Nordic Startups Promoting Sustainability in the Food Industry
The world’s food systems are responsible for more than one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new study published in Nature Food in March 2021. As the world’s population expands, more and more land is being cleared for agriculture, significantly impacting the surrounding ecosystem and biodiversity. Half of the world’s habitable land is now used for agriculture, with most of this used to raise livestock for dairy and meat. Agricultural activities also account for 70% of global freshwater withdrawals.
When it comes to tackling climate change, many solutions in the past have focused on clean energy and transitioning to low-carbon transport. However, it has become evident that we also need to transform the global food system if we are to effectively combat the climate crisis whilst ensuring food security for the growing world population. In this article, we have listed some pioneering companies innovating the way we produce, distribute, and consume food:
An often-stated solution to limit the environmental impact of the food industry is to eat food with less carbon emission. Eating meat is 35 times more damaging to the environment than eating a plant-based diet. Producing meat, in comparison to plants, also takes 100 times the amount of land. People are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of living a more sustainable life and more are willing to change their diet for this purpose. Targeting this shift in people’s mindsets with regards to eating ‘environmentally aware food’ is the Swedish start-up Klimato who are working to reduce CO2 emissions by climate labelling meals for restaurants. Their solution includes calculating the carbon footprint of the food being sold in restaurants and communicating this to the customer via their menu, so the diner can make an informed decision. The results of this approach have been remarkable. Some restaurants partnering with Klimato have been able to boost their sales by 300% while reducing their average emissions by up to 30%.
Eating food with less CO2 emissions is not sufficient independently to combat the detrimental effects our food system has on the environment. Another significant contributor to climate change is food waste. Today, one-third of all the food that is produced in the world is wasted. This amounts to 1.4 billion tons which could feed up to 2 billion people every year! Food waste does not only cause concern to the hundreds of millions of people starving in today’s world but also poses a threat to climate change. A large proportion of food waste ends up in landfill sites where it decomposes and releases methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. In fact, the environmental impact of food waste is as much as four times greater than the CO2 emission of all airplanes combined.
However, food waste can be extensively limited, and some businesses are now targeting this issue by making it possible for people to buy food for a reduced price that would otherwise be thrown away. One example is the Swedish start-up Karma that is working to minimise edible food going to waste by connecting consumers with restaurants, cafes and grocery stores where people can buy food that would otherwise go to waste. This is particularly impactful when reducing food waste as it is estimated that 10% of all food produced in restaurants is thrown away. Making it possible for people to buy this food for a reduced price is, therefore, not only profitable but necessary to reduce carbon emissions. Similar to Karma – ResQ Club and Too Good To Go are two other Nordic start-ups that have created apps aiming to alter the way people think about throwing away food by making it possible for people to buy perfectly good food from places where it would otherwise simply go to waste. Too Good To Go was founded in 2015 and has become the world’s number one app in fighting food waste and already has millions of users.
Furthermore, by applying technology to the issue of food waste, the Swedish award-winning foodtech company WhyWaste have been able to extensively reduce food waste by developing software solutions that can be used by shop workers to accurately manage and record sell-by dates. Shops using the solutions offered by WhyWaste have been able to cut their food waste by over half while simultaneously cutting labour hours and making sure no customers end up with expired products. Online retail services are a different approach to minimizing food waste. The Nordic retail service Matsmart is selling products, including food & drink, for a reduced price that would be otherwise thrown away due to packaging changes, short or expired expiry dates or any other reason not affecting the food quality.
Our food system is one of the biggest contributors to climate change and as the world’s population is rapidly growing, the issues of food production, transportation and food waste are becoming more and more severe. It is, therefore, reassuring to see businesses showing that eating and buying food in an environmentally sustainable way does not have to be expensive or any more demanding than any other way people may choose to buy food. By offering innovative solutions, they are making the food sector sustainable and are paving the way for zero food waste by showing that eating sustainably can be effortless.
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