Friday, December 2, 2011

Today we are launching our new website addressing food waste in Switzerland: This is a fantastic project that I have collaborated on with João Almeida, Markus Hurschler, and Claudio Beretta. João wrote his masters thesis in Sustainable Development at Universität Basel titled “Food Waste and Losses in Switzerland: A Quantitative Assessment for Switzerland.” Markus is involved in CSA (community supported agriculture) in Berne. And Claudio is also finalizing a thesis on food waste at ETH Zürich (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich). Together we have built a platform introducing food waste in Switzerland just in time for the publication of two articles about food waste (and us) in Tages Woche today.

In the first article, “Tag für Tag wird Brot zu Abfall,” author Beat Grossrieder introduces the concept of food waste and some of its financial implications. Although it doesn't go into any detail about either ecological or social aspects of food waste, it provides a good introductory overview of the situation, concentrating mainly on cultural perception and the shear magnitude of food waste. If you're not a German reader you still might enjoy the six pictures of me, even featuring my literal “dive” into a dumpster. I suggest using Google Translate in order to get the gist of the content.

In the second article, “'Die Preise sind zu tief',” João gives insight into socioeconomic aspects of food waste, focusing on one of my favorite observations: we are wasting food because we can afford to waste food. In developing countries where the majority of the population spends between 80 and 90 percent of their disposable income on food there is very little food waste at the consumer end. In industrial countries, however, 45 percent of the avoidable food waste is contributed by the consumer. Why? We in industrial countries spend much less on food; in Switzerland we only spend 11% of our disposable income on food. That makes it very easy to throw away. João also does a good job mentioning the concept of externalized costs. If the food we ate really included all social and ecological costs accrued – such as land erosion, water depletion, or the high costs of the consequences of using cheap energy – it would be much, much more expensive. And then we might think twice about throwing away such a precious resource.

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