Crossing the Atlantic – to make a point

Last week I got a chance to meet Baptiste Dubanchet, a fellow food waste activist, whom I had known virtually for three years.

Back in 2014, Baptiste was making a name for himself having just pedaled from Paris to Warsaw eating only food from the dumpster. His goal was to highlight that we all throw away food, and that this problem stretches across all borders.

To be honest, the circumstances in which I met him this time were similarly unreal. He had just spent about three months in the Atlantic Ocean, having pedaled from Paris to Morocco, and then left Africa for the Caribbean. He is now continuing the journey by cycling from Miami to New York City, with a stopover in DC.

His arrival fell on the Halloween weekend, a time when the capital is a bit more crazy than usual. There were little monsters and princesses ringing doorbells, masked youth riding the streets, and countless homes with decorations, that kept the street sparkling.

New frontiers

During the layover, we made time for dumpster diving, conducting a small interview session, presenting to a group of students about the voyage, exploring the landmarks of the city, and of course, cooking and eating lots of food.

The most interesting moments were captured on camera to be shared with you. Specifically, we have the interview session, the presentation at the elementary school, and the footage of his search for edible goods.

The interview 

After giving Baptiste a few days to recuperate his bearings, I sat down with him to pick his brain about what it takes to embark on such a journey. As well as, the mission that energized and kept him going, despite the difficulties and hardships he encountered.

1| How do you choose what to eat?

2| Why did you cross the Atlantic?

3| When did you notice the problem?

4| How can freeze-drying stop waste?

5| How does this work?

6| What were your fears for the road?

7| How will this impact the food waste movement?

8| How have you changed?

9| What’s next?

And a little bit extra, for laughs and entertainment:


School presentation

One bright morning, we had to wake up super early to make it to an 8am morning meeting, where Baptiste got to present his story to the students at the Friendship Tech Prep Academy. The students had a lot of interesting questions!

We covered topics such as:

– How he pedaled across the ocean.
– The parts of the world he traveled.
– The thoughts he had on the journey.
– What he consumed.
– The moment that sparked his idea.
– The economy of food waste.
– Stakeholders of the food supply chain.
– A highlight from his travels.
– And the next stops on his trip.

Many thanks to Coy McKinney who helped arrange this! Coy teaches urban farming at this school. He also runs a community garden, where kids can grow and try fresh food.

Looking through dumpsters 

On the night we chose to go dumpster diving, it was raining. We didn’t stay long, max 15 min., but we found a good amount of food without searching too much.

Baptiste now has fruits and baked goods to fuel his journey to New York.

Best of luck!

La Faim du Monde: This is their story


1.    Summarize your business in one sentence. 

La Faim du Monde is a project that aims to reduce food waste by raising awareness around the issue, as well as, by finding solutions that businesses can implement in practice.

2. How long have you been in business? 

Our first website was launched in 2012, and the first trip where 100% of all the food consumed came from dumpster diving, was completed in 2014.

Currently, the plan is to travel from Paris to New York, only consuming food  that is destined for the dustbin. This journey will invovled bicycyling and paddle boating across the ocean.

To bring global attention to this issue we started a petition urging the best before dates on food to be removed in Europe. We are also researching the freeze drying process on food, to see if it’s a better option that sending it to the landfill. The process of freeze drying food, where the water is removed (not by heating the product but by freezing it),  enables the food to last as long as needed. It’s a bit like putting it in the freezer, only you don’t need more energy for it, and the food regains its original taste when water is added again.

3. Why did you decide to start the company?

I realized that we were wasting a big amount of food when working, while completing my studies, and I felt the need to do something about it. I couldn’t continue working at the same place when I saw that we were in some ways responsible for the starvation of people, without talking or raising awareness about agriculture and the environment.

4. What has been your biggest achievement so far? 

I’m not sure we achieved anything yet. There have been many conferences around Europe, but how can we know if it’s useful? This takes time.

5. How do you measure success?

As we are dealing with a global issue it’s quite difficult. We will know this once we have reached a goal of creating a world where no person goes hungry. On a smaller scale, people give us feedback on how they realized the importance of this issue and decided to take actions as well, starting from their home (for instance, by wasting less food).

6. What have you learned in the process? 

Lots of things about nutrition. About how our body works, how to work with others, how to share knowledge, and other useful things like that.

7. What advice would you give to someone trying to start a sustainable food company?

Anyone who wants to reduce food waste as well. I suppose the best thing they can do is to join us!  :D haha. No, just be happy about what you do!


