Fast food, fast fashion = fast fading environment

The young conference delegates learning about food wastage. Photos: WWF-Malaysia/Azri Ali

The Star, October 4, 2017


We all love great food. But some of us love it too much – there is a growing concern about how we are taking food for granted.

The Agriculture and Agro-based Ministry has documented that Malaysians waste 15,000 tonnes of food daily, including 3,000 tonnes of edible food that could provide three complete meals a day for over 2.3 million people. It’s estimated that we waste an alarming 30% of the food we buy.

Then there is the use-and-throw fashion industry. A quarter of the chemicals produced in the world are used in the textile industry, which is the second biggest polluter of freshwater on the planet.

The high demand for “fast fashion” is making it worse. It puts pressure on fashion producers to create clothing as quickly and as cheaply as possible. This means clothes have become disposable now, which encourages rapid consumerism and waste.

Fuelled by this and other eco concerns, WWF-Malaysia’s EcoCampus team organised the second edition of its youth conference, Building Bridges for Sustainable Consumption and Production in Johor Baru recently.

There were 114 youth delegates from 12 countries at the event, all eager to learn about sustainability from industry experts, green bloggers, and sustainable business owners.

The conference is aligned with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, which strives to end poverty, reduce inequality and protect the planet by 2030.

Wasted food

Themed “Food & Fashion”, the conference aimed to enhance eco awareness among youth and empower them to live more sustainable lives.

The delegates exchanged thoughts and ideas and took part in hands-on workshops, forums, round-table discussions, community service activities, field trips, and produced mini projects.

Producing, distributing, storing or cooking food uses energy and water. Each of these processes emits greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. Wasted food ends up in landfills, creating further greenhouse gases.

Put all of this together and what it means is that the way we eat has a massive impact on the planet.

It’s not just about the enormous amount of food we consume but how much of that food we waste.

By 2050 the Earth’s global population of nine billion will need twice as much food as we do today.

Food waste is the third largest global contributor to carbon emissions and climate change, with 3.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases being released into our skies.

The youth delegates visited the nearby Folo Farms – Feed Our Loved Ones Farms is a social enterprise that grows organic food – where cofounder Will Chua walked them through the composting process.

To reduce the effects of wasted food, his team works with hotels and restaurants to collect and compost their organic waste and turn it into rich fertiliser for the farm.

Wasted clothes

Conference delegates then learnt how to reduce waste in clothes from industry experts.

Lara Rath, cofounder of Secondsguru, shared a practical guide to sustainable fashion.

The Singapore-based company’s portal,, curates anything and everything that can make green living easy for everyone.

In their “Drab to Fab” series for instance, they encourage people to upcycle old things into beautiful and useful stuff. For example, old shoes get a makeover with some creative painting while old wooden boxes can be transformed into wall art or a side table.

Dr Lee Keok Cheong, from the Teacher Training Institute Raja Melewar Campus, spoke about sustainable fashion, particularly on upcycling unused and old clothes.

In today’s materialistic culture, it’s easy for young people to grow up without a sense of gratitude or any empathy for less fortunate people around them.

To address this, a form of community service, adopted from the concept of kedai jalanan (street store), was conducted during the conference to teach both gratitude and understanding.

One delegate, for instance, helped a local resident of flats at Larkin, Johor Baru, sift through clothes donated by conference participants and the public.

To bridge the gap between consumers and producers, the conference also had a fair that featured 15 vendors providing sustainable consumer products, services, and ideas.

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