According to the FAO, around 1/3 of all food is wasted worldwide. This amount would not only be enough to feed 4 times the number of hungry people in the world, it would also prevent a water wastage equivalent to Europe’s largest river, the Volga. It will also reduce CO2 Emissions of around 3.3 billions tons! The UN Agency even said that, “If food waste were a country, it would be the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind the U.S. and China.”
However, in Belgium, a young sustainable entrepreneur is working towards finding solutions to food waste and helping others to do so.
Joris Depouillon, the founder of the Food Surplus Entrepreneurs Network knew after graduating that he didn’d want to climb the corporate ladder and pass by something he felt passionate about: sustainability.
When discovering the amount of edible waste that was thrown away by his local supermarket Joris didn’st only see it as a problem but felt there was an opportunity underneath that needed to be exploited.
But first, travel! Following graduation in 2013, Joris embarked in a one year journey that took him to Turkey, Morroco, Burkina Faso and several European countries. Backpacking only? Nope! Joris worked with sustainable entrepreneurs on the way and eventually decided to focus on food wast after meeting a french entrepreneur and helping her connect with other innovators in her field.
And there bloomed the idea of founding a network of young entrepreneurs working on the topic of food waste. That was in september 2014.
For a year, Joris and his partner worked mainly on helping entrepreneurs connect with each other and give them visibility both in Belgium and in Europe. They founded 7 hubs in various cities and gathered 75 of these sustainability innovators in paris. But questions arose: was the work meaningful ? Did it really have an impact ?
After bringing 3 new fresh perspectives into the team, the project resumed and the idea of creating the Food Waste Challenge that gathered in February 2016, entrepreneurs interested by the topic of food waste who were looking to network, pitch their ideas and be inspired, was found.
Four of these projects are still followed by Joris and his team and the event was such a success that the network received subsidies to organize the challenge in other Belgian cities.
On top of these gathering, the network generates discussion and inspiration between its members through virtual platform and local groups in European cities. They also encourage action at the individual level through their Food Exchange cafes where consumers can exchange food they don’t want/need anymore.
Knowing that around 60% of food waste happens at the consumer stage, it’s only fair to welcome such initiatives at the individual level.
Joris is convinced that our generation is unique because of the digital age, the ability to access information so easily and the education we are able to receive and that, “if we want to see a change, we have to do it ourselves.”
No need to say, he is a firm believer in the ability of the youth to innovate and come up with new solutions when it comes to climate change and sustainability.
However, according to him, ,”There’s not enough actions yet,” because of the few opportunities existing for young people wanting to work in sustainability compared to the many tools and programs existing in the traditional corporate career.
Hence the importance of movements and initiatives that gather young people sharing same interests and ideas in order to be inspired by others, innovate together and realize that they’re not alone.
“We are the pioneers,” said Joris and while getting the majority aware of the sustainability challenges and active in this field takes time, he is confident that success lies in making young individuals feel like they have the power to change the world.