Zero Food Waste Challenge

Walking into the space, it feels like taking a piece of the past and fitting it perfectly into the present.

The BROTFABRIK building in the 10th district has a beautiful façade. The bricks from the historical bread factory are interspersed with high arched windows, illuminating the high ceilinged interior spaces. Inside you can find beautiful galleries and you guessed, co-working spaces and social projects!

The Zero Waste Lab is one such project. A pop-up space for events and workshops, they recently hosted a Zero Food Waste Panel. Organized by the design thinking group OpenIDEO Vienna Chapter, the event was a response to the current Zero Food Waste challenge which is being addressed by the global OpenIDEO network.


OpenIDEO is a network of local communities using design thinking to drive social impact around the world. Starting in Singapore, the movement expanded to New York, Palo Alto and Barcelona in 2013. The movement was sparked by a question from the OpenIDEO design community: why aren’t we leveraging the power of face-to-face connection?

Since then 40+ cities across the world have joined the global community. Members meet up locally to contribute to online challenges such as the Zero Food Waste challenge, flex design thinking muscles, and participate in workshops to launch social impact projects.



The Zero Food Waste panel had a great line up staring three women who are passionate about addressing food waste issues.



Alexandra, Helene and Cornelia (from left to right)

The first panelist was Alexandra Gruber, who is the managing director of Wiener Tafel, a Viennese not-for-profit association that operates at the intersection of zero food waste and poverty reduction in Vienna.

The second panelist was Helene Pattermann, the founder and initiator of Zero Waste Austria, which aims to connect and strengthen zero waste players on- and offline. Through Zero Waste Austria she raises awareness on the topic and gives the zero waste movement a voice. Most recently she has also been organising the pop-up Zero Waste Lab, where the event was hosted.

Finally, Cornelia Diesenreiter rounded out the panelists for the evening. Cornelia is the founder of Unverschwendet a social business following a simple, yet effective idea. With her start-up, she saves vegetables and fruits from being wasted by cooking and selling marmalade, chutneys and other products. That way she is able to save tons of eatable food.


During the enlightening one and a half hour discussion, Stephan Kardos from the OpenIDEO Vienna Chapter led the group through a series of questions aimed at delving deeper into the topic of Zero Food Waste.

Food waste is no easy problem to solve, and the participants walked in already familiar with this critical issue. What struck as particularly surprising, however, was some of the data the panelists referred to when touching on the scope of waste taking place.

Cornelia had some interesting insights into the scope with which we are dealing with. “I get phone calls from farmers calling me, saying they have one ton of tomatoes every day.” She explained that she wished she could do more to save the food being wasted. “Its just my capacity, it’s the logistics behind it. It’s too much. And the numbers, they strike me everyday…Its not every now and then. Its every day that I get these phone calls.”

Alexandra also had some impressive numbers to share with the group. “Currently we [process] 500 tons of food on a yearly basis, and we serve about 100 charities, with about 18,000C people living in poverty…We could do more, but we would have to enlarge our capacities. For us, our next step is having a warehouse.” The coordination involved, and all the drop and pick up sites, are also limiting factors for the Weiner Tafel. Alexandra expressed wanting to do more, but same as with Cornelia, the logistics posed problems for her organization.

Elena, supporting the previous panelists, said that, “one third of the food we buy goes to waste.” She pointed out that it is not only the food that is wasted, “its the money, the time, and the effort. There is a lot of potential in households to reduce food waste.”

Keeping those numbers in mind, there was a poll taken of what food items the audience threw out most often from their homes. The results from the poll revealed that audience members threw away fruit and vegetables the most, with 11 participants falling into this category. Stale bread was a close runner up, with 8 participants reporting this as their most tossed food item at home. And finally meat and dairy were also reported as commonly wasted food items, with 3 and 2 participants weighing in respectively.



Panelists and OpenIDEO Vienna Chapter Organizers

Colorful post-its covering the wall, audience members could see the results of the poll. During the networking session that followed the panel, there was some discussion as to how people could save the food they usually tossed at home.

Full of new ideas and inspired by the incredible work the panelists are doing, audience members left the Zero Waste pop-up armed with useful links, tips and tricks on how to reduce food waste in their lives.

What food item do you most commonly waste in your home and is there a way you could share or reuse it?