What a waste

Published 9 November 2018 in:

Photo: Madelene Trang.

Salad made from watermelon rinds, dipping sauce from cheese rinds and banana cake from overripe bananas. At the Swedish Embassy in Beijing, unappealing ingredients are becoming fabulous food. Madelene Trang and her colleagues, who work at the Embassy, talk about environmentally friendly eating habits and the fight against food waste.

Following a planning day at the Embassy in 2016, an internal working group was set up to examine how the Embassy and its staff could reduce their climate and environmental impact. One area where this ‘green group’ saw room for improvement was staff lunch orders. Ms Trang and her colleagues explain that food, not least leftovers, plays a key role with regard to the climate and environment. Reducing food waste both inside and outside the Embassy, is therefore seen as a natural part of the Embassy’s climate and environmental efforts.

“Food waste is a widespread problem that is not least linked to carbon dioxide emissions.”

“In China, food waste is estimated to amount to 17–18 million tonnes annually, which is enough to feed 30–50 million people.”

Climate-smart eating is however not just about cutting food waste. The Embassy has produced a list of restaurants that deliver food in more environmentally friendly packaging and lunch orders are combined to reduce the number of food deliveries to the Embassy. Staff are also encouraged to buy locally produced food. The chef at the residence, Stefan Brundin, has his own kitchen garden and compost bin. In September, a beehive was also placed on the grounds.

In addition to these internal efforts, the Embassy in Beijing has also implemented several activities to reduce food waste in China. In early 2017, the Embassy and IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute organised a photo competition for middle school students in China on how innovative and smart solutions can reduce food waste. The competition received more than 300 entries and the winning entry won a trip to Sweden.

This year the Embassy has supported the launch of a national platform, called ‘Save 12.3’, which focuses on food waste. The platform was initiated by IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute and Chinese industry organisations. To inspire and encourage the use of food that has been left over, the residence’s chef served various dishes made from leftovers and unappealing ingredients. The menu included a salad of carrot tops, broccoli stalks and pickled water melon rinds, French toast made from stale bread and served with kale pesto, croutons made from stale bread and served with a dipping sauce made from cheese rinds, rice pudding made from left over rice and served with mango sauce and banana cake made from overripe bananas, with a cream cheese frosting.

The residence’s chef, Stefan Brundin, at the launch of 12.3. Photo: Madelene Trang.

Ms Trang and her colleagues explain that an important part of inspiring others is to set a good example and, when the opportunity arises, show how easy it is to adopt greener eating habits.

“At the Embassy’s receptions, a lot of focus is placed on climate-smart food and we therefore rarely serve meat. We also strive to match the amount of food to the number of guests as far as possible in order to minimise waste.”

“At this year’s National Day celebrations, all the guests received a lunch box, to inspire and encourage them to reduce their own food waste.”

At the same time, staff at Sweden’s Embassy in Beijing are continuing their climate and environmental efforts.

“The green group has invited various speakers to inspire and give tips on how we can reduce our waste, think about transport, food waste and the use of plastics, and how we can reduce our emissions by consuming less. Transport emissions are our next big challenge.”