This is their story

1. Summarize your project/business in one sentence.

Wonky is a new juice brand that lives by the motto ‘give wonky fruit a chance’. We aim to be the most sustainable juice brand in Europe.

2. How long have you been in business/running your project?

It has been almost two years now, since we became entrepreneurs. Wonky Drinks start-up idea was developed by the University of South Wales students, along with co-founders Karina Sudenyte and Maciek Kacprzyk.

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3. Why did you decide to start the company/project?

Maciek had huge interest in business since he was fifteen. His business ventures started from stock trading, these were the first steps when he began developing business skills. However, throughout his educational development he decided to follow a career in Law instead.

Now, after accomplishing my studies, I ditched my law career for a healthy food start-up called Wonky Drinks, with absolutely no regret. I am passionate about the food industry and positive causes for the environment. Of course, starting your own business as an entrepreneur is a lifestyle change. It is hard work, requires a lot of commitment and learning, but what is really important is that I converted my passions into my own business and met a second co-founder, Karina, with whom I linked over a great love for food, who helps to revive my ideas.

P.S. “She is a geek of sustainability! We both enjoy and are proud to be young entrepreneurs”. – Maciek Kacprzyk (Co-founder of Wonky)

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4. What has been your biggest achievement so far?

The first breakthrough occurred during our samplings at the Universities, where we managed to outsell Innocent drinks 11 to 1 at USW, and Bensons juices 8 to 1 in the BS managed canteens. These great results validated that our idea was not at all impossible! It gave us confidence and courage to believe in our concept and pursue impossible goals.

5. How do you measure success?

I consider all obstacles as positive challenge for improvement and success. Any business, sooner or later, is confronted with all kinds of problems, but it is natural, just like in life! A famous philosopher once said: “The man who has no more problems to solve, is out of the game.” This phrase should help you mentally in the approach to solving business problems with courage and give you a positive perception to succeed in your business venture.

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7. What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the _(retail)_ industry/get involved in _(entrepeneurial)_ work & start a _(company)_?

Believing in your idea is extremely important when you start your own business. Are you ready to have your own business? It is important to take into consideration every difficulty that is associated when becoming a new entrepreneur. You must be ready to devote yourself to the work, face new challenges and simply live the idea and breathe it – if so, then this is when you are ready to go.

8. What’s next?

Our key challenge at the moment is to convince at least 2 medium sized distributors that it is smart idea to give Wonky a chance. What is more our aim is to introduce Wonky drinks to 200 catering venues within two years time. Currently we have launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise £13,000. Our mission is to raise some funding to save 300 tones of wonky produce by April 2017, by implementing and making small bottled wonkies!

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9. Anything else you want to add?

If you like to give Wonky a chance, then click here to support this project. For more information visit www.wonkydrinks.co.uk or say hello at hello@wonkydrinks.co.uk

10. Fun question: What was the best meal you ate this week? 

We spent our lunch last week at the Tiny Leaf London – organic, zerowaste, vegetarian restaurant. Our choice was Tartine du Jour – it was a large slice of toasted bread covered with roasted tomato, pepper and courgette. Classic flavour combination and simply delicious!

This is their story

1.    Summarize your project/business in one sentence. 

The Urban Worm harnesses the power of vermicomposting, utilizing the humble earthworm to provide solutions in sustainable waste management and sustainable agriculture.


2. How long have you been in business/running your project?
 

Since December 2013 after being selected for the Women in Social and Environmental Enterprise program (WISEE) which provided me with a small start up grant and business model support.

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3. Why did you decide to start the company/project?

After completing my MA studies in Human Security and Environmental Change, specializing in Urban Food Security and Urban Agriculture I had to make the decision to either leave my native city (Nottingham) to find employment in my field or create an opportunity for myself and for my city, so The Urban Worm began.

