'Everything is interlinked': home economics expert's description of the Sustainability Web

In this interview ahead of the Malta Sustainability Forum, Home Economist and University of Malta associate professor Suzanne Piscopo explains the Sustainability Web – and the role everyone plays in it

Suzanne Piscopo
Suzanne Piscopo

How does your morning orange juice affect our planet’s sustainability crisis? Well, according to Professor Suzanne Piscopo, what you eat everyday is actually significant to a whole host of other things – including global sustainability.

“There are so many interlinkages,” she explains. “For example, at breakfast, my choice to juice two locally-grown fresh oranges or buy the packaged option will have multiple implications:

  • for my health from a nutritional aspect
  • for the local farmers’ income and crop-planning based on the demand for citrus fruit
  • for the retailers' stocking of fresh fruit or packet juice and where they source them
  • for natural resources usage (trees for carton, water for production, fuel for energy) and harm to nature in relation to processing the juice and producing the juice packaging
  • and even for what happens to inedible components (the orange peel could be conserved and used to make candied peel, for instance, or could end up in a landfill).”

Prof Piscopo goes on to explain that, in just one example, there are numerous stakeholders involved – and each could play a role in making more effective use of resources. “As a result, it becomes clear that both individuals and businesses need to be responsible for their decisions if we want sustainability to be implemented now.”

It is, literally and metaphorically, food for thought. And Professor Piscopo’s perspective as a Home Economist is particularly thought-provoking for individuals who are struggling to understand the role they can play in improving our future.

“Historically, and in contemporary times, the vision of Home Economics has always been to make the best use of available resources for the well-being of families,” she continues. “It looks at food, health and nutrition, personal finance and consumer affairs, relationships with others, and the various interlinkages between them all. It also considers how decisions one makes within the home can have a broader impact on others outside it. All this is actually the essence of sustainability, as well as its three pillars of health and environmental issues, economic issues, and social issues.”

With this insight in mind, Professor Piscopo has been invited to speak next week at Malta’s first-ever Sustainability Forum. Co-sponsored by some of the island’s most forward-thinking businesses, namely APS Bank, PwC, GO, GasanMamo and Cool, the Forum will take place on November 14 at The Westin Dragonara Resort.

The Forum will feature a panel of top local and international speakers, who will present practical cases about how to move Malta’s sustainability agenda forward. The President of Malta, George Vella, will open the Forum, followed by a keynote speech by José Herrera, Minister for the Environment, Sustainable Development, and Climate Change. Other speakers will include Adrien Labaeye – Sharing Cities Fellow and PhD researcher at Humboldt Universität zu Berlin; Carl Pratt – Founder of Future Planet, and Sustainable Business Consultant; and Sustainability Strategist Tamara Fenech.

The over-arching theme at this year’s Forum is the ‘Thinking Citizen’, and its main objective is to raise awareness on the topic of sustainability, thus empowering Malta’s citizens to make conscious decisions towards achieving a sustainable life.

Professor Piscopo, who is based within the Department of Health, Physical Education and Consumer Studies in the Faculty of Education at the University of Malta, believes that the Forum could make a big difference in shaping the conversation around sustainability here in Malta.

“The Malta Sustainability Forum will undoubtedly serve to raise awareness among the various players active along the production and consumption chain,” she explains. “It will highlight the most pressing local challenges, whether they are being addressed, and what individual, business or policy changes should make a positive difference.”

Targeting both consumers and businesses, the general public is invited to attend the Forum, and Professor Piscopo hopes that many will be there. “The notion that each action, whatever its size, could make a difference with respect to promoting local and global sustainability will only be acknowledged and acted upon if we nurture an attitude of individual responsibility among people,” she states.

“Without doubt, the Forum is set to be a transformative starting point for citizens to realise just how much power they have to change the future, one glass of orange juice at a time.”

Tickets to the Malta Sustainability Forum start at €20, including a networking lunch. To view the full agenda and register for the Forum, please visit www.maltasustainabilityforum.com

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