Photo Blog Marjolein Baghuis

Saving people and planet starts at breakfast - by Marjolein Baghuis

"We are both the flood and the ark. No one but us will destroy the planet, and no one except us will save it." Powerful words from Jonathan Safran Foer's book We are the weather, saving the planet begins at breakfast. As humanity is facing the COVID-19 pandemic, I wonder: can we save people and save the planet at the same time?

Never waste a good crisis

The word crisis stems from the Greek word krinein: "to separate, decide, judge." And while we may not always be able to determine the outcome of a crisis, our decisions in a crisis reveal who we are. We show our true selves by figuring out what we're capable of letting go of. This applies to climate change as well as the current pandemic. Recognition of what's really important helps us to keep trying. To not give up after the first attempt to eat less/no meat or to not rebel after the first week of lockdown. The trouble is, that while decision-makers excellently frame what's at stake during the COVID-19 pandemic, they don't consistently do this for the looming climate crisis.

Structure for collective action

Just three months ago, who would have thought that large parts of the world could be locked up? People are sticking to the measures because the daily reporting of deaths makes us all feel fragile. And because governments make clear what's expected of them. (Of course, this is grossly overgeneralizing the reality, but I think you see what I mean.) While we all had high hopes that the Paris Climate Agreement would lead to collective to halt climate change, the truth is that instead, we're lagging behind these commitments, collectively. In some countries, NGOs have even successfully sued the national government for not taking enough action against climate change.

Let's hope governments learn from the current crisis to prepare effective measures to halt climate change. To frame the urgency and to invest in what's needed, rather than what's the easiest course of action to secure reelection in the short term. Helping citizens make better decisions for people and planet.

Options for individual action

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Of course, none of us have to wait for collective action plans and government measures. In Safran Foer's book, he lists four actions everyone can take to reduce their greenhouse gas footprint:

  1. Switch to a plant-based diet;
  2. Avoid air-travel;
  3. Get rid of your car;
  4. Have fewer kids.

What sets the first action apart from the rest of this list is that what you choose to eat is a decision you take many times, every day. The author's plea is for everyone to stick to vegan food for breakfast and lunch, at the very least. He admits finding it a challenge at times. Yet in the end, it's better for the environment to be an inconsistent vegan, than to only eat vegan or vegetarian food every once in a while.

When I heard him talk about this at the book launch in Amsterdam, I was quite surprised that he was cutting himself and his readers this much slack. But I must admit that I too find it hard to keep vegan during lunch, even though I have been a vegetarian for over 20 years. But I'm sure I've cut my animal protein footprint - and hence my greenhouse gas emissions since I started trying!

Accelerating the protein revolution

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The pandemic adds another dimension to the discussion about animal-based protein and the need for a protein revolution. Animal welfare, climate change, and individual health problems were already part of the debate, but it now becomes painfully clear that our collective health, our society, and the economy are at stake as well. Pandemics are often caused by diseases that spread from animals to humans.

So as we build back a better world post-COVID-19, let's include a move towards more plant-based protein. Let's create a new normal where we no longer spend taxpayers' money to support livestock farming. Greenpeace research estimates that, up to now, nearly a fifth of the EU's budget goes to livestock farming. If instead, that money is directed at more future-proof ventures, we'd be better off in many ways. The European Green Deal added "From Farm to Fork" in May 2020. It strives to create a healthy food environment that makes it easier to choose healthy and sustainable food options. The current pandemic makes the need for positive change even more clear.

What positive change are you driving?

I’ve been meaning to write this blog since Jonathan Safran Foer was in Amsterdam to launch the book in September 2019. By the time I’d finished reading the book, I felt the corona-environment would not be the best time to blog about climate change and protein.

Until one of my favorite columnists, Ionica Smeets, linked the pandemic to Eating Animals, one of his earlier books. That helped kickstart me into blogging mode again, with the new normal providing all kinds of topics to blog about for positive change! What kind of change are you hoping for - or better yet driving - off the back of this crisis? How can you connect saving people and planet for positive change?