Everybody of course has to eat and  building sustainable food systems will be at the heart of our ability to thrive in the face of adversity. Climate change, desertification and natural resource depletion are undermining global food security and the current corporate driven, energy intensive, unjust and chemical ridden model is neither sustainable or successfully meeting the nutritional needs of the world. We need to empower a different model that is local, organic and community driven and vermiculture provides the foundations for this movement by producing a superior organic fertilizer and compost. Worm castings are teeming with beneficial microbes essential for healthy plant growth and disease suppression with exceptional water holding capacity, perfect for urban gardens and extreme weather events which we are experiencing more of as a consequence of climate change.  The process of vermicomposting not only provides a high value by product, but the process is an efficient, low tech and cost effective system for a sustainable management of organic waste, as opposed to diverting the waste to landfill which further contribute to climate change as gases emitted from food waste are 31 times stronger than carbon dioxide.

By managing our waste at home we can make a positive contribution to building the foundations for sustainable societies and vermicomposting can be done on a very small scale, even if you live in a flat you can keep worms in your cupboard, the process is odorless and perfect for indoors.

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4. What has been your biggest achievement so far?
 

Having the opportunity to travel to learn has by far been my greatest achievement. I was awarded the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust (WCMT)  travel Fellowship to research vermiculture in the USA and Cuba, and this opportunity to learn has been inspiring and is wonderful to make international connections with like minded people, building a wider community of vermicomposting enthusiasts, sharing knowledge and passion. As I  I write this I am in New York preparing for the next Cuban leg of my research. Whilst traveling the west coast I saw vermicomposting in prisons, zoos, schools, colleges, universities as well as successful businesses,  it has been incredibly inspiring and presents a blueprint for developing institutional sustainable organic waste management in the UK. This will be the next achievement, so watch this space. From Cuba the learning will be vast as Cuba is considered to be the global leader in vermicomposting as after the breakdown of the soviet union they lost 80 % of their imports of synthetic fertilizers over night and so a sustainable alternative was called for, and the organic movement began, with worms.


5. How do you measure success?

Tricky one! I guess on a personal level success is to receive love, which I never feel in short supply of! On a professional level success is having influence to make positive change, locally and globally.

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6. What have you learned in the process? 

That  worms  definitely don’t like too many apples- I had a massacre situation a few years ago after a community apple pressing day. Sad, sad day, too much acid, a lesson learned the hard way.


7. What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the worm farming industry or  simply starting a wormery at home.

Just do it, the earth needs you.  We need more worm farmers, rural and urban and the process is very easy and can be set up for a very small cost. If not for profit we need to produce as much ‘black gold’ aka worm castings as we possibly can, even if we live in an apartment we can all make a positive contribution.  What greater contribution to the world can we make but to make earth again? Even if you don’t have a garden, a gardener or community garden would be very grateful for your gift. There is an abundance of information on the internet on how to get started and I have written a worm care guide available for download for free from our website www.theurbanworm.co.uk

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8. What’s next?
 

On return from my WCMT travels, besides catching up with friends and family, and checking up on my worm culture, I will be working on a project that introduces vermicomposting into prisons in the UK. Institutions need to play a key role in practicing sustainable waste management and the USA has some incredibly successful models, notably Monroe Correctional Facility  in Washington.


9. Anything else you want to add?
 

Feed the worms, feed the soil, and feed the soul.

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10. Fun question: what was the best meal you ate this week?

Whilst visiting my family in New Jersey we went to a delicious Italian restaurant in Glen Rock called Rocca, all local and organic produce. I had a bruschetta to start and spinach gnocchi for my main, perfect!

This is their story

1. Summarize your project/business in one sentence.

MealFlour is an environmentally sustainable social enterprise that provides training to build mealworm farms, raise mealworms, and turn them into protein-rich flour that can be incorporated in local staple foods or sold to bakeries and markets.

2. How long have you been in business/running your project?

We (Elizabeth Frank, Gabrielle Wimer, and Joyce Lu) have been working on the idea of MealFlour since December of 2015. In the summer of 2016, we began our pilot in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala (also known as Xela). We are based in Xela, but we work with the communities on the outskirts of the city; our first community is Candelaria.

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3. Why did you decide to start the company/project?

