The Low2No project is designed to help transition our cities to a low carbon future. We aim to balance economy, ecology and society through strategic investments and interventions in the built environment.

Announcing Helsinki Street Eats

Amongst the many facets, one aspect of Low2No is what and how we eat. Today we're publishing a 98 page book on street food of Helsinki that explores this topic.

Especially for a place with the northern climate and high meat & dairy consumption habits of Finland, food production and consumption are key concerns when you're interested in carbon.

We've been looking at street eats as an example of "everyday food", the stuff that's close at hand such as late night snacks, kiosks, bakeries, food trucks, and the like. In fact, let's take a slightly modified excerpt from the book page:

Street food describes systems of everyday life. In its sheer everydayness we discover attitudes to public space, cultural diversity, health, regulation and governance, our habits and rituals, logistics and waste, and more.

It can be an integral part of our public life, our civic spaces, our streets, our neighbourhoods. Street food can help us articulate our own culture, as well as enriching it by absorbing diverse influences. And it can enable innovation at an accelerated pace by offering a lower-risk environment for experimentation.

Street food can do all of these things, but it doesn't necessarily.

This book is an attempt to unpack what's working and what isn't in Helsinki, and sketch out some trajectories as to where it could go next.

Why is food important to Sitra? Three reasons:

It enhances social sustainability: as a social object, food creates new connections between people and cultures. At a moment when Helsinki's non-Finnish-born population is expected to double in the next 10 years, this is critical. But it's not just about native and immigrant, the production lines and supply chains of food also connect across domestic geography and other demographics such as income.

It is a big part of our carbon footprint: changing carbon-intensive behavior in Finland means changing the way we eat. By focusing on how we can create more room in the market for local, organic, low carbon foods, Sitra is seeking ways to mitigate this important aspect of human behavior without sacrificing quality of life.

The service economy needs innovation too: often the story of economic growth in Finland fixates on technology, but this is a country rich in cultural and culinary assets that are waiting to be utilized as part of a unique, high quality service offering. Food and food businesses are a key opporunitity in this space.

And why now? Incursions like Ravintolapäivä and the city's first food truck Camionette indicate Helsinki is at a moment when we can also use food to understand the relationship between citizens, governance and innovation. For instance, Ravintolapäivä serves up a series of unanswered questions about what our cities' streets can do, who are they for, who decides that, and how do we decide that, as well as implicitly suggesting that our existing food business regulations may be less than 'user-centred'.

Hope to have more to share later this year as we begin to prototype some of these ideas, but for now grab a copy of the book here!

March 21st, 2012

Posted by: Bryan Boyer


Category: Project Updates