As we all become increasingly aware of climate change and environmental degradation, it begs the question of what we as consumers can do to lessen our impact. It can often seem like an uphill struggle to become a conscious consumer when the global food production system leads us to make food choices which can be laden with negative environmental consequences, such as that food has often travelled miles to reach our plate, and comes covered with loads of unnecessary plastic packaging.
Food waste is another major global issue and one which we should all be aware of our role in. I was shocked to discover that roughly 1/3 of the food produced in the world for human consumption is wasted. This means all of the resources going into making that food are also squandered, such as all of the fossil fuels, water and pesticides required to produce food amounting to nothing more than waste which harms our planet. Whilst a lot of this waste happens during the production process, there is a significant amount of food that is wasted on the consumption side, such as by supermarkets and wholesalers chucking out perfectly edible food, and by households – the Danes throw out around 20% of the food they buy every year.
Copenhagen has made commendable progress towards the reduction of their food waste and has become somewhat of a European leader in the area. Its also one of the world’s most sustainable cities, coming in 14th on the sustainable cities index (all that cycling has to count for something) and has plans to become the world’s first carbon-neutral capital in 2025. However, there is naturally a long way to go. Whilst I’ve been living in the city, I’ve discovered a number of ways to become individually involved with food waste reduction, which happens to also be very helpful in terms of eating well on a budget, always welcome when you’re a student in one of the world’s most expensive cities!
The first of these is ‘Foodsharing Copenhagen’: part of the global movement of food sharing to reduce food waste, raise awareness of the issue and organise a food surplus redistribution for people in need. The food distribution takes place twice a week; on Wednesday and Saturdays, and operates through a principle of the unconditional sharing of food with nothing in return but a donation. The organisation is run entirely by volunteers, making it the 2nd largest volunteer organisation in Denmark. Food Sharing Copenhagen redistributes around 2 tonnes a week, coming from just one wholesale market, demonstrating the huge amount of waste that can occur from even the tiniest area of food production and consumption. The volunteers not only distribute the food but chat to people at the events, thereby educating people on the wider issues of food waste. The organisation also hosts events and meals focusing on the theme of food waste, and it’s super easy to sign up to volunteer via Facebook if you fancy becoming more involved with the movement.
Next on the list is Kafa X, a community food kitchen serving up delicious vegan food from local Nørrebro greengrocers that would otherwise be thrown away, alongside bread donated from local bakeries. The meal is served up at 7, for a small donation of just 20DKK and it’s BYOB. I would suggest getting down there a bit early though as there are plenty of regulars so it can be hard to find a space. Kafa X also operates through volunteers and welcomes anyone who fancies helping out, meaning you can bag a free meal as well in exchange for your efforts.
Other community kitchens to check out include:
BumZen Community Kitchen, KraftWerkets Folkekøkken, and Abasalon alongside others serving up affordable and delicious food.
WeFood sells products that would otherwise be thrown out from supermarkets, wholesalers, and producers who cannot sell their products due to excess production, food nearing the expiration date, or damage to the packaging. The food is sold by WeFood at a 30-50% markdown of its original price, and the profits go to the charity ‘DanChurch Aid’ who tackle poverty in the world’s poorest countries. As highlighted by their website, ‘Wefood is for everyone; whether you want to support the fight against famine, stop food waste or simply want to save money on your groceries’. The WeFood supermarkets are currently located in Amager (Amagerbrogade 151, 2300 KBH S) and Nørrebro (Nørrebrogade 58, 2200 KBH N).
Løs is another supermarket making a difference, targeting the area of unnecessary plastic packaging. Løs are a ‘packaging-free grocery store’ where you bring your own container or grab a reusable one in the store, thereby hugely minimising the unnecessary waste that comes from food shopping. The shop also priorities both organic and locally grown produce, so you know you are getting the really good stuff. Løs highlights that when people have the power to decide on the quantity of what they’re buying instead of in prepackaged amounts, they are far more likely to only buy what they need, therefore directly reducing household food waste. So go grab a jar and some Tupperware’s and head down – they also reduce prices by up to 50% when fruit and veg are nearing expiry, so another good place to find a bargain as well.
‘Download Too Good To Go and Eat Good Food with Good Conscience’. The tagline of the app ‘TooGoodToGo’ sums up their ethos, and once you have downloaded the app you can scroll through different restaurants, bakeries and supermarkets to see where has an excess of food that day, pay and go and pick it up at a discount price (normally at least a 50% of the original price). This is a great way to try out different restaurants as well, the last time I used it I got an amazing selection of Moroccan food. All of these initiatives have contributed to Denmark successfully reducing its food waste by 25% in the last five years. The app is also currently operating in 6 European countries including the UK, so its definitely worth downloading to check out where else you can have an impact on food waste reduction.
YourLocal cooperates with Denmark’s largest organisation fighting food waste ‘Stop Spild af Mad’ (Stop Food Waste). On the app you can decide which shops you’re interested in, and then recieve a notification once they have surplus food – super simple! There’s also loads on there to choose from, so have a look through and see what takes your fancy.
So there you go, a huge selection of different initiatives to try out in Copenhagen, and hopefully inspiring you to think about the environmental consequences of food waste, whilst eating some delicious food.
Photo by Karoline Hill with permission from Foodsharing Copenhagen.