MealFlour started out as a thought experiment. We had all worked in community and global health and wished that more programs and social enterprises would take a holistic approach to improving health. We hoped MealFlour, with its emphasis on not only improving nutrition, but also on raising income and reducing waste, would be a more well-rounded approach to improving well-being. After we entered a few social enterprise competitions, earned enough seed funding, and confirmed local interest at our pilot site community, we realized that this thought experiment could actually become a reality, so we went for it.

4. What has been your biggest achievement so far?

One of our biggest concerns was finding out where to start.  Insects are eaten in 80% of countries around the world, including parts of Guatemala, but raising mealworms in this way is something new. When we pitched the concept to the group of women from a community in Candelaria and gave them samples of the mealworm products, they were excited to learn more and wanted to try out farming themselves.

5. How do you measure success?

Each week we discuss MealFlour’s progress with the farmers to receive their continuous feedback. In order to improve the program as it evolves, we track how many families are farming mealworms, how often they are eating mealworm flour, who in the family eats mealworm flour, open ended questions about attitudes towards mealworm farming and mealworm flour, and ease of uptake of the program. Success means that the women are still farming mealworms long after we have left, so it is important that we are constantly collaborating with farmers to build a business model that works for them.

It is also important to us that the flour they are producing is both improving nutrition in communities and creating new sources of income for the farmers (mostly women with young children). To measure this, we will be analyzing anthropometric data, conducting regular focus groups and surveys, and monitoring flour production and income.

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6. What have you learned in the process?

Don’t be afraid to ‘make the ask’. This is advice we have gotten from a few different people along the way and (most of the time) it has really paid off – you’d be surprised how many people agree and want to help you.

7. What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the (nutrition) industry/get involved in (global public health) work/start a (social enterprise)?

Global health is about getting an intimate understanding of the local context, integrating insights and developments from around the world, and continuing to learn from communities. We chose Guatemala because Joyce worked there for three months in 2015 and got to know the community well. It was important to us that we didn’t integrate into the community without having a close relationship with them first. We also think carefully about each step moving forward with MealFlour. We have a plan and timeline for what we hope to achieve each month, but we are also really flexible to the changes that inevitably come with listening to what the community wants and determining what actually works in practice.

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8. What’s next?

Next is where the real work begins! We spent almost a year laying groundwork, doing research, optimizing the farming technology, raising money, and developing partnerships. Now, starting October 2016, we will begin our first official classes on farming and begin to put everything we’ve been planning into practice.

9. Anything else you want to add?

Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and check out our website and sign up for newsletter for more information!

Also, while MealFlour is working in the western highlands of Guatemala, we are really part of a larger, global movement towards sustainable agriculture  and edible insects. If you want to build your own farm at home and make delicious protein packed treats, find out how on our ‘DIY‘ page.

10. Fun question: what was the best meal you ate this week?

Homemade chapati bread and macaroons, both made with mealworm flour from mealworms taken straight from our farm and grown by co-founder Gabrielle Wimer!

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How to Use Fall Fruits and Vegetables

*Quick, upfront disclaimer: this post is based on produce that is in season across the USA. Sorry if it does not apply to all climates.

With the autumnal equinox upon us, it’s time to celebrate one of the best parts of fall: the food! In addition to the obvious favorites like pumpkins, butternut squash, and apples, autumn offers an array of other fruits and vegetables that can be used to make great healthy dishes or indulgent desserts. Given the purpose of our organization and the fact that there are plenty of recipe guides to seasonal produce out there (such as these for October and November), this post is going to focus on making the most of your purchases. That means finding a use for parts of fruits and vegetables that are typically disregarded and/or creatively using up produce once it’s no longer fresh.

fall-applesauceApples: Apples are best kept in the pantry.

Don’t toss apple peels: crispy chips, apple peel tea, or apple cider vinegar

If apples are getting old: applesauce, apple cider, or apple crisp

Beets: Store beets by chopping off the leaves and storing each in separate plastic bags in the refrigerator.

