Institute at Brown for Environment and Society

Student documentary targets global food waste and Danish solution

Senior Elise Dadourian knows that our planet has a looming problem: With 10 billion mouths to feed forecasted by 2050 and a food system already made unstable by socioeconomic factors and a changing climate, food waste is a topic that everyone should be concerned about.

“The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that if food waste were a country, it would come in third—after the United States and China—in terms of its impact on global warming,” says Dadourian. “And that's only the environmental cost. The United States alone loses $1 Trillion USD every year on wasted food.”

Dadourian with Selina Juul, founder of Stop Spild Af Mad, a Danish food sustainability organization.
Dadourian with Selina Juul, founder of Stop Spild Af Mad, a Danish food sustainability organization.

“According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, the amount of wasted food is enough to feed 2 billion people, which is more than twice the population of the hungry,” she continues. “Though the majority of food waste worldwide occurs on the farm, a large amount is wasted by the consumers themselves. In medium and high-income countries, as much as 40% of food waste occurs in markets and households.”

Dadourian, a dual concentrator in Environmental Studies and Film, decided to call attention to this problem by creating a documentary. Her film would explore actions taken by Denmark, a world leader in reducing food waste. Indeed, as she explains, in just five years the Nordic country has reduced its food waste by 25%.

Denmark coastline
Denmark has cut food waste by 25% in the last half-decade.

In the spring and summer of 2019, Dadourian lived in Copenhagen and interviewed various players in the food supply chain to better understand how the country’s waste has been curbed so dramatically. Her findings indicate that there are many steps citizens, businesses, and governments can take to reduce the amount of food wasted in their own backyards.

“Luckily, food wasted at the end of the supply chain is entirely preventable, as it is solely the result of consumer attitudes and behaviors,” she concludes. “Changing food culture will not be easy, but it is my hope that this documentary will help bridge the knowledge gap between the academic community and the public.”

Want to learn more? Watch The Global Food Waste Crisis and The Danish Solution on YouTube.