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Food and sustainability

Selina Juul: the Dane at the forefront of the fight against food waste

At the helm of the biggest NGO in Denmark, the activist has won some key victories in the battle against food waste with the help of individual consumers and international organisations.

“Consumers have great power: they are not controlled by the people selling the food, indeed quite the opposite – it is the consumers who set the rules.” 

Consumers have great power: they are not controlled by the people selling the food, indeed quite the opposite – it is the consumers who set the rules.” This is the conviction of Selina Juul, who back in 2008, while still in her twenties, founded Stop Wasting Food, a movement made up of consumers fighting against food waste. Having moved to Denmark from Russia as a teenager, Selina Juul quickly perceived the differences between the two countries when it comes to eating habits, the availability of food and food waste: all kinds of goods bought and thrown away in Denmark vs. empty supermarket shelves in Russia.  It is likely that this stark contrast helped to form and strengthen her focus on sustainability, the hallmark of all her campaigns, whose ultimate aim is to raise awareness among the general public and governments about the problem of the all-to-often ignored issue of food waste. “According to data from the FAO, each consumer in Europe wastes 60-110kg of food a year, increasing to 95-115kg in the USA. In total, this amounts to 1.3 billion tonnes of food that is either uneaten or thrown away” explains Juul, who won “Dane of the Year” back in 2014 thanks to her commitment to the cause. 

Prestigious partnerships 

The foundations of the Danish movement against food waste are undoubtedly the people themselves, but there are also plenty of outstanding collaborations and partnerships which have made the work of Juul and her team even more effective. In Denmark, many politicians and public figures connected to the food sector support the movement, which has also gained a seat in the “Group against Food Waste”, coordinated by the Ministry of the Environment. Stop Wasting Food has also attracted a lot of attention from international organisations such as the European Union and the FAO. The latter, for instance, mentioned the Danish NGO in its report on food waste entitled Global Food Losses and Food Waste. Furthermore, Selina Juul is one of the experts who helped draw up the Joint declaration against food waste, brought to the attention of the EU, which used it to produce a European resolution. 

Among other issues, the declaration targets more sustainable production and consumption, with the end goal of reducing food waste by at least 50% by 2025. The Danish movement is also a partner of the FAO’s Save Food initiative, the European Fusions project and the FAO/UNEP campaign Think.Eat.Save. In recent years, it has also supported the work of the BCFN, praising initiatives such as the Milan Protocol.

Practical Actions Bearing Fruit

Selina Juul has also written a book offering recipes by leading chefs using left-overs, which was awarded second prize at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in 2012 for the “Best Sustainable Food Book”. As well as this, she has led public campaigns, published articles, appeared on TV and in other media, and attended a wide range of debates and events. “It is crucial to raise awareness throughout the entire population in order to reduce the amount of food currently being wasted. Everybody can play a part by reducing their own waste, cooking left-overs, making more informed purchases and – when it comes to distribution – donating excess food and enacting sustainable sale policies” says Juul, who, at least in her home country, has really been able to make a difference. Recent data shows that food waste in Denmark has been reduced by 25% in just five years and, according to Claus Torp of the Danish Environmental Protection Agency: “if food waste has made its way onto the agenda of the last three governments, it is first and foremost thanks to Selina Juul”. 


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