Sustainability from within: address by block, street by district, city by country

Ongoing Sustainable Citizen Festival switches focus from the corporate to the individual in search of moderate solutions, not radical ones

IN A WORLD where there’s so much emphasis on recycling and sustainability, we use the word ‘disposable’ a lot. Disposable phones, nappies, cameras, razors, barbecues, tableware … we like throwing things away. 

But not everything we discard is disposable. Just because we don’t need something anymore, doesn’t mean to say somebody else might not want it. Denmark’s capital may be the winner of the European Green Capital Award 2014, but it still has a long way to come in the area of sustainability.

A fountain of knowledge
HELP IS at hand this week at Copenhagen’s second Sustainable Citizen Festival (November 12-18), which offers a platform for collecting ideas and discussing all matters sustainable, mostly through events and workshops.

While most sustainability enterprises tend to be driven by businesses, the festival is an event where the public can learn how they can contribute to sustainability in their community.

Starts at the supermarkets 
THE FESTIVAL kicked off on Wednesday with an event concerning the issue of food waste. 
‘Disco Soup’, in which 300 kilos of fresh discarded vegetables were used to make soup, drew attention to the problem that one third of all the food produced worldwide never reaches the supermarkets because it fails to meet criteria regarding the right size or colour.

Meanwhile, large quantities of food are being thrown out that are still edible. Supermarkets and grocers dump approximately 173,000 tonnes every year out of a national figure of 549,000 tonnes.

Waste affects price
ACCORDING to Jan Martin, a Horsens resident originally from Hamburg who is the co-founder of Det Visionære Køkken (the visionary kitchen), the wastage leads to other problems.

“As food is wasted continuously during production, prices rise,” he explained. “This in turn is a cause of starvation and malnutrition in parts of the world.”
Det Visionære Køkken receives discarded food that has exceeded its best before date, which is then used to feed the socially vulnable and homeless. It has two main aims: to reduce waste and cost. 

A new hope on Papirøen
ANOTHER company making inroads in sustainability is Copenhagen Street Food, a market that supports biodynamic farming in Denmark, which is open to the public most days.  As well as dealing in food from sustainable sources, it offers a platform for biodynamic food entrepreneurs. 

Located on Papirøen (paper island) in the south of the city, its architecture and design are built on the foundations of sustainability. Almost all the used materials are recycled and used with the intention of remaining recyclable for the future. Many of the food stands are built into old, reused shipping containers. 

“Romantics like me appreciate the use of something that has traveled the world,” explained Dan Husted, who co-founded Copenhagen Street Food.

Less developed in Denmark
RAISED in the US, where the biodynamic and organic food backlash has been incredibly intense in certain pocket areas – normally in response to the dramatic failings of large scale co-operate farming – Dan's wife Natasha Husted was surprised that biodynamic notions were less developed in Denmark when she arrived. 

“I realised this has to do with the food industry in Denmark not having caused the scale of damage present in the States,” she said. 

“European countries are smaller, and I feel there is a much greater possibility to effect positive change here as an individual. Although the developments are gradual, they have more potential to spread. This gives me a lot of hope for the future of the food industry.”

The last biodynamic farm
BUT DESPITE its efforts, there is only one biodynamic farm in Denmark, Thorshøjgaard in Ishøj in the western suburbs of the capital 

Copenhagen Street Food uses its proceeds to support Thorshøjgaard, and Natasha is optimistic about the future.
“We really wanted to have a positive impact on the food industry, and we have been successful,” she enthused.
“We have raised awareness, and food trucks with an ethical philosophy are popping up. We have given birth to a project, and are now content and excited to see how others will take it further.”

Individuals must act
JAN MARTIN is also hopeful, but contends that Denmark still has a long way to go before it can regard itself as a first-rate recycling country. “I’m used to having four different rubbish bins at home. I only have one in Denmark,” he said. 

And at the root of the problem, he contends, is the difficulty for the individual to make a difference. “In general, it seems to be easier to start a business, rather than try to do good,” he said. 

This year’s Sustainable Citizen Festival addresses this issue in it’s overall theme. 

“While last year’s festival featured many companies as partners, this year the focus is on the average person and bridging the gap between professional areas and the individual,” revealed the festival’s communications manager, Adriana Pereira.

“Lots of small-scale projects can achieve big-scale impacts. We’re not looking for radical but rather moderate solutions, which is the Danish way after all.”