8. What’s next? Anything else you want to add?

Well, if we convince the European Parliament to remove the best before dates and get all supermarkets to freeze dry their food rather than throwing it away, I’m not sure what we would do. If every one had enough to eat I think we would want to bring peace, try to ask people to create globally a universal anthem, and show everyone that the most important human values are shared by all of us. It would be an anthem to life, love, empathy, fraternity, joy, etc., and it would probably help people stop considering every problem as being caused by someone else. We are dreamers, but we work hard on making our dreams come true, and we are not alone, maybe someday you’ll join us … If you are on Facebook, you can find us here.

And if you do want to join us, then please sign the petition to ask the European Parliament to remove the best before dates.

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

Alice, who is part of the team made me a really good vegan and organic breakfast. Fresh fruits, oranges, banana, apple, kiwi and soy yogurt. Also, some avocado on black bread, cereals, and to drink, a british tea. It was really good for me, especially because I can never eat really good things when I am in Paris.

by Dubanchet Baptiste

National Spotlight: South Korea

Most recent estimate of annual food waste: 4.82 million tonnes in 2014

South Korea is home to one of the world’s most innovative national strategies for fighting food waste: charging its inhabitants to dispose of food waste. To use organic waste disposal bins, residents have to either pay per garbage bag or, as of 2012, according to the weight of their waste (explained below). This year alone, the price of the specialty garbage bags has gone up 30% to provide extra incentive to reduce household waste.

koreaThe “volume-based waste fee” aka pay per trash bag system was introduced in 1995. Within 10 years of the system’s implementation, South Korea’s recycling rate had increased from 15.4% to almost 50%, according to a policy bulletin from the Ministry of Environment in 2006. The government has continued to include food waste as its pursued further recycling reforms, including banning urban-generated food waste from landfills in 2005 and announcing the RFID system in 2012. Under the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) system, residents have to swipe special ID cards to open mechanized disposal bins so that they can throw out their waste. With each transaction, the bin recalculates the weight of its contents, and the disposer is billed once a month according to his or her waste contribution.

Unsurprisingly, the success of these measures over just a couple years has received international praise. According to the Strait Times, daily aggregate food waste in Seoul decreased from 3,300 tonnes to 3,181 tonnes between 2012 and 2014, and the city government is aiming to cut that to 2,318 tonnes per day by 2018. Household and restaurant food waste have fallen by 30% and 40%, respectively, PSFK reported earlier this month.

korea food2The Korean government’s focus on food waste came after years of ecological negligence, for lack of a better term. Even until 2013, most of the country’s organic waste was processed in sewage plants and then dumped into the ocean. The ‘gray water’ produced by the high liquid content of the waste devastated coastal marine life and even began leaching into soil. Although the government joined the London Convention against marine pollution in 1993, the ban on food wastewater dumping wasn’t enacted until 20 years later. Fortunately, most food waste today is recycled into compost, animal feed, or biofuel, largely thanks to government subsidies to those recycling facilities.

A final fun fact: in response to the anti-food waste trend, the company Smart Cara has started manufacturing domestic food waste processors. The appliances grind food waste into a powder that can be utilized as fertilizer or cooking fuel. With the rising fees for residential food waste disposal, sales of the processors tripled between 2013 and 2015 and continue to climb.

Kudos, Korea! 음식물 쓰레기에없는 말.



Other consulted sources:

South Korea: Ban on Dumping of Food Wastewater in the Ocean Comes into Force (Library of Congress)

South Korea: Cutting Back on Food Waste (Pulitzer Center)

South Korea’s food waste reduction policies (Innovation Seeds)

National Spotlight: Denmark

Welcome to the inaugural post of my anti-food waste travel guide! Spending Easter weekend in Copenhagen and getting a glimpse into Danish food culture has inspired me to start a new (non-continuous) series of posts highlighting countries and nations taking exemplary measures against food waste. With enough promotion and consumer support, good practices from anywhere in the world can stimulate change in other countries. Since food waste is a global problem, the fight against it requires global effort.


Most recent estimate of annual food waste: 700,000 tons, worth 11.6 billion kroner (about $1.7 billion)

CopenhagenThis small Scandinavian kingdom was named the ‘European leader in the fight against food waste’ in 2015. In just five years, Denmark was able to reduce its domestic food waste by 25%, according to the Danish Agricultural & Food Council. This achievement was made possible through efforts by the state, NGOs, and private sector.