Eat beet leaves within 2-3 days: frittata, pesto, or just saute similarly to kale or collard greens

If beets are starting to go soft, try: pizza crust, hummus, or chocolate cake

Broccoli and Cauliflower: These vegetables are very similar and should be stored in sealed plastic bags in the fridge.

Don’t throw out leaves: roast, smoothie, as a raw salad base, or try the beet green recipes

fall-grapesGrapes: Grapes should be stored in the fridge. Alternatively, they can be easily frozen to serve as ice cubes that will chill wine without diluting it.

If grapes are starting to go soft, try: grape pie, grape gazpacho, or grape vinaigrette

Parsnips: Treat parsnips like carrots – store in a plastic bag in the fridge.

Use the whole parsnip, peel and all: honey parsnip bread, roasted with onions, or baked fries

Pears (Bosc and Comice): Ripen pears at room temperature, store in fridge once ripe.

Treat pear peels like apple peels.

If pears are going soft: pear crème pâtissière, pear butter, or spinach-pear soup

Pumpkins and winter squash: Store these fall-centric gourds in a pantry. Butternut and kabocha squashes should be peeled, but the skin is edible on other varieties.

Roast your seeds: cocoa, rosemary-sage, or sweet and spicy (or use them raw in muffins, granola, bread, etc.)

How to make pumpkin puree, which can be frozen.

 

Have a flavorful fall!

Eva

National Spotlight: Italy

Most recent estimate of annual food waste: 5.1 million tonnes

Considering that food waste annually costs the national economy an estimated €12 billion, it is no surprise that Italy has been stepping up its efforts to save food from the garbage. Agricultural Minister Maurizio Martina has stated that he wants the country to recover one billion tons of excess food by the end of this year, and there are many new initiatives underway that could make his goal a reality.

italy1At the end of July, Italy’s senate reinvigorated the country’s food recovery policies by providing incentives for and removing bureaucratic hurdles associated with donating surpluses to charities. For instance, restaurants, retailers, and manufacturers must no longer declare each donation in advance but instead complete only one declaration for all donations made each month. Additionally, products can be donated after their sell-by dates; farmers can freely give excess produce to charities; and all food donors will be rewarded with tax reductions. Ministers hope that the law will save at least 1 million tons of food from going to waste each year.

The agricultural ministry has also been looking at reducing consumer waste. Much like France, Italy is home to strong anti-doggy-bag bias that stops many restaurant customers from saving the food they don’t finish in one sitting. The term ‘family bag’ is now being promoted to emphasize that leftovers provide families with delicious second meals and distance the idea from the negative connotation of dog food. Another campaign is researching new forms of packaging to preserve food better, especially during transit.

Unsurprisingly, Italy is home to many organizations that connect recovered food to hungry mouths. Rete Banco Alimentare is a national network of 21 food banks that redistributes donations from producers, restaurants, caterers, and retailers to nearly 9,000 charitable organizations throughout the country. The volunteer-based organization started in 1989 and, eight years later, launched National Food Collection Day, in which customers can buy food to be redistributed to charities. In 2013, more than 11,000 supermarkets participated in the annual event, allowing over 9,000 tons of food to be collected by 135,000 participants.

italy capreseAlongside government programs and charitable organizations, activists within the food industry are getting international attention for combating waste. Chef Massimo Bottura, head of the World’s Best Restaurant 2016 Osteria Francescana, made headlines at the Expo Milano and again at the 2016 Olympic Games for setting up soup kitchens that utilized excess food from the respective events to feed those in need. Another renowned Italian chef, Ugo Alciati, requires his customers to reserve at his restaurant and eat from a fixed menu to minimize the amount of food left in his kitchen at the end of each day.

Bravo, Italy! Dire di no a rifiuti alimentari.

Additional Sources:

Stephanie Kirchgaessner (The Guardian) – Italy Tackles Food Waste with Law Encouraging Firms to Donate Food

National Spotlight: Japan

Most recent estimate of annual food waste: 18 million tons in 2010, according to the Ministry of Agriculture

When global climate change awareness started gaining traction in the 1990s, Japan was quick to put recycling on the national agenda. Since then, its recovery and waste management policies have included innovative food waste solutions focused on repurposing would-be waste for animal feed and fertilizer.

