Sustainable Cities™

Gothenburg - Creating scenarios for sustainable food

Visions of future scenarios can be important tools for creating long-term strategies. In the project Food Göteborg 2050, researchers and planners from Gothenburg developed scenarios for a sustainable food production and supply chain by using a method called backcasting. The visualisations developed in the scenarios have become part of the strategic planning of the Gothenburg City and region.

Göteborg, 15. juni 2008, Af eva the Weaver, Flickr Creative Commons

Small-scale and local food production is an important part of a sustainable food future. With the move towards local production, it is no longer necessary to produce as much as possible. The wellbeing of animals and nature has become more significant and consumer behavioural changes are required. These were some of the key issues addressed in the visions and scenarios of the project Food Göteborg 2050. The study was carried out by a team of researchers from Chalmers University of Technology and Göteborg University in co-operation with planners from the City of Gothenburg and Göteborg Energi AB.

Scenarios with a sustainable food and grocery chain in Gothenburg City and the surrounding region have been developed through the use of a 'backcasting' methodology. In the first step of this method, an analysis is made into the present state of, and trends in, a society. Secondly, criteria for a sustainable city in a sustainable society are developed and, thirdly, images of the future are envisioned through use of workshops and other forms of input. Finally, the visions are compared to the present state and trends, are used for strategic planning, and specifically act as guidelines for action plans that speed up the process of change.

Outdoor food market in Göteborg, 7 July 2008, By Silversprite, Flickr Creative Commons

The backcasting method has located five essential features of sustainable food scenarios:

• Sustainable and locally produced food
• A diet with a higher proportion of vegetables
• Shorter distance and closer relations between producers and consumers
• Food trade placed in local squares
• Conscious and energy efficient consumption

"In the fifty years between 2000 and 2050 we will see radical changes in food handling. There will be much more shopping locally, with stalls on the neighbourhood square, and we will order many of our staples by computer from home. Energy consumption for food handling will fall by half the amount that it was at the turn of the century."
Göteborg 2005

The essential necessary element for the success of the scenarios is change in consumer behaviour. By 2050, the citizens of Gothenburg have become strongly aware of which food they buy and the effect of food production on the environment. The food is labeled with information about origin, transportation volume and energy use. There is an awareness that a sustainable diet consists of two thirds vegetable protein and one third of animal protein. Today, these proportions are reversed.

City farms in Gothenburg

The City of Gothenburg owns 60 city farms, encompassing some 2,700 hectares of land. This land, which was originally acquired as a group of sites for future urban expansion, is currently utilized for a variety of agricultural and recreational purposes. Farmers lease the bigger properties while a number of the smaller farms are open to the public and utilized for social functions. Examples of these functions include public stables, pick-your-own berry and vegetable farms, animal visiting and petting farms, etc. The city farms are essential elements for the success of the 2050 visions, particularly in terms of local food production and sale. Furthermore, they are concrete tools for raising the public awareness of a future sustainable food and grocery chain.

"City farms can allow urban dwellers to interact with farm animals and crops. For some people who may never visit a rural farm, this provides a chance to see how farm animals are breed and to make the link between 'agriculture' and 'food'. They provide a focus for educational, environmental and conservation activities." Wikipedia on "City farms," 15 Dec 2008

Gothenburg 2050 was a research project and was completed in 2005, but the City of Gothenburg has continued the sustainable thinking and have introduced ecological foods and other environmental adaptations when handling food in the city. One of the initiatives is that only ecological meat is being served in all kindergartens, schools and nursery homes. It has been decided that by 2014, 50% of the foods used in the public institutions should be organic. Another example of Gothenburg's focus on sustainable food is a continuous campaigns about the importance of reduce the amount of food that is thrown out every year, to both protects the environment and save people money, that the city is running in for example local schools.

Read more:
>> San Francisco: From farm to fork
>> Johannesburg: Organic farming for everyone
>> New York: Urban fish farms
>> Future city: Vertical farming

Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014