Associated with National Museum of Natural History and Science, University of Lisbon

Food and Sustainable Consumption

On 28th September, 2018, to link with European Researcher’s Night 2018’s theme Science in the city (SCICITY), Lisbon Botanic Garden held a science café entitled Food and Sustainable Consumption next to our BigPicnic exhibition - this was the fifth science café about sustainable food. SCICITY seeks to respond to the main concerns of urban communities related to the global changes envisaged for the coming decades, highlighting the relevance of science to ensure the quality of life in cities and the preservation of cultural heritage. Therefore, the BigPicnic event and exhibition about food security was also included in the programme as a way of disseminating the Mediterranean diet as cultural heritage that also promotes healthy and sustainable habits about food consumption. 

Participants in the science café with the BIGPICNIC Exhibition as background.

Photo credit: MUHNAC-ULISBOA

For this science café, three experts in sustainable consumption were invited to motivate discussion and answer questions related to: 

  1. Producing new food based on research.
  2. Improving agricultural practices to increase food production taking into account climate change
  3. Increasing green space to lower temperatures in the city. 

Attendees included the general public as well as specialists from:

University of Lisbon, Higher Institute of Agronomy / LEAF Group - Linking Landscape, Environment, Agriculture and Food focusing on the entire Agro-Food chain, combining basic and applied sciences, from the scale of the cell to the landscape to gain insight into effective solutions to conserve natural resources and produce quality food;

CIDAC  (Intervention Centre for Development Amílcar Cabral) – an NGO working for solidarity, justice, recognition and appreciation of local identities and the resources of civil society to construct alternative solutions and interventions (focusing on education for development and trade and development); 

University of Lisbon Institute of Geography and Spatial Planning / Centre for Geographical Studies -  developing research in Geography and the promotion and diffusion of geographic knowledge, aiming to contribute to the development of communities and regions, informed spatial planning, sustainability of environmental resources and spatial justice, at different scales. 

The broad range of experts resulted in a wealth of debate. Food production must increase 70% by 2050, meaning action must be taken. For example food that stays in the field must be picked and the by-products or unwanted parts from animals, bred as food, must be used. Furthermore, the experts explained, new kinds of foods like algae and insects are being offered as a potential sustainable protein supply. Regarding farming practices, the crop rotation and seasonality were discussed. There was also debate about the role of mass production and big supermarkets vs small producers. These last being defended by CIDAC whose mission is cooperation, education, and international fair trade. This NGO runs a fair trade store tackling environmental, political, economic and social concerns. Finally, climate change was discussed, including proposals to develop more green areas in order to reduce temperatures. 

The groups’ discussions raised some important questions: 

  1. How can farmers be motivated to produce greater yields sustainably?
  2. How can vegetables and meat be produced with less water consumption? 
  3. How can we encourage food production with less plastic and less waste? 
  4. Is the inclusion of insects in food viable and sustainable? 

Analysis of feedback and the questions raised by the groups, as examples of their concerns about the theme, helped to develop the next science café and as well as helping us to draw conclusions about the audiences’ perceptions. 

The last science café will be developed on the theme of “the future of food”. Next steps will also include sharing of the Book of Pulses recipes with participants as a way of increase the utilization of plants in our food habits and the dissemination of the Mediterranean diet.