Like much of northern Europe, Denmark is strongly committed to recycling. Among the goals set in its 2013 plan ‘Denmark Without Waste – Recycle More, Incinerate Less,’ the government pledged to increase the amount of organic waste recycled from the service sector from 17% to 60% by 2018. Household waste, which includes 260,000 tons of food each year, was also targeted in the report so that at least half would be recycled annually by 2022. To complement these objectives, the country is going to continue to focus on biogas (derived from manure and food waste) as a clean alternative fuel source. Daka Refood, for instance, collects food waste from restaurants, supermarkets, schools, manufacturers, etc. to use directly in animal feed or to convert into biogas and, in the case of used cooking oil, biodiesel. In addition to preventing the CO2 emissions otherwise generated by incineration, biogasification allows nutrients like phosphorous from organic waste to be used in fertilizer.

Another way the Danes encourage eco-friendly waste treatment is through bans and fines on landfilling. The European Environment Agency reported that in 2010 only 4% of Denmark’s waste ended up in landfills!

WeFood DenmarkArguably the most famous Danish food waste-fighting initiative, though, is WeFood, the new so-called social supermarket that deliberately sells products considered unsaleable by mainstream grocers. From ‘expired’ packaged goods to visually-imperfect produce, the perfectly edible food is being sold at discounted prices because it would otherwise be discarded. Naturally, this attracts low-income consumers, but NPR reported that most customers are actually shopping there to make a political statement against food industry wastefulness.

A similar anti-food waste pioneer is Rub & Stub, the restaurant whose menu changes daily based on donated ingredients. The volunteer chefs design meals to use excess food from Food Bank Copenhagen, grocers, farmers, food cooperatives, and bakeries, which accounts for almost one third of the restaurant’s food supply. As in WeFood, the donations are totally safe to eat but have been rejected by mainstream food retail for mainly aesthetic reasons.

Aside from word of mouth, locals as well as tourists in Denmark can find establishments like WeFood and Rub & Stub through YourLocal. The app was developed by two Copenhagen Business School students who wanted to create a platform to show people where they could find surplus food that would be destined for the dumpster. Grocery stores registered with the app simply indicate what products are nearing their sell-by dates and offer them at discounted prices. Released in May 2015, YourLocal has already reached more than 50,000 consumers, is collaborating with over 400 stores, and is spreading from its origin in Copenhagen to other Danish cities.

As a last fun fact, one of Denmark’s most popular desserts, romkugler aka rum truffles, originated as a way to use leftover baked goods! Bakers, concerned that their unsold breads, muffins, or cakes would start to taste stale, combined the leftovers with jam, rum, and chocolate into delicious little balls, typically rolled in chopped nuts or coconut. Check out an easy recipe here.

Well done, Denmark! Sig nej madspild.


Living the life down under.

The continent of Australia is full of wonder. Its mainland and neighboring island of Tasmania are home to exotic animals. Some are cute and cuddly, such as kangaroos and koalas, which you can play with in a sanctuary. Some are dangerous, like snakes in rainforests and sharks in coastal waters, which are best kept at a distance.

Still, living under has its perks. The best one is the flipped seasons. As a fan of summer and warmth, leaving winter for the sunshine of Australia is a wonderful treat. However, not all changes are easy to adjust to, such as: driving on the other side of the road. It took me several attempts until I found the blinker signal. Throughout the ordeal, I was left with a shiny window, thanks to the hard work of a pair of windshield wipers that kept reminding me that I was a foreigner to this land.

Being a lover of food, the adventures of discovering a new land didn’t stop at tourist attractions, beaches and mountain parks, they extended to local cafes and dishes.

Below are five things that surprised me most about the Aussie food culture.

1. Hotels that are actually…pubs

Sir_William_Wallace_Hotel_Balmain_1Walking around town, especially in the evening hours, I spotted various hotels. These hotels were pretty loud, had a menu, a bar and served food in the main lobby, well into the evening hours. After visiting one or two, I realized that these were not actually hotels but rather pubs. But, why would anyone call a pub a hotel? A quick google search explains it, and the answer actually makes sense.

The Australian pubs originated from British and Irish public houses. When the British colonized the mainland, one of the first establishments to go up were pubs. These businesses had “multiple functions, simultaneously serving as hostelry, post office, restaurant, meeting place and sometimes even a general store.” As the years changed, activities inside the pubs adjusted to the times, yet the outside name stuck on.

