‘We Take Food for Granted’: New Community Fridge Opens in Reykjavík

A new community fridge in Reykjavík offers free food to anyone who wants it, as well as a place to donate perishables that might otherwise go to waste. Founded by immigrants Kamila Walijewska and Marco Pizzolato, the new ‘FREEdge,’ or Frískápur in Icelandic, is located in Andrými, a radical social centre in downtown Reykjavík, and has already fostered a community of 500 people in the less than three weeks it has been operational.

Taking action locally

Before the start of the pandemic, Kamila and Marco were involved with other food sustainability and community-building events at Andrými, such as free, weekly cooking nights. Those had to stop during lockdown but have since been replaced with a free food market every Friday, which also targets food waste reduction. But with so much food still going to waste, Kamila and Marco wanted to do more. “There is not much consciousness and awareness in our society,” they explained in an interview with Iceland Review. “We take food for granted. We don’t think about the whole food chain.”

“We all have some leftovers at home or some food we realize that we do not like,” they continued. “Now there is a place to go and share it with others. Shops and restaurants have leftover food at the end of the shift which could also be saved and donated to the freedge. There will always be someone who will appreciate it.”

The name Freedge comes from an international movement of the same name, which aims to reduce food waste and insecurity through the establishment of community fridges like the one that Kamila and Marco started in Reykjavík. They got the idea during a Hackathon that they attended in the Westfjords a few months ago.

“The goal of the event was to find solutions to water, energy, or food-related problems and to help the environment in Iceland. We focused on food. During that intense weekend, we were working on a project where a chef travelled around Iceland, cooking together with locals and boosting awareness about food waste.” Kamila and Marco were inspired, but this model of awareness-raising would require more money and dedicated effort than would be sustainable in the long run. So instead, “we decided to take action locally,” they said.

A common-sense project

The freedge, located outside of Andrými. Photo courtesy of Kamila Walijewska and Marco Pizzolato

The freedge is located outside on Andrými’s property, which means that anyone can come and pick up or donate food any time they want. Kamila and Marco just ask that the house rules and residents are respected, and that people keep the freedge clean. Recent offerings have included everything from fresh fruits and vegetables (broccoli, lettuce, mangos, avocados) to chocolate and pastries and frozen French fries. The freedge is checked every other day and accepts basically all fresh produce and packaged goods, provided that the latter are unopened.

Fresh produce in the freedge. Photo courtesy of Kamila Walijewska and Marco Pizzolato
Pastries in the freedge. Photo courtesy of Kamila Walijewska and Marco Pizzolato.

“Homemade dishes are also welcome as long as they are labelled correctly (tape and pen are available) with date, donor and allergenics,” explain Kamila and Marco. “Foods that can represent a health risk if the cold chain is interrupted, like certain kinds of meat, fish, eggs or dairy are treated with suspicion and [if needed,] we inspect or remove them during our cleaning. We also check if the expiration date is ‘best before’ or ‘use by’ (there’s a big difference, and it’s very confusing for people).”

“We also feel like there is a lot of common sense behind this—it’s enough to use our senses to detect if something is either good to eat or not.”

A growing community

Although the freedge has only been operational for a few weeks, it has already been a huge success, both with members of the existing Andrými community and others. “People are messaging us, asking questions, getting involved in different ways,” say Kamila and Marco. “Word of mouth is really working. In one day, we got 200 new members on our FB group, and more are joining in every day. At the moment we have a community of over 500 people. It’s a big achievement.”

Looking ahead, Kamila and Marco believe that the project has the potential to expand considerably and are seeking to build relationships with businesses that are disposing of food that they can’t otherwise sell, but still could be eaten. “By donating their food,” they point out, these businesses “can say they are collaborating with us and therefore [foster] a better environmental image [for themselves].”

Kamila and Marco hope that more individuals will volunteer to take part in the project as it expands, helping to “pick up food from restaurants, supermarkets, or households and deliver it to the freedge.” They also hope to inspire more people to start freedges around Reykjavík and Iceland, which is, they point out, an “economically well-off country” that “has the luxury of good, healthy food available.” This “directly creates waste since the supply chain has to provide food also with margin for fluctuation of the request…Somehow more food [is] wasted because we have a tendency to buy more than we need.”

“We would like to encourage universities, offices, libraries, restaurants etc, to create their own freedges,” Kamila and Marco conclude. “We believe that in this way, we can all contribute to save food and impact our environment. It can also have a good social impact by boosting a bond within communities. We can all live healthier and happier lives.”

Find out more about the Freedge / Frískápur on Facebook, here.

Capital Sees Dramatic Increase in Cyclists and Pedestrians

More and more people are choosing eco-friendly modes of transportation in the capital area, RÚV reports. Fifty counters at various points around Reykjavík and the environs show that the number of pedestrians and cyclists has steadily increased over recent years.

On average, the data collected shows that just under 23,000 people have been commuting on foot and bike every day.

Unsurprisingly, weather plays a central role in people’s transportation choices: 10,000 more people were counted walking or cycling in January 2021 than the previous January, but January 2020 was also a considerably worse year, weather-wise. But while there may be an obvious uptick in cyclists and pedestrians in the spring and summer, the number of people opting to travel by bike and foot is still considerably more year-round than it has been in years past.

Number-crunchers can find more precise data from each of the city’s counters on the website Borgarvefsjá, here.


Reykjavíkers Warned Not to Advertise Vacations on Social Media

iceland real estate

Capital-area police warn residents in and around Reykjavík against advertising their ongoing vacations on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Per a post on their Facebook page, authorities reported that several local homes have been broken into after their owners posted vacation photos on social media. This comes in the wake of a recent spate of thefts and burglaries around the city.

Thieves have mainly been stealing bicycles, electric scooters, and vespas, which police urge people to store indoors. They also warn against leaving valuables visible in parked cars.

Residents are also advised to notify their neighbours of their travel plans as “neighbourhood vigilance can often make all the difference when it comes to preventing break ins or reporting them.”

New Names for 500 Bus Stops in Reykjavík

Reykjavík bus stop

Over 500 Strætó bus stops will be renamed next month. RÚV reports that most of the stops in question have particularly long names deriving from two different streets or locations. The name changes are, therefore, intended to improve the readability of signage, both at stops and in the buses themselves.

Stops that currently carry the name of two places will be renamed for appropriate nearby landmarks. For example, Sæbraut/Vitastígur will be renamed Sólfarið, after the nearby seaside sculpture known in English as The Sun Voyager. Nauthólsvegur/Natura will be renamed Öskjuhlið after the tree-covered hill that’s home to Perlan. Hofsvallagata/Hávallagata will be renamed Landakot and Menntaskólinn í Reykjavík/MR will simply become MR.

Strætó is also currently at work on new information design to coincide with the Borgarlína, or Cityline bus project. This includes a redesign of its system map, timetables, and website.

The new bus stop names will go into effect on Sunday, August 15, the same day that Strætó will switch to its winter schedule.