This blog first appeared on Photo credits: Anna ShvetsElla OlssonNoelle Otto

Eva Schouten

Moving towards a circular food system: The Terrace presents at the Erasmus Food Lab

On the 26th of November The Terrace consultants Eva Schouten and Luca Goossens visited the Erasmus Food Lab in Rotterdam to give a talk on circularity and specifically a circular food system.

About the Erasmus Food Lab
The Erasmus Food Lab aims to set an example of sustainable food culture, bringing consumers, researchers, cooks and food entrepreneurs, and professionals together. At the Food Lab you find everything needed to accelerate (local) food transition: information and guidance for sustainable strategies, an organic vegetable garden, a collection point for local produce from farmers in the area, a  great spacious kitchen and many, many dedicated students that want to drive positive change.

Getting serious about food
When the delicious vegan dishes were ready to be served, we facilitated a session about key strategies for closing the loop in our broken food system. Creating urgency for the matter isn’t hard with facts that speak for themselves:

  • Currently, the agrifood industry is responsible for almost a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions globally
  • 1/3rd of our food is currently wasted
  • 24 million slices of bread are tossed out each day in the U.K. alone
  • In cities, less than 2% of the valuable biological nutrients in food by-products and organic waste is composted or otherwise valorized
  • At current consumption levels, we will run out of known phosphorus reserves in around 80 years, which forms the basis of the fertilisers used widely in agriculture

The solution hierarchy
Luckily, there are serious opportunities out there for turning the tide around. After all, the world’s best dishes were made from food leftovers, Pot au feu is made of waste vegetables, bouillabaisse is the fish that’s damaged or bruised or unmarketable for the moment. However, we didn’t come to talk about recipes – we are sustainability consultants not chefs. We presented the best ways to turn food waste into value based on the EPA Food Recovery Hierarchy and ages old circular farming methods like using manure as a fertilizer, functioning as phosphorous too. Food waste can for instance be used as animal feed, an initiative already widely applied in Japan, the feed is known to be rich in lactobacillus bacteria, which eliminates the need for antibiotics, and farmers save 50 percent of the cost of regular feed.

For the circular economy local communities are key
Cities across the world have a unique opportunity to spark a transformation towards a circular economy for food, given that 80% of all food is expected to be consumed in cities by 2050, as stated Ellen McArthur in their Cities and Circular Economy for Food report. Cities can, in connection with local farmers, spark the transition towards a circular economy. Creating a circular economy requires an industrial-scale response, but this can be complemented by a community-based response and associated physical infrastructure, such as maker-spaces, labs, community technology workshops and any other community-based forms, more about this in this insightful blog.  We left the event hopeful as the energy and amount of initiatives already initiated at the Erasmus Food Lab clearly show that they are well on their way to become such an accelerator for circularity. We hope to have provided them with some inspiration to take along on their journey!

Reducing food waste: beautiful work for ugly fruit and veggies

The world loses or wastes one-quarter to one-third of all food produced for human consumption according to the estimates of the FAO and World Resources Institute. However it’s not only a waste of food. There are nearly one billion malnourished people in the world that would no longer be hungry with the 40% million tonnes of food waste by US households, retailers, and food services each year.

Besides we didn’t even mention the irrigation water to grow food at 200 litres per person per day that is wasted, the 10% of developed countries greenhouse gas emissions coming from food that is never eaten, or the occupied land currently used to grow unnecessary surplus and wasted food.

All this could be avoided on less than a quarter of the food that is wasted in the US, UK and Europe. A great number comes from stores discarding produce that doesn’t fit the standards of food beauty. But the third biggest supermarket in France, Intermarché, came up with a bright idea on how to get people to buy, and actually look for those ‘ugly’ fruits and veggies.

A few months ago they’ve launched their campaign called “les fruits et légumes moches”, or in English, the inglorious fruits and vegetables. We love this campaign, its beautifully designed ads, great PR, and the impressing results. Check out the video below for the full explanation, and let us know what you think.