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Photo courtesy of Timothy Takemoto

The Food Waste Recycling Law (English summary here), passed in 2001, called for the development of national food loss reduction targets and standards for businesses as well as recycling promotion strategies. Six years later, the law was given more teeth: it assigned recycling volume targets by  food industry sector, required businesses to report their waste quantity and their recycling efforts each year, and encouraged collaboration between the food and recycling industries. These measures spawned Recycling Business Plans, aka “recycling loops,” to circulate resources. For instance, a retailer might pass its waste to a business that converts it into fertilizer or animal feed, which is then used to produce foods that the retailer purchases to sell. Much organic waste is also diverted to biofuel production.

Thanks primarily to the recycling law, Japan recycled 82% of its food waste in 2010. Nevertheless, food constituted 25-30% of municipal solid waste in that same year. A leading culprit for these disappointing figures is the “one-third rule” that many companies follow. Looking at a product from its manufacture to its best-by date, manufacturers must deliver the food to retailers within the first third of its lifespan, and it cannot be sold after the second third. So, a can of nuts manufactured in January 2015 with a best-by date of January 2017 a) has to be delivered to retailers by August 2015 and b) has to be purchased by April 2016 – otherwise, it’s thrown out. The annual values of food returns to wholesalers and to manufacturers based on date-expiration sum to more than ¥155 billion. In a few exemplary cases (16%), though, products past the sell-by period are sold at discounted prices, rather than trashed. Fortunately, Japan has been reexamining the unwritten “rule” over the last couple of years and extending shelf-life labels of shelf-stable foods such as canned products, bottled water, and packaged rice cakes.

japan sushiAesthetic perfectionism is another cause of waste that Japan is just starting to address. The Ministry of Agriculture estimates that food rejected for purely visual reasons accounts for roughly one-third of the country’s annual waste. To call attention to this issue, the company a-dot has launched four distinct restaurants across Tokyo that specialize in using foods that are deemed “unsellable” by retail aesthetic standards. The project, called Mottainai (“wasteful”) Action, not only saves food from being tossed but also rewards producers and market vendors for their products (otherwise, they would have earned no profit for unsold food).

Finally, there is the Foodloss Challenge Project, launched in 2012 to analyze how and why food waste occurs and strategize what can be done about it. The project began with studies that examined food waste management practices at all levels of the food supply chain. Participants in the research (farmers, retailers, manufacturers, restauranteurs, chefs, consumers, etc.) not only learned about the economic inefficiency and ecological harms of waste but also brainstormed ways to raise public awareness and promote new practices to cut down on waste. The campaign then hosted a “salvage party” on household waste reduction tips in which consumers brought leftovers from their homes for on-site chefs to improvise into new dishes. Additionally, the project has launched extracurricular programs to teach children about waste as well as a sticker for retailers to affix to products approaching their expiration date to encourage customers to buy them sooner. Meanwhile, nonprofit food banks have become increasingly prevalent, redistributing unwanted consumer-, farmer-, and company-donated food items to people in need.

japanAlthough Japan still has a lot of work to do in the food waste prevention department, the country’s steps to improve waste management are laudable. Japan is worth keeping an eye on as it develops more mechanisms to deal with waste.

Keep pushing forward, Japan! 食品廃棄物にノーと言います.

Eva

Additional Sources:

Federica Marra (Food Tank) – Food Waste in Japan: How Eco-towns and Recycling Loops are Encouraging Self-Sufficiency

Kaori Iwashita and Junko Edahiro (Japan for Sustainability Newsletter) – The Foodloss Challenge Project, a Co-created Project on Food Loss and Waste

OECD – Preventing Food Waste: Case Studies of Japan and the United Kingdom

This is their story

1. “Food Is…”

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All photos belong to Chris King. Founder of Food Is...

