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What can Anthropology teach us about food waste? An introduction



Food waste is a topic that has been gaining more attention in the last years, people are increasingly concerned about it, governments are starting to take initiative to reduce it and more and more organizations are promoting local actions with the aim of reaching a more sustainable future. It’s interesting to see how Anthropology, one of the least known sciences, can offer some relevant considerations to add to the existing conversation.


As humans we live in a world of symbols, we interpret what is around us in different ways depending on both the socio-cultural environment we live in and on personal experience. The set of ideas and practices that result from our process of living are what we could define as 'Culture'.

Anthropologists have long debated about the definition of culture and are still not all agreeing on just one. As an introduction we can here use the description that was given by E.B Tylor, British (pre-)anthropologist from the 19th century:


Culture…is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society"

(Tylor 1920 [1871]: 1) [1]