Sustainable food consumption

Achieving sustainable food consumption is complicated by a variety of challenges including unequal access to food, malnourishment, food waste, over-consumption and unsustainable production and distribution practices. Phase I of CONSENSUS’s food research focused on imagining and planning for interventions that would transform current eating practices (including food shopping, cooking, eating and wasting) onto sustainable pathways. A process of practice-oriented participatory (POP) backcasting was applied. This involved public, private and non-governmental stakeholders in an iterative, creative visioning process designed to identify alternative sustainable eating practices and action plans to achieve them.

Phase I CONSENSUS: Future scenarios and transition frameworks

In collaboration with stakeholders, three future scenarios were developed, ultimately depicted in drawings (shown below) and stories (attached). Smart Eating is based on high technological change. It embodies closed loop systems for energy recovery in the kitchen that integrates food growing, preparing and wasting practices so that no food or energy source is lost. Community Eating, by comparison, is distinguished by key lifestyles change including participation in slow food events, collective food growing and cooking and online food distribution communities. Finally, Educated Eating presents initiatives for lifelong learning and new systems of food provision including green supermarkets, vertical farms and specifically zoned allotments.

  • Transition-framework-Food
  • Food Promising Practices
    Food Promising Practices
  • 1. Smart Eating Scenario
    1. Smart Eating Scenario
  • 2. Educated Eating Scenario
    2. Educated Eating Scenario
  • 3. Community Eating Scenario
    3. Community Eating Scenario

Our future scenarios were evaluated and improved in a series of workshops with the general public. As a final research step, stakeholders were invited to develop pathways and interventions to achieve the most promising sustainable food practices from the future scenarios. This resulted in the development of a Transition Framework stretching to the year 2050 that identifies relevant policies (for example, zoning regulations, taxes and subsidies), education and engagement initiatives (such as communication and awareness campaigns) and research, technology and development interventions.

Phase II CONSENSUS: HomeLabs

Phase II of our research launched in 2014. As part of this “HomeLabs” research, we are continuing to work with cross-sectoral partners from industry, public and the non-governmental sectors, to test and evaluate innovative devices, regulatory and educational interventions co-designed in our earlier backcasting study. We will implement a combination of these interventions within households, carrying out ethnographic evaluation of people’s experiences. HomeLabs will evaluate whether and how the interventions shape and adjust people’s everyday personal eating practices (focusing on purchasing, cooking, storing and wasting practices). This will make theoretical and practical contributions to the field of practice-oriented sustainable behavior change. HomeLabs will also result in recommendations for our partners for new policies, business developments, educational tools and collaborative initiatives aimed at influencing sustainable food consumption practices. We are also carrying out a similar HomeLabs research study focusing on water consumption practices. See here for more details on our HomeLabs research.