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One third of food produced for human consumption is wasted globally every year. That’s approximately 1.3 billion tons of food discarded before it even has the chance to hit the plate. And what about the food that does reach us? According to research, we release up to 150kg of food into the general waste system each year, contributing to global methane emissions and climate change. Whilst food waste bins for food scraps can be provided by local councils, it’s near impossible to tell whether the food we dispose of responsibly is treated correctly once it leaves our homes.

Home Composting Food Scraps 

Home composting is proven to have many benefits. Next to reducing waste destined for landfill by up to 30% and creating an ecosystem within your own home, home composting your food scraps introduces valuable organisms and nutrients to your garden soil. Carbon and nitrogen, are nutrients necessary for plant growth and the development of photosynthesis. Additionally, integrating compost into your existing garden soil contributes to the retention of water (TheGreenCities). Although compost cannot directly eliminate infections, valuable organisms generated through the composting process can contribute to deterring some soil borne diseases. Microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi, and protozoa, play a key role in breaking down the food scraps and can effectively aerate the soil – “which speeds up the composting process, converts nitrogen to a usable form, and repel some plant diseases” (TheGreenCities). Despite being a popular option for many household’s, factory-generated fertiliser – necessary if home compost is not generated – directly treats the plants without treating the soil that sustains them (ShillandScaping). The negative consequences of using these fertilisers can be long term, resulting in an undernourished garden.  
 

The Importance of the Worm 

As well as food scraps, worms play a crucial role in creating healthy and nutritional compost for your garden. Through their unique tunnelling habits worms can aerate the soil which “encourages aerobic bacteria to do their job of decomposition”. The nutrient-rich food scraps the worm consumes is subsequently converted into nutrient-rich compost.  

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Image Courtesy of Subpod

Introducing Subpod: Where Your Food Scraps Want To End Up 

Subpod is a revolutionary composting system that can process up to 20kg of food scraps a week. Through placing compost worms and microbes inside the Subpod, which can be placed in the soil on your vegetable patch, the scraps you feed the Subpod with are then transformed into nutrient-rich, homemade compost. The compost worms placed in the crate thrive in a subterranean climate and “protected from harsh weather conditions and direct sunlight” (Subpod) can compost the food scraps in their natural habitat. As the worms move in and out of the crate through the wormholes they explore the surrounding soil, “taking particles of compost with them and boosting fertility through the garden bed” (Subpod). Each Subpod comes with an additional food-grade stainless steel aerator in order to allow maximum airflow. 

Vermicomposting – the name given to a composting system that employs worms – can break down food in 2 to 3 months. More traditional composting methods require up to 6 to 9 months to process food scraps. Unlike the Subpod system, the more traditional composting systems are often exposed in the garden, which can result in emitting bad smells or attracting unwelcome pests.

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aware_ sat down with Peter, the cofounder of Subpod, to find out how the company sees the future of composting:

“The foodwaste problem isn’t going away. Recently California created a new law for businesses and households to start separating waste and encouraging composting programs.  
We see a world where waste is recognised as a resource, and everyday people feel empowered to compost and grow food in their backyard.  
We feel this transition can only happen through a community, where people can learn and share their experiences.  
That’s why we have an online compost community, dedicated to helping anyone start composting.” 

– Peter, cofounder of Subpod 
 

The concept, which began as an idea between friends, has given wings to a product that allows the practice of composting to become part of everyday life.  With the potential to save 4.4 million tons of CO2 a year, the Subpod composting system supports the global movement to process food scraps in a responsible, circular fashion.

 

– By Eliza Edwards

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How regional quality labels and initiatives can make regional enjoyment and local consumption a matter of course

More than ever, the slogans “support local” or “shop small” popped up during the Corona pandemic. On Instagram, there is even a feature labeled “support small business” that enables users to link to a local business and share it in their story. Yet, the issue of regionalism is by no means new. According to a survey by the Forsa Institute, two-thirds of consumers always or usually pay attention to the origin of food when shopping. The regional reference and proximity to the producer provide security and create trust in regional products, in their freshness, quality and authenticity – much more than in industrial mass-produced goods. Shorter transport routes guarantee not only freshness, but also significantly less climate-damaging CO2. And seasonality also plays a role in this context: domestic apples, the Germans’ favorite fruit, may be available outside the apple season – in spring or early summer – but these apples have been stored in warehouses for a long time, so their carbon footprint is even greater in comparison than that of apples imported from abroad. In addition, about 40% of harvested fruits and vegetables do not even make it to supermarket shelves or farmer’s markets because crooked cucumbers, pears that are too small, or heart-shaped potatoes are sorted out before consumers even see them (NABU; Entega). 

