“Live at home”
― George Washington Carver
Lets begin here, with George Washington Carver.
We have forgotten how to live at home; how to look at one ingredient, like a peanut, and to use it in a variety of ways, like Mr Carver did. The world has become our village and with it our kitchens have become one enormous dining hall, in which we are served such an abundance of food that we cannot even consume half of it.
Most of us, at least the number of people who have the luxury and time to consider such matters, want to live a sustainable life. Some of us want to change the way we treat our planet, others want to change it because it is en vogue. Whatever the reason, most of us know that a sustainable way of life is better for our planet and more rewarding for us personally. But do we all know what our possibilities are and have we really already scratched the bottom of our metaphorical idea barrel for ways to improve our actions that are meant to stir us towards a more mindful and sustainable way of living? I think not.
After a day of fermenting and pickling your homegrown and home sourced vegetables from your tiny vertical garden in a London apartment, after composting your food waste in your own state of the art home composter, after filling up your car with recycled coffee-grain fuel (or storing away your bike at the end of your day – if you are one of the very conscientious and fearless specimens of our kind), what else is there that you can do to live more sustainable on a personal level?
Our kitchens are becoming smaller, because we have increasingly less living space and therefore we need to start to think smarter about the way we store and prepare food. Is it really necessary to own a fridge the height of a grown human? Or is a cooling shelf, like the IKEA ‘kitchen of the future’ in Ämhult, Sweden suggests, a more elegant and energy saving solution to our dilemma? Suppose we all install an energy-saving fridge shelf in our flats (maybe we can finally extend that vertical garden we love so much and add another normal shelf for those pickled Ramen eggs we always wanted to make), what else can we do? If we listen to chef Massimo Bottura and his colleagues at this year’s EXPO in Milan, we know that we cannot just compost our food waste in our IKEA kitchen, but we can use that left over banana peel to make a chutney. Which is faantastic.
But what can we achieve if we consult both, the Michelin-starred chefs of this world and the innovation and design teams at IKEA? They certainly share their concern about food waste and how to reduce or recycle it. What insights do the practitioners of both disciplines have that they could share with each other in order to come up with new ideas for a sustainable way of living, rather then re- and upcycling old ideas. If we begin to consult the cooks and designers of this world, we should be able to come up with innovative ideas. Dare I suggest asking anybody who has an influence on the way our kitchens are structured and the way we use them, including engineers and life-style gurus, to share their ideas and observations in order to have a more fruitful mind-mapping session regarding the future of our sustainable lives.
In order to continue our path towards a sustainable way of life, on a small – scale, personal level, we need to start a bigger conversation across different knowledge and experience sectors, rather than one sector at the time. Let us start to live at home again, by using the knowledge of our global village.