Chips and The World Environment Day

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Good people, Friday, 05th June, is the World Environment Day. Despite my green credentials, I had never really been fully enamoured with this day. I am not really a big fan of such special topical days.

This anti-holiday mentality once led me to gradually fall out of love with Christmas. Once I asked mama how we can be sure that Jesus was actually born on 25th December and she wasn’t too pleased with the question. She just started humming ‘Joy to the world the Lord is born...’ as she walked away.

But that was then. I have since softened my stance and I no longer mind giving special topical days a bear hug. There is absolutely nothing wrong in setting aside a given day to spotlight and celebrate something or someone.

‘I celebrate love every day,’ my cousin Sula likes to say every time Valentine comes along. But I always suspect that beneath the declaration are economic woes that push him to rebel against this day of love.

I digress. We were talking about the World Environment Day which is celebrated every year on 05th June.

My first time to even know that such a day exists was in 2005. I had joined the United Nations Environment Programme in 2004 to coordinate a youth programme and when 2005 came along, we were constantly reminded in our official emails about this hallowed day for the environment. The theme that year was ‘Green Cities’ and the slogan was, ‘Plan for the Planet!’ 

Since UNEP is the papa n mama of the World Environment Day in terms of running it, there is no escaping this epic green day when you work at UNEP. This day was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972, making it 43 years old this year. Same age as thousands of people including the late Notorious B.I,G, the living Cameron Diaz, the rapping Eminem, the dunking Shaquille O’Neal, the acting Ben Affleck, the scoring Zinedine Zidane and Gabrielle Union, one of my favourite actresses.

That 2005 World Environment Day may not have been as beautiful as Gabrielle but it sure was interesting.

In my mind, the term ‘green cities’ elicited an image of cities painted in green. I even imagined the entire Kenyatta International Conference Centre painted in green. Wouldn’t that truly make Nairobi the Green City in the Sun! I thought to myself as I munched the chicken sandwiches that my diet mostly constituted of back then. They cost 70 Kenya Shillings, an amount that I had really frowned on initially since the same amount would get me two plates of steaming Chips in the City Centre. But this was the cheapest meal on the United Nations Campus at Gigiri so it quickly became my staple diet.

So what does Chips have to do with the World Environment Day again? Well, everything.

The theme for this year is ‘Sustainable Consumption and Production’ with the slogan being more poetic, ‘Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care.’

Before you dismiss this slogan as the usual green chatter, here are some facts about sustainable consumption, mostly gleaned from UNEP’s highly informative website:

One third of all food produced globally each year, which is 300 million tonnes, is wasted. This waste costs the global economy a crazy one trillion dollars a year.  Going by Kenya’s 2014/2015 budget of 1 trillion, this is enough money to run Kenya for about 55 years.

Our global food system is responsible for 80 per cent of deforestation and is the largest single cause of species and biodiversity loss.

A beef burger on your lunch plate could require an incredible 2400 litres of water to produce. Would you like fries with that? Add a another 100 litres, not to mention the impact of pesticides and non-degradable packaging.

I bet you didn’t know about these crazy figures that are just a tip of the iceberg. But now you do, thanks to the World Environment Day.

That my friends, is why this day is important. To inform and inspire green, sustainable action that will make our world a greener, better place.


So try your best, even if you keep failing, to eat food that is right for your body and for the earth. And don’t waste it. Please.

DJ Bwakali

Words can inspire action and change the world

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