Baptiste Dubanchet, from the city of Tours, in central France, is protesting against the wastage of food by only eating the stuff that people throw away. 25-year-old Baptiste is an environmentalist with a master’s degree in sustainable development. He is currently cycling 3,000 miles from Paris to Warsaw, and, throughout the arduous journey, he’s only consuming food from dumpsters, discarded by supermarkets, restaurants and bakeries.
The idea for the project came to Baptiste when he visited Colombia, South East Asia, and Tahiti; the extreme poverty in these regions had a huge impact on him. “I was rich in poor countries, I was sad these people were so poor,” he said. “These people have no choice, they did not choose to be poor, so I decided to do something to show how much good food we waste.” Incidentally, his mission coincides with the European Year against Food Waste, led by The European Parliament.
As a part of the challenge that began on April 15, Baptiste cycles at least 60 kilometers a day, passing through various cities and towns in Europe. So far, he has made stops in Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, and Germany. In Germany alone, he has been to Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Nuremberg, Berlin, and Cologne. He estimates that he should reach his final destination, Warsaw, in about two weeks time.
As soon as he arrives in a new town, Baptiste uses the website couchsurfing.org to find accommodation. Once that’s taken care of, he sets out on his quest for discarded food. He seeks out local stores and restaurants to check if they might give him food that they would otherwise throw away. He doesn’t care what they give him, any food will do. “I have to find food fast because after all the cycling I am tired and I need the energy,” he said. “Is my stomach full or empty? That is the most important thing, not what I’m eating.”
“I do not pay for any of the food I eat,” he explained. “The only thing I take is water.” The idea might sound extreme, but Baptiste feels that it’s the only way to call attention to the huge amounts of food that is wasted across Europe. At the end of his cycling trip, he wants his carbon footprint to be almost zero. So he tries to eat raw food whenever he can, and if he needs to cook a meal, he only uses low temperatures and very little water. He doesn’t even use seasoning, unless he finds any that has been discarded.
While his success rate of finding food varies from town to town, Baptiste says that on an average, one out of ten places he approaches will give him food. Some establishments have strict policy of not giving away free food, as it might affect their profits. So he approaches them with signs that are written in the local language, explaining what his project is all about. The signs are a great idea, but the technique doesn’t always work.
The place where he found it most difficult to get food was in the city of Pilsen, in the Czech Republic – he had to ask at 50 places before he could finally eat. “The Czech Republic was the hardest, people just didn’t understand the concept,” he said. “They associate taking trash with homeless people. Finally, I was given a lot of leftover bread from a bakery which I made last for five days.”
Berlin, on the other hand, was one of the easiest places to get food, while Düsseldorf was the toughest in Germany. The people who worked at the establishments were quite friendly, he insisted, it was just against their policy to give away food. “Some people have even risked their jobs by giving me food,” Baptiste revealed. One guy who worked at a bakery wasn’t allowed to give him any food. “He said to come back at 9.30 pm when the shop closed. When I went back, he had hidden all the food in bags under his jacket. There was so much of it, I had to share it with a fellow couch surfer.”
Apart from eating discarded meals, Baptiste also visits schools during his cycling breaks, to raise awareness on the issue of waste and its impact on the environment. “I tell them how much non-renewable resources are consumed every day and that one day, these will run out,” he said. “We import so much food, for example rice, that it puts the prices up in the poor countries and then we just end up throwing so much of it away.” So he also educates children about how much energy is required to make just one plate of food, and how wasting food in the western world impacts developing countries.
Baptiste’s message is quite simple: “Less is more. If we produced less, food would become more precious to us.”
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen someone so young turn to dumpster diving in order to prove a point. Previously, we wrote about Rob Greenfield, a 27-year-old adventurer who ate 21 Gourmet Dumpster meals in a week to create awareness about the amount of food wasted in the United States alone, and the whole of New York’s dumpster diving culture.
Source: The Local