2. Macca’s

maccasWhile studying and traveling abroad, I ran into many Australians who referred to McDonald’s as Macca’s. What was surprising, however, was to see some of the local golden arches actually carrying the name. Whether it’s the love of keeping it short and sweet, or whether the Aussies ‘can’t be bothered‘ with the full pronunciation, their slang won the hearts of the decision makers at McDonald’s, and for the first time in history the restaurant chain decided to alter its image for the local market. Considering that ‘Macca’s‘ is the second most popular slang term in the land down under, right after “footy”, which stands for Australian rules football, this was a smart move by the execs.

3. Breaky

Weetbix_StevageRiding the wave of short and sweet names, it’s important to mention that Aussies are very serious about their breakfast, or ‘breaky‘ as they call it. Many of you heard of Vegemite, a super salty and unique tasting, but also healthy spread loaded with Vitamin B. Yet, there is another morning food that is a favorite in the early hours, a cereal called Weet-Bix. It is made with whole grain wheat and has a malty flavor. Locals love to have it with milk, honey and fruits. In addition to its health benefits, it also has a long history, dating to 1920’s. The brand kept up with current diet trends and comes as gluten-free.

4. Kangaroo Meat

Kangaroo_steakIn the northern hemisphere we love deer, but they are also pests. Without any major predators, deer can reproduce in quick numbers, and wreak havoc on agriculture. A similar thing happens in Australia, but their deer can jump high, hide pups in its pockets and give you a mean kick if you bother it too much. Kangaroos are cute, but their numbers need to be kept in check. Hunters in Australia are encouraged to keep the population at bay by preying on them during certain seasons of the year. The result, the kangaroo skin and meat is put to good use. In diet, kangaroo meat is healthier, more sustainable and a local source of protein. Since kangaroos are active, their meat is a bit tougher than beef or veal, but they don’t travel a long way to get on the plate, and aren’t fed antibiotics and corn, making them the perfect burger or meatball option.

5. Juice Craze

SugarcanejuiceAustralians are juice addicts. Every place I went to, or almost every place, offered a fresh juice. The best part, most of the time you paid a basic price for the size of the juice, small or large (which is more like a medium by USA standards), and then picked whichever ingredients you wanted. It was delicious, refreshing and invigorating, especially on super hot days. This makes sense since Aussies are more health conscious than individuals in America, Britain and New Zealand. This is especially true in areas of: buying food free of additives and maintaining a low fat diet. Yet, despite this awareness, Aussies are just as obese as their overseas counterparts. Despite the conflicting results, it was encouraging to see healthy living videos throughout many of the local metro stations. To discover these  for yourself, visit HealthyMeTv by clicking here.

Australia is wild, amazing, crazy and serene all at the same time. It was an unforgettable experience, both through the food consumed by my eyes and by my stomach. After all, it’s good to have two hemispheres that work backwards, there’s always an excuse to visit the other side, especially when winter pays a visit.

Happy travels and yummy eats!

Monoculture harms sustainability

Socrates once said: “He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature.” today’s world the rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting more poor. What is causing this? That’s the question on many minds. A broken food system and simple human greed are all plausible answers. But one thing overlooked is our human tendency for social acceptance. The need to fit in, despite wanting to retain our individuality, has created many negative outcomes. Unfortunately, globalization only propels this change.

Emma Marsh, of Love Food Hate Waste, spoke at the BBC Farming Today show. She mentioned that consumers waste 25 per cent of purchased food. Of the 16 million tons of food that’s wasted, half is generated by households.

Whether cooking too much, or buying too much, wealthier consumers have a larger dispensable income. This income is spent on buying more products at the store, even if most of the hauled away items end up in trashcans. Increased consumer choice and affluence are just some of the reasons for all this food waste.

Another worrisome trend is the changing diet of affluent individuals living in developing countries. As Guardian pointed out: “Economic growth, urbanization and rising affluence are increasingly bringing with them higher demand for convenient, processed foods, for meat, and for dairy products – in short, a more western diet.” the trend continues, we will need to double our production of food by 2050. With depleting resources, this is simply impossible. What is possible, however, is changing societal norms. We need to take a step back from the monoculture of farming, eating, dressing, and other western standards that get copied worldwide. Doing so will strengthen local traditions, and ensure that we continue living in a diverse and sustainable world.

Where else but in cities can we meet people of different backgrounds and get acquainted with new things? Those who can afford it ought to spend money on travel, as it enriches life beyond any item available in store. As always, Mark Twain was right when he said: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”

Here’s to staying true to ourselves!

Much love,