Nurturing sustainability through circular food practices

Tartu, often hailed as the intellectual and cultural heart of Estonia, is the second-largest city in the country, boasting a rich history dating back to its medieval origins. In this context, the PHOENIX project addresses the topic of food sustainability, examining the social and environmental impact of food.

The participatory approach employed is the Citizen Assembly on Food Sustainability, constituting a mini-public consisting of 30 randomly selected citizens. The primary objective is to develop Tartu’s food circular economy network and model, providing a concrete, one-time benefit with sustainable prospects. The Tartu Food Assembly functions as a condensed version of a people’s assembly, specifically concentrating on food sustainability.

Its purpose is to assess the collaboratively developed participatory process, raising awareness and collecting proposals on how to promote climate-friendly food choices and reduce food waste. The desired outcome is a sustainability action plan for food within the framework of the circular economy roadmap. The established network will support the city in various food-related and other initiatives.

The final Food Assembly model represents the city’s learning journey in experimenting with various democratic innovations. The mini-assembly on food sustainability is designed to be a focused process with a clear and tangible outcome—an easily understandable action plan.

Pilot Details

  • Country: Estonia
  • Administrative level: Municipal
  • Local Partner: e-Governance Academy
  • Topic: Food sustainability
  • Main Objectives: Developing Tartu’s food circular economy network and model as a tangible one-time benefit with sustainability prospects

Photo: Ragnar Vutt
Cover: RAndrei / Shutterstock

TCCD Paves the Way for Sustainable Change in Tartu

Embarking on a transformative journey from May 2023, the Tartu Climate Council and Digitalization (TCCD) convened three impactful meetings, crafting the upcoming Tartu pilot. Striking a virtual balance between diverse stakeholders the TCCD gathered a group of 17 participants in each meeting, collaborating closely with the city administration and the eGA team.

With a focus on the crucial theme of food sustainability, the TCCD prioritized sub-topics such as food-sharing, climate-friendly school meals, and innovations in creating a sustainable food system. This emphasis emerged organically from interviews and resonated with strategic city initiatives.

The process unfolded in six stages, involving expert interviews, discussions, and iterative synthesis during TCCD meetings. The outcome will be the co-design of a mini-citizen assembly on food sustainability—a visionary testbed for participatory decision-making that will propose actionable items for a municipal sustainability action plan. This plan will introduce regulations, choices, and incentives to foster a more sustainable approach to food usage to shape Tartu’s sustainable future.