Unlimited wants and limited resources: the everlasting dilemma that human beings face. Nevertheless, waste of resources has been going on for ages, leading to severe environmental problems. In response, some countries are implementing measures to recover from the damage, as well as policies to promote a more sustainable life-style. On the other hand, other countries seem to deny any danger.
Taking care of the environment may go beyond ethical perspectives and bring economic gains. For example, most sharing services, such as car sharing, allow to reduce the environmental impact and to limit waste. At the same time, such systems have turned out to be very profitable businesses; in fact, they keep spreading and growing fast over time and they have become a crucial element in the model of smart cities.
The EU certainly stands for the preservation of the environment and the support to a sustainable development. EU Green Week 2017, which was celebrated from May 29th to June 2nd, delivered clear messages: first, the importance of discussing about the human impact on the environment; second, the will to bring new ideas on how to reduce waste, foster recycling, support green jobs, and maintain a “green lead”.
The EU position on the topic is defined by the 7th Environmental Action Programme. This will be in force until 2020, orienting the environmental policies of the EU in 3 directions: protecting and conserving the natural capital, using resources efficiently to move to a green and low-carbon economy, and guaranteeing EU citizens’ health and wellbeing. This will be realized through many channels such as information, investments, implementation of legislation and further integration.
Given the EU directives and guidelines on environment and sustainability, EU member states carry on initiatives at national level to address the specific characteristics of each country. Indeed, having many interesting solutions allow to test different alternatives among which the most successful may be later expanded to the entire Union.
In France, in august 2015, the parliament approved the law for energy transition and green development. It sets measures to reduce CO2 emissions and total energy consumption; it also aims to replace most of nuclear power and carbon fossils, massively used for energy production, with renewable resources. On the same wavelength, the French association négaWatt has set up a project to make energy production 100% out of renewable resources by 2050, as reported by Le Monde in an article dated January 2017. The association states that their goals are truly achievable. In fact, many alternative resources are available (biomass, solar energy, wind power) and much waste can be avoided. Moreover, the sustainable scenario that is proposed passes the cost-benefits test, resulting convenient in socio-economic terms. The probability of this project to be successful mostly depends on changing the current mindset about environment and resources; in particular, the way people think of energy production and consumption.
Another concerning environmental issue is food waste. FAO reports that food wastage is one of the major causes of CO2 emissions and climate change, leading not only to ecological losses but also to economic costs. In 2012, the German food sharing system, foodsharing.de, was launched to address this problem. Appallingly, food is thrown away although it is still good and edible as it happens for production surpluses, products disliked or those close to expire. The German sharing platform, allows to donate these kinds of food which people are not going to eat and which, otherwise, would go to waste. Of course, food is always shared on the platform and it cannot be sold. The website or the app are used to check if there are food baskets nearby, what they contain, to select what to pick up or to indicate what to donate. For those who do not have Internet access, some public fridges are located in spots where people can help themselves anonymously. This initiative has, indeed, helped many people in need. Moreover, it has raised awareness on the issue of food wastage by trying to involve citizens and firms in exploiting the eco-friendly and economic potential of this sharing system.
As last example, Italy started an awareness-raising campaign called “CiRiesco”. It aims to promote a virtuous behavior among citizens, firms, and institutions by giving advice on how to save, to share, and to use resources in a responsible way. Many cases of good practices implemented by Italian private and public actors are reported on CiRiesco website: they concern several environmental topics such as water, energy, air, food, and waste. This project lies on the belief that a more sustainable attitude is beneficial not only for the nature and our planet but also for citizens’ personal interest, their future, and the future of their children. Following some tips and learning some good practices, CiRiesco campaign states that it is possible and easy to sustain a “happy growth”.
Finally, it is worth to remember not to give anything for granted. Citizens should ask themselves how much they value the effort to preserve the environment and how much they are going to contribute to a sustainable development, whatever the reasons (ethical or economic) leading their action. In the current world’s framework, while the U.S.A. has announced its will to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, the EU sides with the environment, confirming its commitment to support a cooperative and sustainable growth, balancing short terms gains with a long-term perspective.