Food Waste Around the World, Episode 43: Greece
Food Waste Around the World is a Food Circle project to provide information and raise awareness about food waste. The project is designed as a series of interviews with students from different countries to understand how this issue is tackled and perceived around the world. This is made possible thanks to Sapient, the mother company of Food Circle, which every year offers internships to students from all around the globe, creating a uniquely multicultural environment.
Today we speak with Sofia Gizari from Greece!
“Greece hosts a unique ecological treasury and is a remarkable EU Member State regarding its ecological wealth. It was one of the first countries worldwide to endorse a framework law on protecting the environment (Law 1650/1986), and the principles of environmental protection are embedded in the constitution. (European Union, December 2020)”
But first, let’s add some context:
Greece Sustainable Targets: Greece identified and endorsed eight national priorities for SDG action, on which the country’s 2018 VNR was based. The sixth national priority is ‘strengthening the protection and sustainable management of natural capital as a base for social prosperity and transition to a low-carbon economy. The policies and measures to achieve this priority include:
transition to a circular economy model for sustainable production and consumption patterns (SDGs 12, 8, and 9);
development of an integrated environmental framework to support economic development and investment while safeguarding and protecting natural capital and biodiversity, in particular:
sustainable water resources management (SDG 6);
inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable cities (SDGs 6, 11);
sustainable use of seas and marine resources (SDG 14);
protection, restoration, and sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems (SDG 15);
transition to a low-carbon economy and adaptation to the impacts of climate change (SDGs 7, 13) (the Hellenic Republic, 2018).
The priority given to SDGs 6, 7, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15 with an environmental dimension is based on the notion that Greece’s natural environment constitutes not only the identity of the country but is also a key asset for the development. Thus, environmental protection is regarded as ensuring sustainable economic growth. (European Union, December 2020) 
Country’s Performance: Greece has undergone extensive reforms to cope with a deep recession over the past decade. It has made progress in decoupling air pollutant emissions from GDP and improving the conservation status of natural habitats. However, the country faces challenges in managing waste and water and addressing air pollution. It is highly vulnerable to the impact of climate change. The energy mix has shifted towards cleaner fuels, but the economy strongly relies on fossil fuels. Progress towards sustainable development requires effective implementation of ambitious climate mitigation and adaptation policies, strengthening environmental governance, and enhancing coherence between environmental and energy, transport, agriculture, and tourism policies.
This is the third Environmental Performance Review of Greece. It evaluates progress towards sustainable development and green growth, with special features on climate change mitigation and adaptation, biodiversity conservation, and sustainable use. (OECD Report, 2020). 
Based on Food Waste Index Report issued by the united nations environment Programme, food waste in Greece has been an average staggering 142 kilograms (313 pounds) of food every year. 
Hello, Sofia! Thank you for participating in the interview. Before we start, could you please briefly introduce yourself?
So, my name is Sofia. I am 21 years old, and I was born and grew up in Thessaloniki, the second biggest city in Greece. I am currently studying Business Administration, specializing in marketing, in Thessaloniki. Last semester I was in Tallinn with the Erasmus studies exchange program. When I finish my bachelor's studies, I want to do a master’s in tourism. About my work experiences, I have worked in many bars and coffee shops as a waitress, as it is the most common student work in my country. My family owns a beach bar, so I work as a social media director and in the human resources department every summer.
Can you help give some background about the attitude to food waste and sustainability in Greece?
The truth is that I really can’t talk about statistics or facts about Greece’s attitude because research focusing on food waste in Greece is mainly based on public survey questionnaires, so you can imagine the lack of field data. I will talk about my family’s and friends’ behavior, so you can get a picture of some households. As Greeks, we have some good and some bad behaviors. For example, we rarely throw leftovers away; we mostly use them in salads or cook them before they get terrible. On the other hand, few families do home composting because we usually live in flats with no gardens or extensive green areas close to our houses, especially in the cities. But the biggest problem in Greece is that most of the residents do not even know the existence of the food waste problem and the consequences. I read in some articles that Greece is one of the highest food waste countries in Europe, but we are not informed about that.
In your opinion, what challenges does Greece face concerning the country’s sustainable development targets?
I believe that Greece faces many challenges. As you know, Greece is one of the most touristic countries in Europe. We have plenty of luxury hotels and restaurants whose aim is to satisfy their clients, thereby making food that often goes to waste. I believe that we have to make serious decisions about how tourist places should work or find alternative solutions to where the wasted food can be used. Secondly, Greece faces an economic crisis, and I believe that this is the main reason we are not making significant changes but only minor improvements. Finally, we have a lot of agriculture, which means that climate change affects us significantly, so this is also a big challenge.
What can we learn from the Greek people? Could you please tell us about their values, habits, or recipes that we could adapt and learn from to reduce food waste?
In my opinion, the Mediterranean diet is sustainable as it is characterized by high consumption of vegetables, fruits, and legumes; moderate amounts of dairy products (principally cheese and yogurt); low to moderate amounts of seafood and poultry; and low amounts of red meat. If everyone followed this type of diet, they would have health benefits, which would also help reduce food losses and waste.
Based on what we talked about reducing food waste, what’s the most frustrating thing to you about food waste?
In my opinion, the most frustrating thing about food waste is the government's inactivity. It is tough to try yourself if you don't have help from your government or more prominent companies. For example, I have seen the same trash truck take the garbage from the green and the blue bins simultaneously with my own eyes. Similar incidents happen with food. It is frustrating when you want and try to have a better and greener future, and you see no motivation from anyone with a higher position in society.
Due to your perspective concerning reducing food waste worldwide, what do you recommend people do differently?
I would recommend people do more home composting. As I said previously, our diet is based on fruits and vegetables. So, you can imagine how many peels we throw away every day and eggshells or coffee filters (we are crazy lovers of coffee). I suggest they buy a large ceramic container, prepare it by putting wet paper, soil, and worms in it, and are ready to throw all their scraps. It is straightforward!
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
In conclusion, I would like to say that if Greek people knew about the seriousness of the food waste problem, they would want to help and make small or significant improvements in their everyday lives. We know that, as a country, we are a little bit "slower" than the rest of Europe, but we love our earth, our islands, and our nature, and we want to keep it as it is or even make it better.
“Thanks so much for your time and participation!”
That was a conversation with Sofia from our Social Media team at Food Circle.
Interviewed: Sofia Gizari
Interviewer and Writer: Majid Zamanshoar
NGO “Bread and Action”
LIFE Project "Recycling Sympraxis"
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