By IOF student, Maiana Nelson

It was so nice to finally have a rest day to catch up on sleep and enjoy being a tourist for the day in Dubai! But so far, here are some highlights from my week:

At COP28 I’ve been focused on learning more about sustainable food systems and the role they play in the climate crisis. Starting on the first day at COP, we got to listen to the first ever chef speak at COP! We questioned why it has taken 28 COPs to get a chef here as they play an essential role in sourcing local, sustainable food and in reducing food waste.

Later that day I got to meet another high schooler from Maryland who was attending COP (rare to come by as there aren’t many high schoolers) and she has started her own non-profit composting business that works to get composting into schools and pass legislation to make composting more accessible for schools.

The following day I got to tour the Expo City Farm and learned about innovative technologies that are used to grow food in places such as Dubai where the soil isn’t very nutrient rich and water is hard to come by. One of the technologies was the AirJoule that extracts moisture from the air and is a sustainable way to irrigate crops.

Another one of the solutions was biochar and that is a material that can be added to soils to increase water retention and fertility allowing for higher productivity for farmers. There are many more benefits to biochar so if you are interested, you can read more here:

Next was our turn to teach others about what we know about creating sustainable food systems in schools in the US. I had the opportunity to speak on a panel at the Just North pavilion along with Katie Stabb, Jen Nelson, and Avery Smith moderating as we discussed how schools can source food locally, have their own school gardens or hydroponics systems, and divert food waste to composting. We had an amazing, engaged audience and got to talk to a professor from a school from France who is interested in starting a similar program at his school.

In the following couple of days in the Blue Zone I checked out the Food4Climate pavilion, Food Systems pavilion, Save Soil pavilion, and Food and Agriculture pavilion to learn more about global efforts to create a healthier food system. Attending panels and talking to others who are passionate about similar things was very inspirational and I look forward to learning more in my final day at COP!