Estonia Brainstorm: Just Did It

I spent a few days last week with about 50 other sustainability thinkers and doers on snowy, secluded Muhu Island in Estonia. We were there as part of the Clean World Brainstorm, an offshoot of the Let’s Do It! organization.

Why Estonia? Because that’s the home of Let’s Do It!, which got its start by literally cleaning up an entire country in one day—as depicted in this impressive video.

For our brainstorm, the organizers’ brave plan was to have no plan. To simply get a bunch of diverse people together and see what happened. There was some hope of crafting a 1,000 Day Plan for a Cleaner Planet. The latter part fell by the wayside, after some hard discussions. But something positive emerged from some hard discussions. The group members, from a variety of backgrounds and professions, workshopped and polished five key sustainability action items. They were:

-Video games/apps to push waste reduction and clean ups.
-“Garbage-Free Gourmet”—a toolkit for hosting zero-waste dinners (with a plan to avoid food waste, of course!)
-A ‘Refuse to Use Disposable Plastic’ campaign
-A ‘Leave Excess Packaging at the supermarket plan
-A plan to encourage tap water usage and minimize bottled water

More personally, I led a discussion on food waste to learn best practices from other nations and come up with a few key solutions that Let’s Do It! might push. Here’s a summary of what we found:

Existing Solutions
-EU association of local authorities has pilot program precooking and cooling school food to be more flexible. This allows more customization of meals to encourage more consumption of food and more donating unserved food.
-Using natural food coloring to make school lunch food look more exciting for school children.
-Retailers selling food items in customizable amounts, especially perishable items and items needed in small quantities for recipes.
-Retailers discounting soon-to-expire goods and making them visible to consumers, either with yellow stickers or moving them to a discount section.

Potential Solutions
-School food → compost → school garden → school food
-Recovered food public cooking demonstration and communal meal
-Zero Food Waste certification/participation for restaurants and retailers (with sticker to put in the front window)
-Campaign advocating use of reusable containers for restaurant leftovers (possibly with LDI branding)
-Education outreach to clarify/educate on expiration dates.

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