More than half the world’s population currently lives in cities. Cities are significant sites of resource consumption, with inhabitants producing three-quarters of carbon emissions and more than a billion tonnes of solid waste annually, of which between more than half is organic and mostly food waste.
With cities expected to host 80% of the population by 2050, annual waste production is projected to double again in 15 years. Patterns of food consumption and waste require radical transformation if cities are to become more sustainable.
Emerging sharing economies that utilise cutting-edge ICT (apps, websites, web 2.0 tech, social media) are a potential solution to our unsustainable cities, but there is a lack of data on the scale, potential and impact of these activities not least in the area of urban food systems.
In response, SHARECITY, led by Professor of Geography, Environment and Society at Trinity, Anna Davies, has developed an innovative, collaborative approach to assess the practice and sustainability potential of city-based food sharing economies around the world. The first phase of this research, the SHARECITY100 Database, enjoyed its global launch last week.
Professor Davies said: “It is critical that our urban food systems become more innovative now to deal with uncertainty around food security in the face of climatic changes in the future. The diversity of experimentation and creativity in the ICT-enabled food sharing realm from Dublin to Dallas and Delhi, is staggering and SHARECITY100 Database provides the first internationally comparative map of this emergent landscape.”
The SHARECITY100 Database has identified more than 4,000 enterprises in 100 global cities in which food sharing plays an active and transformative role in advancing urban sustainability through resource conservation, food waste reduction and the building of communities.
Initial analyses confirm that London is leading the way with 198 enterprises, followed by New York with 188 and Melbourne with 144. Dublin sits 36th in the list, with 42 enterprises, which include the likes of FoodCloud, Fumbally, WeShare, and Newmarket Kitchens, but food sharing is also happening across the world in Africa, South America, Asia and the Middle East, in places as diverse as Buenos Aires, Kuala Lumpur and Nairobi.
Some of the cities (and practices) include:
Singapore – Open Farm Community. The company encourages growing food in under-utilised spaces like rooftops and sidewalks, and believes that growing food re-connects urbanites to nature, conserves natural resources, and cultivates a sense of community.
Melbourne – Spade & Barrow. Spade & Barrow took two indigestible problems – an exodus of small farmers from the land and food going unnecessarily to waste — and combines them all into one delicious, digestible solution in Australia’s first social wholesale food business.
Buenos Aires – Concept of 'puertas cerradas' or 'closed door' restaurants in peoples’ homes. The idea emerged after the 2001 economic crisis, and looks like something between a private dinner party and a restaurant, often served on a shared table.
Mexico City – The Barter Market – residents deliver their inorganic waste and receive green points with which they can buy locally grown fresh food. This is a government program to reduce waste and to promote the development of local products.
The SHARECITY100 Database will play a number of important roles – all of which will contribute to achieving UN Sustainable Development Goals. It will:
- Provide planners, entrepreneurs and city residents with information about the availability of food in their cities, helping to address food insecurity and waste
- Provide city inhabitants with information about spaces to grow, cook or eat together with others, helping to build social capital
- Provide a portal through which information, skills and expertise around growing and cooking, helping to encourage greater food production in the city
- Disseminate innovative new business and exchange models that other cities can learn from promoting policy learning for sustainable urban food systems