Footprint 2019 was an environmental conference held in Durham Town Hall to discuss climate change on 13th and 14th June. The event was organised by Durham students and the range of talks to discuss environmental challenges ranged from the individual to structural issues. There were talks, workshops and debates, alongside an art exhibition, all were all themed around various aspects of climate change. I attended the first day, which brought together how we, as individuals and communities, can reduce our impact; topics included diet, the economy, conservation and recycling.
One talk I attended involved in Fairtrade. Fairtrade supports tackling extreme poverty, and Durham has strong links with the history of Fairtrade. Fairtrade provides a sustainable way out of poverty — equally, environmental standards as an integral part of Fairtrade. With consumer demands, Fairtrade was previously adopted widely by Nestle, Cadbury’s, Tesco’s and Sainsbury’s. However, these brands have failed in their commitment to Fairtrade as they have decided to regulate themselves with reduced standards, noting buzzwords like ‘Fairley traded’ on their products rather than being held accountable to real standards of Fairtrade. Differently, brands like the Co-Op, who are democratically owned by its members, have increased their support for Fairtrade. In buying Fairtrade not only can we support the billions of people who depend on it around the world, but we can also support a movement whereby farmers and labourers are treated fairly, and the environment is considered in the supply chain. Fairtrade not only commits to supporting suppliers but commits to a long-term relationship, providing economic security and a reduction of risk for those who need it. Equally, clothing brands using Fairtrade cotton like People Tree and Nomad, provide more sustainable ways to purchase clothing, while being accountable to social and environmental issues globally. In buying from stores like these, instead of fast fashion, noticeable differences can be made, and consumer demand can drive industry change.
At the end of the session, individuals we allowed to express their opinions, ideas, concerns and questions. In listening and discussing to others, I learned further about ways in which our individual choices in Durham and beyond have an impact on the environment. In buying local instead of from abroad, we are reducing the carbon footprint of our purchases. However, almost all Fairtrade products are that which we cannot produce in the UK.
Differently, the second talk I attended was by REfUSE Durham, a local social enterprise aiming to collect food that would otherwise go in the bin or go to waste, turning them into pay-as-you-feel meals. REfUSE is Durham’s branch of The Real Junk Food Project. Globally, 40% of the food supply is left to rot, lost within the supply or dumped into a landfill. Food which is perfectly suitable to eat is deemed worthless due to cosmetic standards, incorrect labelling, best-before dates and overproduction. REfUSE encourage a pay-as-you-feel system to allow individuals from all backgrounds to be part of the project. At the same time, the number of individuals living in food poverty has grown consistently in recent years. Consequently, REfUSE reminds us to value food, the resources, time and energy, which goes into producing it while simultaneously empowering those who struggle to afford food. If you would like to get involved, you can find out more here.
Make a difference
Overall, the day reminded me of how the most crucial part of the footprint conference is how much you can make a difference on a local and national basis. While I only got a glimpse of the day, more information can be found on their website to see the fantastic work the organisers, organisations, speakers and artists did for the event.
Find out more about Footprint 2019 www.footprintconference.co.uk