How to be a climate smarter workplace

Huge amounts of food are thrown away every year. In stores and restaurants, and also at home and at work. It's a gigantic environmental problem with massive consequences. But it can be changed-food waste expert Andreas Jakobsson knows how.

Too ugly?

carrotA lot of our food waste is based on appearance and shape. For example, between 25 and 30% of the total production of carrots is rejected, according to the Swedish Board of Agriculture.
“Just because they are bent or have two ‘legs’,” says Andreas Jakobsson, lecturer and author of the book Svinnlandet (Waste-land), which investigates the extent of food waste in Sweden. “That seems really unnecessary—we don’t need beautiful, straight carrots, but it’s become some sort of competition between grocery stores, who has the most attractive vegetables.”

“It would solve a lot of environmental problems”

The UN’s sustainability goals include a 50% reduction in food waste by 2030. But it will be hard to achieve.
“There’s a lot of talk about food waste; a lot is happening and people are becoming more aware,” Jakobsson says. “But the major grocery chains need to be more proactive. We aren’t likely to halve food waste by 2030, but if it were possible, it would be amazing—it would solve a lot of environmental problems.”

How to be a climate smarter workplace

“The core suggestion, of course, is not to throw away food at all,” Jakobsson says. “Making an active decision at your workplace can change people’s attitudes, raise awareness and make a difference all by itself.”

Inspired by schools

There are schools that are good examples, for example in Kiruna, where food conservation started by coincidence. Students were writing nasty things on the food trays, and to eliminate that problem, the school eliminated the trays. And that reduced food waste—drastically. Students didn’t load up so much food, and they took fewer napkins. Now Kiruna has further developed their efforts with a food waste scale, where students can see exactly how much waste they create.

Measure and compete!

Every workplace can do a lot to reduce food waste. From eating all the fruit in the fruit basket, to lobbying to get local lunch restaurants to reduce their waste.

In March 2018, IKEA announced that it had saved one million meals in one year, in its efforts to reduce food waste. Its secret? Dedicated employees and a simple techno-logical solution that measures and reports food waste.
“If people can compete with coworkers using step counters, they can do the same with food waste,” says Andreas Jakobsson.

Quick facts

  • The 1970s

    Expiration dates were introduced in the 1970s, and we gradually stopped smelling and tasting food to see if it was still good. Before that, we threw away a lot less food in the Nordics.

  • 1,095 cheeseburgers

    The Nordic countries throw away an average of 130 kg of food per person each year. That amounts to three full cheeseburgers per person, per day.

  • 1/3

    Fully one-third of all food produced in the world is thrown away.