However, consumers are willing to pay higher prices for regionality, seasonality and the associated benefits, but they are misled by slogans like “From the Region.” Unlike “organic” or “ecological,” “regional” is not a legally protected term. Each supplier sets its own rules, so the definition varies (NABU). 

aware_ has taken a close look at some regional labels and initiatives that make regional enjoyment and local consumption a no-brainer.

Regionalfenster 
Around 5,500 food products, flowers and plants throughout Germany carry the voluntary declaration field Regionalfenster. The regional label introduced by the German government provides consumers with information on where a product’s main ingredients come from, where it was processed or packaged, the proportion of regional ingredients and which inspection body checked it. The aim is to make it easier to recognize regional products and buy them more consciously. The first main component on the list of ingredients, as well as all value-adding ingredients, must come 100% from the specified region; at the same time, regional ingredients must account for at least 51% of the product’s total weight. However, the Regionalfenster does not provide a binding definition of “region” either, but leaves it up to the manufacturers how they interpret the term. However, the region must be smaller than the size of Germany. The product-specific claims made in the Regionalfenster are regularly checked and validated at all stages of the value chain by the company’s own control and assurance system (NABU; Regionalfenster; Utopia). 

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Food labelling 
To protect and promote traditional and regional foods, three food labels were introduced by the EU in 1992 to protect geographical indications and traditional specialties guaranteed in agricultural products and foods by EU law. A distinction is made between three labels: the geographical indications “PDO” (protected designation of origin) and “PGI” (protected geographical indication), and the “TSG” (traditional speciality guaranteed). With the EU label “protected designation of origin”, PDO for short, food must be produced, processed, and manufactured in the defined area according to certain criteria. All production steps must therefore take place in the area in question. An example of this is Allgäu mountain cheese.  
The label “PGI” means that only one of the production steps i.e., production, processing, or preparation must have taken place in the area of origin. The raw material used for production can therefore originate from another region. An example: Swabian spaetzle.  
The label “TSG” only indicates the traditional composition of the product or a traditional production and/or processing method. The production method is not linked to a region. An example of this is hay milk. 

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Egg Code 
The embossed numerical code (e.g., 0-DE-0500081) on the shell of an egg reveals where it comes from: A “0” in the first position indicates origin from organic production, a “1” stands for free-range, the digit “2” for barn-raised and a “3” for cage-raised. This is followed by the country code of the country of origin – for example, “DE” for Germany or “NL” for the Netherlands. In order to be able to trace the origin from the point of sale back to the barn, the final seven-digit numerical code on German eggs indicates the respective federal state as well as the corresponding farm and barn number – for example, “05” stands for North Rhine-Westphalia or “03” for Lower Saxony (Verbraucherzentrale). 

Subscription Food Boxes, Community-supported agriculture & Co. 
Regional initiatives are associations of smaller producers, processors, and restaurant owners. They often also include nature conservation and church associations that jointly market their regional foods. The individual regional initiatives set their own quality requirements and control rules. In village and farm stores, at the farmer’s market or with a subscription box, food can be purchased directly from the producer. Many products come directly from the farm and the farmers or traders can provide information about how these are grown. Subscription food box providers deliver organic quality directly to the door, mainly fruits and vegetables, but also many other foods. There are now hundreds of different organic box providers in Germany, and almost all of them deliver fruit and vegetables within a regionally limited radius – this saves on transport costs and makes great ecological sense. A very ecological variant is the Regionalkiste from the Ökokiste association: It contains only fruits and vegetables from the respective region; you can order from all providers individually and with an individual composition or by subscription (Verbraucherzentrale; Utopia). 

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Community-supported agriculture, also called CSA, is an association of citizens and farmers. The farmers produce agricultural products such as vegetables, meat, eggs or even wool always considering ecological standards. Individuals pay an annual financial contribution and in return receive fresh food directly from the farm on a regular basis. In most cases, these associations are organized as cooperatives: All profits and losses are shared, and the crops and livestock products produced on the farm are divided among themselves. What exactly the harvest looks like depends on the season and the weather, but one knows under what conditions, by whom and at what price the food is produced. The members of CSA can actively shape the development of the farm and, for example, help decide which fruits and vegetables are grown or which animals should live on the farm. Because CSA takes place regionally and is sometimes networked with local processors and other farming communities, this type of consumption primarily strengthens the local economy. And the list of benefits of CSA goes on: the ecologically managed areas provide a refuge for native animal and plant species, thus counteracting species extinction. Due to minimal transport distances and low energy consumption, the emission of climate-damaging greenhouse gases is lower. The cultivation of old and locally adapted fruit and vegetable varieties contributes to the preservation of variety diversity. Adapted cultivation methods secure and increase soil fertility as an important basis for agriculture (Verbraucherzentrale; Utopia). 

by Marie Klimczak