A documentary project which aims to engage people on the subject of avoidable food waste – the issue, the consequences and the solutions. 

2. How long have you been in business/running your project?

The project started in September 2013, when I documented activities of an organisation called FoodCycle in London. From there I explored other initiatives, and then started visiting farms across the UK with the Gleaning Network, to explore farm-level food waste.

3. Why did you decide to start the company/project?

I’ve been involved in grassroots activism around environmental and social justice issues in some capacity for many years. When I lived in Amsterdam in the late 90s/early 00s, I also used to gather food to live off that would otherwise go to waste at a local market. So I’ve been conscious of the issue and the impact of waste, including food waste, for some time.

I’m also curious about everything, and the nature of the issue of food waste appealed to me on many levels, for if we impact positively on food waste we impact positively on so many of the issues of our time – soil degradation, climate change, the power and impact of the biotechs, food security, water security, deforestation and more.

When I started the project there was very little media attention, and I wanted to do what I could to raise awareness about the issue, and to provide exposure to those people and organizations who proactively do something to reduce the amount of edible food waste. 

4. What has been your biggest achievement so far?

Completely out of the blue I was invited to give a lecture at the NYU campus in Florence, Italy last year. When I was walking up the tree-lined track to Villa La Pietra, gazing at the amazing views and the olive groves, listening to the professor who invited me talk about all the people who stayed and lectured at the campus, I felt more than a little overwhelmed!

Thankfully the lecture was well received, and the whole experience was amazing. You can see the lecture here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hpAlp6SRhc

5. How do you measure success?

saynotofoodwaste.waste.stop.foodis.chrisking.uk.activism.foodwaste.sustainability.2In relation to my project the key measure of success would be the number of people who engage on some level with the work I produce. Unfortunately, this isn’t something I can really measure effectively. What I can measure is the size of my audience, and the rate at which it is growing. By constantly working on refining the work I produce – as well as exploring different formats such as short documentary films and podcasts – I hope to continually increase my audience. I am constantly refining what I produce to make it more engaging and more accessible, with the aim of maximising the potential for people to be inspired to take some sort of positive action – no matter how small.

Ultimately if I were to inspire just one person to take action, I would consider my project a success…and I think I have done exactly.

6. What have you learned in the process?

Where do I begin?! There’s so much I learned about so many things – such is the nature of documenting a complex, multi-layered issue like food waste! But one of the most positive and heartening things is that there are a lot of good, ordinary – I mean that in a positive way, and a thing to celebrate – people doing a lot of good things.

I already knew this generally speaking, but food waste, like so many issues, has some go-to people that get a huge amount of the attention – their work and their words are continually celebrated in the media, and tend to mould the public’s perception of an issue. This is great for nurturing an awareness of the issue within the public consciousness, but it also results in the crowding out of the voices of the multitude of grassroots initiatives – all of which deserve more attention than they currently receive.

saynotofoodwaste.waste.stop.foodis.chrisking.uk.activism.foodwaste.sustainability.3There are so many grassroots initiatives doing something related to food waste, of all shapes and sizes, both nationally and internationally – it’s a beautifully diverse ecosystem – and is growing at a fabulous rate. With edible food being a valuable resource, there are also many enterprising individuals tapping into its commercial value – many of which function as social enterprises, and so serving the wider community, not just their own interests.


Bearing witness to this gives me hope that, despite a lack of meaningful action at a government, retailer and manufacturer level, the momentum for positive, meaningful change will continue to grow from the grassroots up, and with time will come to influence the actions of majority of individuals and organisations within our societies – increasing pressure on all sectors to take action.

With that shift in awareness, habits and business practices will come a positive, knock-on effect on all the issues of our time – hence the reason why we need to nurture the grassroots initiatives as much as possible.

7. What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the (food) industry/get involved in (food) work/start a (organization)?

I’ve been exposed to a multitude of different organisations and initiatives – each with its own story, and its own way of functioning – but what they all have in common is the spark that ignited each and every one of them, which was an idea nurtured by one or two passionate, driven people. So if you have an idea, just get out there and make it happen – there are plenty of people who will support you, and help make it work – then continually refine what you do and what you offer.

