Think. Eat. Save. – How TEDxZurich made its catering more sustainable

Becoming a world connection-maker does not necessarily mean doing incredible things. Sometimes our daily routines can have an enormous impact, such as not wasting food and connecting with our local producers.

As our guests at TEDxZurich will notice, no gipfeli will be served to welcome them. Instead, TEDxZurich aims to stimulate everyone’s metabolism early in the day with food to keep them fit and their minds healthy and ready for a big day of inspiration, discussion and ideas worth spreading. The fine aroma of the cookies with dates could win over any gourmet, and the delicious regional fruits and fresh banana bread made with ripe fruits to avoid food waste delight not only the palate but also keep your conscience clear. 

Speaking of food waste, did you know that 27% of food loss in agriculture occurs because the food does not match EU-Standards and a further 18% of food is lost in processing and preparation? 37% of all food is wasted in Switzerland every year because we just buy too much or because the portions served in catering are too big. You want a more relatable number? On average, that is CHF 2’010.00 per household. Money for a nice weekend trip to Paris, isn’t it? 

Healthy living also means a morconscious approach to using water, energy, time, safe food resources and supporting the farmer next door instead of consuming imported veggies from all over the world. In rich countries, 7% of the salary is used for food, 30% of which ends up in the garbage. To compare: in developing countries, 70% of the income is used for food, and less than 3% goes to waste. Or, to put it differently, each person in Switzerland throws away 94 kg of food, but only 11 kg in India. Whereas cattle in our country need to be subsidised by the government, in Africa a cow may feed 4 families over 2,5 years.

To us, these were enough reasons to try and reduce food waste at our events and to start making smarter decisions on how we consume and source our food. Nutritional value was important, with the focus on brain food, a reduction of CO2 emissions, saving water and, for example, by using ripe fruits to make banana bread instead of throwing them away.

TEDxZurich would like to set a clear sign that it is entirely sensible and possible to establish a food concept for 600 people in the catering industry in a conscious interaction with nature and its resources and with responsibility for the full food chain. We considered not only the food, but also packaging and presentation. We eliminated dishes, thereby conserving water resources and also CO2 emissions by reducing our need for transportation. Also, the coffee that will be enjoyed in copious amounts comes in fully biodegradable capsules.

Any leftovers will be collecteby an organisation and distributed to those in need in and around Zurich. Raw organic remains will be composted and cooked leftovers given to neighbouring farmers for their pigs.

To fulfil the TEDxZurich food aim, we are connecting and working with a network of proven specialists like Tropical Mountain Coffee, Foodsharing Zurich, Migros Catering, Microbrewery Brausyndikat and many more whare happto pass on their zero waste expertise and experience.


by Stella Birchler

Quellenangaben: IFPRI, International Food Policy Research Institut, Bundesamt für Lebensmittelsicherheit und Verterninärwesen BLV, Bauer Unser (Film)
Sarah Ebling

          Sarah Ebling holds a professorship in Accessibility Studies at Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) and is a senior researcher at the University of Zurich. Her research focuses on natural language processing in the context of disabilities and special needs, specifically, sign language technology and automatic text simplification. Her groups’ contributions involve artificial intelligence techniques with a strong emphasis on user involvement. She is involved in various international and national projects and leads a large-scale Swiss innovation initiative entitled „Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies“ (2022-2026;