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Our Approach

Climate change threatens the natural balance of the world. More frequent storms, droughts and floods mean crops ruined, people going hungry, and children missing out on education. To tackle it, we must radically rethink the global economy and live within the limits of our environment.

We work towards a world where every person’s basic needs are met, where all human beings have a chance to flourish and where we all live within our environmental limit. This means we are committed to relief and development that is environmentally and economically sustainable – finding effective ways to support sustainable livelihoods while at the same time protecting or improving the environment, and reducing economic inequality.

Tearfund’s approach is to promote environmental and economic sustainability through a model that ensures natural resources are reused not wasted. This is called the circular economy. We have set up large-scale programmes in over 15 countries that will restore and enhance the environment and use the world’s limited resources in the most sustainable ways. At the same time, these programmes will create livelihoods that generate real, sustainable income, and reduce local inequality. 

Waste management

Research suggests that as much as 40 per cent of the world’s waste could be subject to open burning, where unwanted materials found in waste such as paper, trees, brush, leaves, grass and other debris are burnt openly, releasing smoke and toxins directly into the air. These emissions of toxins in the air can be breathed in or ingested following settlement on crops or consumption by domestic livestock. Dumped waste is also a major cause of diarrhoeal diseases. 

These toxins have been estimated to cause 270,000 premature deaths globally each year (Cost-benefit assessment of community-based recycling and waste management, Tearfund, 2018). However, a holistic approach to waste management could stop the use of this harmful practice, preventing further damage to the health of populations and to our climate.

Discover our resources on waste management 

Read our policy reports and recommendations on waste management

Integrated resource recovery centres (IRRCS)

These are one example of a community-based recycling scheme. The model originated in Bangladesh in 2007, and was pioneered by the NGO Waste Concern. It has since been replicated in other East Asian countries. IRRCs provide an inclusive, market-based approach to waste management, offering safer and more lucrative employment for waste pickers, as well as significant health and environmental benefits for the community. The approach is ideal for informal settlements in fast-growing cities, as well as in secondary cities and towns. The IRRC intervenes along three axes: with households in the community to introduce regular (almost daily) waste collection and encourage waste separation at source; with waste pickers to manage door-to-door collection and operate a community-based processing plant, and with consumers and downstream businesses to sell organic compost and recyclables.

Renewable energy

Investing in clean, renewable energy is an opportunity to tackle both climate change and poverty. It’s an injustice that, while clean electricity and cooking solutions exist to reduce poverty, more than one billion people do not have electricity and more than two billion people still use firewood, charcoal and dung to cook. Off-grid electricity, like solar and small-scale hydropower, often provides people with electricity for the first time. It can improve health, air quality, women’s empowerment, safety, education, and open up opportunities for new sources of income, savings and setting up small enterprises. It can also be used in humanitarian and conflict situations.

Explore our resources on renewable energy

Sustainable agriculture

Good agricultural practice is key to achieving environmental sustainability as it is crucial that we find ways for farming to adapt and thrive under climate change.

Our approach to agriculture integrates water, land and ecosystem management at a landscape rather than individual level. We use ‘climate-smart agriculture’ (CSA) which is a range of farming techniques that sustainably increase productivity and system resilience while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This approach means that climate change adaptation and mitigation are always central to how we plan and invest in agricultural development.

The three objectives of climate-smart agriculture are:

  1. Increase agriculture production and incomes sustainably and equitably.
  2. Help food systems and farming livelihoods to be more resilient.
  3. Minimise agriculture greenhouse gases emissions.

Discover our resources on sustainable agriculture

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