8. What’s next?

saynotofoodwaste.waste.stop.foodis.chrisking.uk.activism.foodwaste.sustainability.4I am in the process of producing the first in a series of short documentary films on the many layers of food waste – ways of reducing it, and the various ways of managing it. The first will be on the date labelling of food – best before and use by dates – and will hopefully be completed by the end of the year.

I want to connect with as wide an audience as possible, and inspire them to take action, and so will continue to refine what I produce, and continue to explore all the possible means and ways of achieving that.

9. Fun question: what was the best meal you ate this week?

The breakfast I shared with my partner before she went off to Glastonbury for a few days. It was just a big bowl of porridge, but every meal I get to share with her is special to me.

10. To add:

If there is one issue you get behind, make it food waste – it impacts on all the issues of our time, and we are all part of the problem, but also part of the solution.

If you would like to follow my own exploration of the issue, then connect with my via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and my newsletter. And if you would like to access new and upcoming content beyond what’s on the website, then subscribe to my iTunes channel and YouTube Channel.

——
Many thanks to Chris King for sharing his story, his talent and his experiences!
We hope you enjoyed it.

All the best,
Hokuma 

Preventing Waste vs. Eating Healthily: Is There a Conflict?

People need to learn how to eat better. Poor diet contributes to the two leading causes of death worldwide – heart disease and stroke – as well as a slew of other medical problems including obesity, diabetes, and even certain cancers. Without a doubt, promoting proper nutrition is one of the most important food policy focuses of our time. However, it is by no means the only issue.

I recently spoke with someone who is not entirely convinced of the importance of saving food. She understands the principle of preventing waste but cares far more about getting people to eat healthily. Her example: if a person were deciding between throwing away a half-eaten bag of potato chips or saving them, she’d say to throw them away. It’s not worth salvaging junk food that can wreak so much damage on our bodies, her logic goes. chips

As someone whose life’s mission is to fight food waste but also cares deeply about nutrition, I needed a moment to wrestle with this argument. Since I used to overeat in the name of preventing waste (here’s my reflection post about it), I know how the pretense of saving food can clash with healthy eating intentions. Many weight loss diets even explicitly say that people shouldn’t eat everything on their plates, since portion sizes tend to be excessively large. So, does trying to avoid waste mean making poor dietary choices? In a word, no. The keys are storage and smart decisions.

Back to the potato chip example: I say the eater should save the chips as leftovers. That way, the next time the person has a craving for salty, fatty food, he/she can have more chips from the bag, rather than buying a new bag (i.e. giving more money to junk food companies). Plus, with half the chips already eaten, the portion size is limited, whereas a brand new bag would present the temptation to devour all the chips at once. Alternatively, the remaining chips could be shared with friends or served at a party.

nutsBringing leftover junk food home seems like it just invites bad choices; but that’s where my “smart decisions” point comes in. Once food is in the home, it can lose some of its novelty, making it easier to moderate intake. Since the food will still be there tomorrow, there’s less temptation to overindulge now. Unhealthy cravings can be sated in moderation. Moreover, the root of the problem is buying potato chips in the first place. If you don’t want to consume so much sodium and fat, buy a healthier snack!

I realize my counterargument isn’t perfect, but neither is our food environment. Ideally, junk food wouldn’t be so prevalent, nor portion sizes so large, that we have to debate saving unhealthy food for later. Teaching people how to eat well can only go so far as long as we’re surrounded by unhealthy options.  Nevertheless, the pursuit of good nutrition does not have to undercut food waste reduction.

Busy summers

Dear readers,

Hokuma and I just wanted to issue a brief but sincere apology for the lack of posts over the last month. Between work and travel, we’ve both been very busy and haven’t found the time to generate meaningful content. However, we’ve got some exciting projects in the works that we will hopefully be able to start publicizing soon! And, naturally, we’ll be trying to get ourselves back on a weekly posting schedule.

