Brain Bar Festival Highlights: Safeguarding the Future of our Planet


Written by Lauren Zayya

5 August 2019

This year’s Brain Bar festival welcomed speakers and visitors from every continent to share in discussions and debates on what the future holds and how those futures will come to impact the way we live. We heard from panellists presenting and refuting arguments, witnessed myths and fake news go up in flames (literally) and had the opportunity to challenge experts one-on-one. Despite the breadth of topics, one theme was prominent; safeguarding the future of our planet.

As the conversation around climate change shifts to one of climate crisis, the way we live as a society comes under scrutiny. This has seen the anti-plastic movement garner support and has given rise to the war on waste. In this post, we share our highlights from the festival, hearing from entrepreneurs, innovators and activists at the forefront of change.

Edible Packaging

Images clockwise left to right: Skipping Rocks Lab, Ooho Water, Just Eat 

Shining a light on what is possible, Brain Bar’s Secret Garden Stage welcomed Rodrigo Garcia Gonzalez, co-founder of Skipping Rocks Lab and inventor of Ooho pods.

A Green Awards Winner, this start-up is on a mission to combat plastic waste. Challenging the audience, Gonzalez presented two facts, “It takes seven litres of water to make a one litre water bottle” and “that one litre water bottle might take up to seven hundred years to biodegrade”. These revelations are reaching consumers and shifting mindsets as we witness a growing distaste towards plastic packaging.

Inspired by nature, Ooho pods are made from natural materials, are edible and wholly biodegradable. Having quenched the thirst of marathon runners and festival-goers across the UK, Ooho pods are primed to enter the home.

With packaging waste being high on the agenda and new initiatives being trialled across industry, we are beginning to move towards a circular system, but are we capable of eliminating packaging waste altogether?

Rethinking Waste

Images clockwise left to right: Jokuti, Heidi’s Bridge, Evansungnyc

The future of food was a popular theme at this year’s festival, inviting David Zilber, Director of Noma’s Fermentation Lab and Jacy Reese, Author of The End of Animal Farming to share their visions on what we will be farming, eating and ‘disposing of’ in the years to come.

Prior to the advent of refrigeration, fermentation enabled our ancestors to preserve food to survive the colder winter months. At Noma, fermentation has become central to their creative process in developing new unique flavours. Incidentally, it is also a secret weapon in diverting food waste, “having the power to change our perception about what can and should be eaten” asserts Zilber, “where you stop seeing waste as something useless and begin to see ingredients”.

Having published the Noma Guide to Fermentation, Zilber wants the process to be better understood and accessible to home cooks, encouraging consumers to rethink waste. At a time when we know that one third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted, consumers are increasingly adopting more conscious practices. Questioned on whether our diets can save the world, Zilber recognises that we are impacting on the earth and need to look at our food system to imagine a sustainable world.

Meat Reinvented 

Images clockwise left to right: Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat

In his talk, Bye Bye Ribeye, Reese revealed that “factory farming accounts for 99% of farmed animals in the US and 100 billion animals worldwide”. This has driven his vision for an animal-free food system, one that is less resource intensive to reduce environmental impact and avoids animal slaughter.

To date, avoiding meat and dairy has been heralded as the single biggest action individuals can take to reduce their environmental footprint, sparking the rapid adoption of meat-free and vegan diets in the western world.

For Reese, these are positive signals but fail to affect change on a big enough scale. To shift the behaviours of society at large, Reese believes technology can get us there, looking to companies like Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat to satisfy tastebuds and encourage trade-off.

Should these fail to allure meat-eaters, cultured meat, otherwise known as clean meat, is being proclaimed as the solution that will revolutionise the food and agriculture industry. Being in its early stages of development, the impact of production and social acceptance have yet to be determined – The Vegan Society perceives honey harvesting to be a form of animal exploitation – but with investors including Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Cargill, the agricultural giant backing the technology, are we capable of designing a truly humane and sustainable food system in the years to come?

Moving forward, we expect to see the demand for transparency and sustainable solutions rapidly accelerate to enable consumers to make informed decisions to reduce their footprint. Governments, organisations and brands will be held to account as consumers of all ages increasingly apply pressure and rally for change to safeguard the future of our planet.

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