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Sustainability lesson from the world’s ‘first zero waste’ restaurant

Environment By KENNEDY NYAVAYA

Approximately one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year gets lost or wasted, key findings by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) department reveal.

According to FAO this accounts for 1,3 billion tonnes of food, an equivalent of roughly US$680 billion in industrialised countries and US$310 billion in developing ones.

These figures when pinned next to statistics pointing at an estimated billion people in the world who do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life, are not only horrifying, but a call to action for level-headed world citizens.

People with a privilege of getting surplus need to either stop dishing more than they can eat or put leftovers to good use and place a plug on food wastage.
That is the concept on which FREA — a zero waste restaurant in Berlin, Germany — is founded upon.

Located in Mitte district — the heart of the capital city — the restaurant that opened its doors in March this year is a hive of activity in the evening as patrons of different ages and various backgrounds flock in for a fresh meal of plant based food.

Most people come to the restaurant for the unique menu comprising freshly made dishes and juices, but the founder of FREA, David Suchy’s grand plan is combining this “enjoyment with sustainability by producing no waste”.

“We do not waste anything in the kitchen, we try to use everything we have,” Suchy told this publication in a recent interview in Berlin.

There are no trash cans at this restaurant said Suchy and this is because the peels and leftovers from guests are put in a composter where they are turned into compost.

“Within 24 hours, we have a nice fertiliser, which we give back to the farmers so they throw in the fields and grow nice vegetables from it,” he said, adding that their supplies are not packaged in plastics.

The hospitality industry worldwide is well known for, among other things, exposing patrons to large portions of food through unlimited buffet where some nibble a bit, leaving lots of garbage.

“We consume too much, that is the problem,” said Suchy.

“We have everything, everywhere anytime and that is not how it should be.”

He believes that sensitising people on what effects food production has on the environment and climate could help reduce the carefree mentality.

“We have to change because waste is a big problem. The big waste factor we have is the meat industry that pushes out so much of the product that takes so much
land, energy and water to produce,” Suchy said.

According to FAO, livestock are responsible for about 14,5% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

“Ruminants such as cattle, buffalo, sheep and goats produce nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide and methane, which is the most emitted gas and is released through
belching,” reads a study.

Calculations by experts say this places the livestock sector emissions at par with the transport sector, which the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change says is responsible for 14% of global emissions.

This puts a spotlight on meat production, bringing forth the question whether the product should be churned out massively as it is at the moment and ultimately
emphasizes why it should not be wasted.

More people in developed countries, and Germany in particular, are beginning to pay attention to this fact and that has seen them turning to veganism in an
attempt to cut demand for livestock and reduce carbon footprint.

However, eating green alone is not enough and that is why zero waste approach needs to be adopted to achieve sustainability.

“We have to be really careful because we can talk about veganism and discuss eating less meat, but we cannot close eyes when it comes to zero waste,” said
Suchy.

So, can one restaurant in the middle of Berlin lead the conversation on eliminating food wasting in the hospitality sector, a worldwide phenomenon?

“Food outlets need to start thinking from scratch and adopting longer ways on what we produce and how,” explained the nutritionist emphasising the elimination
of packaging and ensuring the entire production chain is sustainable.

“I think if you open up a restaurant it is all about the cooking, if you just buy something in a bag and just put it in the pan that cannot really be called
cooking,” he said.

There is no doubt that FREA’s appeal is not only its sustainability factor but also the impressive menu options, which is not only exotic, but well done.

With plant based food being a cut across constant between different cultures and lifestyles across the globe, pursuing zero waste in its production and
consumption could present common ground for all humanity to pursue sustainability together.

“Everyone sits and eats but nobody thinks about it [sustainability], they just come here and go, but I will give it time so that after some time they will
understand,” said Suchy.

His is a goal to “change hospitality into a sustainable economy” through spreading the word that this is possible.

Suchy dreams of replicating the idea to many other places across the world and there would not be a better time to do so than now.

For underdeveloped countries like Zimbabwe, where an estimated six million people are said to be currently going hungry as a result of successive droughts,
food saving is essential even at household level.

Humans now need to be cautious about the amounts they consume in relation to what they throw away to avoid disposing of too much at a time when others are
surviving on one meal a day or less.

“Obviously one cannot live without producing any waste completely but it is a nice idea to be more conscious in this world and it shows why you are on this
planet for this short amount of time,” said Suchy.

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