incentives that stimulate a large majority of companies to measure, benchmark and improve their resource efficiency systematically (continuous);
• Help companies work together to make the best use of the waste and by-products
they produce (e.g. by exploiting industrial symbiosis) (continuous);
• Ensure that advice and support is available to help SMEs identify and improve their
resource efficiency and sustainable use of raw materials (continuous);
• Work together with the Commission to ensure that, by 2020, all relevant Substances
of Very High Concern are placed on the REACH Candidate List (continuous).

It is nice to hear that in some Member States more than 80% of waste is recycled, indicating the possibilities of using waste as one of the EU’s key resources. Improving waste management makes better use of resources and can open up new markets and jobs, as well as encourage less dependence on imports of raw materials and lower impacts on the environment.
Recycling and re-use of waste are economically attractive options for public and private actors due to widespread separate collection and the development of functional markets for secondary raw materials. More materials, including materials having a significant impact on the environment and critical raw materials, should be recycled.
Waste legislation should become fully implemented. Illegal shipments of should become eradicated while energy recovery could be best limited to non recyclable materials, having landfilling virtually eliminated and high quality recycling being ensured.

All this would demand a change in the attitude of the consumer, who should be more aware of his impact on the environment and the economical impact of his consumerism as well.
those in charge should therefore try to stimulate the secondary materials market and demand for recycled materials through economic incentives and developing end-of-waste criteria (in 2013/2014).

Ecology Society Economy diagram Earth background

Sustainability diagram showing ecology, economy and society as interconnecting, and bound by Environment represented as Earth

The EU and its citizens

The European Commission will:

Review existing prevention, re-use, recycling, recovery and landfill diversion targets to move towards an economy based on re-use and recycling, with residual waste close to zero (in 2014);
• Assess the introduction of minimum recycled material rates, durability and reusability criteria and extensions of producer responsibility for key products (in 2012);
• Assess areas where legislation on the various waste streams could be aligned to improve coherence (in 2013/2014);
• Continue working within the EU and with international partners to eradicate illegal waste shipments with a special focus on hazardous waste;
• Ensure that public funding from the EU budget gives priority to activities higher up the waste hierarchy as defined in the Waste Framework Directive (e.g. priority to recycling plants over waste disposal) (in 2012/2013);
• Facilitate the exchange of best practice on collection and treatment of waste among Member States and develop measures to combat more effectively breaches of EU waste rules (in 2013/2014).
Member States should:
• ensure full implementation of the EU waste acquis including minimum targets through their national waste prevention and management strategies (continuous).

The transition to a green and low-carbon economy will require significant innovation, from small incremental changes to major technological breakthroughs.

In the Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe the European Commission presented a major breakthrough in a ‘life saving project’.

Download the report of the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress
chaired by Professor Joseph E. Stiglitz, Columbia University. Professor Amartya Sen, Harvard University, was Chair Adviser. Professor Jean-Paul Fitoussi, Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris, President of the Observatoire Français des Conjonctures Economiques (OFCE), was Coordinator of the Commission. Members of the Commission are renowned experts from universities, governmental and intergovernmental organisations, in several countries (USA, France, United Kingdom, India). Rapporteurs and secretariat have been provided by the French national statistical institute (Insee), OFCE, and OECD.


The world will have to make farming more productive but less dependent on harmful chemicals, curb food losses and waste, protect the environment and reduce agriculture’s exposure to disastrous price swings.


To reach the goal in sustainability, rich countries in particular would have to reduce excessive consumption that leads to obesity and tackle loss and waste in food distribution and use that today runs at around 25 percent of production.

Agriculture everywhere would have to be more economical in fossil fuels and make less use of chemicals.

Genetic manipulation of plants to boost yields would be necessary. However, smarter ways of traditional cross-breeding are emerging as good alternatives to genetic engineering, which is a hot political issue in many countries.

There would have to be changes in trade rules so that the food supply line to importing countries becomes stronger and more resilient, thus easing the price shocks that hit producer or customer.


Previously: Ecological economics in the stomach #1 Alarmbell

Next: Ecological economics in the stomach #3 Food and Populace


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About Marcus Ampe

Retired dancer, choreographer, choreologist Founder of the Dance impresario office and archive: Danscontact-Dansarchief plus the Association for Bible scholars, the Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" and "From Guestwriters" and creator of the site "Messiah for all". - Gepensioneerd danser, choreograaf, choreoloog. Stichter van Danscontact-Dansarchief plus van de Vereniging voor Bijbelvorsers, de Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" en "From Guestwriters" en maker van de site "Messiah for all".
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