In the meantime, we hope that you are enjoying your summers (or winters, in the southern hemisphere) and invite you to keep checking our Facebook page, where we have been better about regularly sharing interesting articles.

You’ll hear more from us soon!

Eva

National Spotlight: United Kingdom

Most recent estimate of annual food waste: 15 million tonnes. About 47,000 tonnes of food surplus are redistributed and 660,000 tonnes are used for animal feed production.

As food waste has gotten more and more global attention, Britain has consistently been a source of profound reports, inspirational practices, and innovative solutions aimed at combating the problem. The face of the British anti-waste movement is WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Plan) and its “Love Food Hate Waste” campaign that has been running since 2007. Founded in 2000, WRAP collaborates with all levels of government, businesses, community organizations, trade unions, and individuals to champion sustainable waste management. Its Courtauld 2025 Commitment has set 20% reduction targets for food waste and greenhouse gas intensity of food and drink (production, distribution, consumption, etc.) in the UK over the next 10 years.

UK wrap report
Image courtesy of WRAP

In 2015, WRAP created the Manufacturing and Retail Working Group to develop resources and undertake research projects to analyze and improve food waste prevention practices. Just last month, the group published its report examining the current waste levels and progress in the UK with accompanying recommendations for development. Among its findings, the research produced the nonprofit’s first-ever estimate of preventable waste from the UK manufacturing and retail sectors: 56% of the 1.9 million tonnes of food that was discarded could have been eaten.  Nonetheless, less than 5% of food production in the British retail and manufacturing sectors ends up as surplus or waste, which is quite commendable. Moreover, 47,000 tonnes of surplus food were redistributed in 2015, and 660,000 tonnes were used in animal feed production. While WRAP rightfully continues to push for improvement, the UK’s progress in preventing waste so far is by no means negligible.

The “Love Food, Hate Waste” campaign is geared towards consumers, teaching people how easy it is to prevent waste at the household level. Its website of food saving tools includes a recipe search engine to use up leftover ingredients, portion and up-to-2-week meal planners, and tons of storage, cooking, and shopping tips. In addition to these resources, the LFHW mobile app offers a kitchen inventory tool to help users keep track of the food they’ve bought. The campaign references British food waste statistics, but, naturally, the tips and tools are universally relevant and useful.

London

Another strong fighter in Britain’s food waste arena is ReFood, Europe’s largest food waste recycler. The corporation collects waste from retailers and producers across the UK and converts it into biogas, electricity, and fertilizer via anaerobic digestion, providing a clean, efficient method of food waste management. In 2013, ReFood launched Vision 2020, a step-by-step plan to help the food industry prepare for a total ban on food waste landfilling by the year 2020. Far from idealistic, the campaign’s acknowledges the financial and administrative difficulties of instituting a landfill ban and accordingly offers recommendations and assistance for developing the necessary infrastructure. Furthermore, it promotes food waste education, citing “Love Food, Hate Waste” by name. ReFood’s goal is to embrace food waste as a profitable resource.

As for the private sector: Britain’s largest supermarket, Tesco, has demonstrated an impressive commitment to preventing waste. In 2013, the corporation published an extensive report on the waste generated by products sold in its stores, disclosing its food waste statistics for the first time ever. Now, the retailer annually publishes food waste data for its UK franchise – which, sadly, saw a 4% increase in waste from 2015 to 2016. Still, Tesco has been working to eliminate wasteful practices, such as Buy One Get One Free offers on fruit and vegetables. The chain also hasn’t sent any food directly to landfills since 2009. Details on the store’s other efforts can be found here.

Last September, the Food Waste (Reduction) Bill was introduced to, among other things, establish national food waste reduction incentives and require large retailers and manufacturers to cut down their waste at least 30% by 2025. Unfortunately, the proposed legislation never made it out of the House of Commons – but it wasn’t the first time that food waste was on the government agenda, and it certainly won’t be the last. In 2011, for instance, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs issued date label guidance to the food industry so as to prevent the excess of caution and confusion that generates waste.

Jolly good show, UK!