UBCO experts explore sustainability of Easter-related products

Easter and the environment

Easter means its time for egg-related traditions and copious amounts of chocolate, but have you ever thought about the negative impact these items have on the environment?

Researchers at UBC Okanagan’s Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science and Faculty of Management have shared their findings on the topic.

According to Dr. Nathan Pelletier, assistant professor of biology and management, eggs are the most sustainable forms of terrestrial animal protein.

“Hens are very efficient at converting feed into animal protein,” he explains. “In comparison to other animal protein sources, almost the entire product is edible. This, along with a long shelf-life, means that egg waste is very low.”

Sustainable egg producers also use natural resources including energy and water which minimize emissions, ensure hen welfare, provide fair prices for famers and are socially acceptable in farming.

As NSERC/Egg Farmers of Canada Industrial Research Chair in Sustainability, Dr. Pelletier is exploring the possible benefits of net-zero energy housing systems for hens as well as scrubbers to collect nitrogen from poultry barn exhaust air. In addition to this, he’s also exploring renewably energy systems including wind, solar and geothermal heat pumps on farms.

“Eggs are the most affordable source of animal protein, with an average Canadian consuming about 21 dozen annually,” he says. “Because they play an important role in food and nutrition security, it is important to continually evaluate and seek opportunities to improve sustainability outcomes.”

“I believe consumers can use their purchasing power to support social change,” says Dr. Eric Li, associate professor of management, referring to supporting fair-trade chocolate.

The International Labor Organization estimates millions of child labourers are responsible for producing coffee and cocoa — this includes the almost 284,000 children between nine and 12 who say they have worked in hazardous conditions in West African cacao farms.

“These children are exploited by being forced to work long hours with little or no pay, and have little rights and limited education,” he says. “Also, the ongoing deforestation due to the growing demand for chocolate will contribute to climate change-related issues.”

These are not ethical or climate-friendly practices, according to Dr. Li. He says organizations that support sustainability pay workers a fair wage while maintaining critical forest conservation efforts.

Sustainable organizations also reduce the pressures of converting forestland to cacao plantation while providing social and economic benefits to local communities.

Dr. Li also supports fair-trade chocolate that is not produced using child or forced labour. Reading the annual Easter Chocolate Shopping Guide can help you make informed decisions on what to buy.

The Mighty Earth environmental advocacy group assigns ‘Good Egg’ and ‘Rotten Eg’’ awards to companies based on social and environmental criteria that impact purchasing decisions.

“If everyone takes small steps to gradually change our consumption behaviour and mindsets, we will be on the right track of building a better world.”

More Kelowna News