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Madame Frigo is a non-for-profit organization created by four students in 2014 and headquartered in Bern. This organization originated as part of an Imp!act event by euforia, under the motto "Action, not words". The organisation wants to improve the awareness of food handling in private households. Madame Frigo offers to the population a public fridge, where people can donate edible products (food), making them available for those who want it or need it. The main goal of their project is to avoid food waste by encouraging sharing.

The concept is aimed at private households, as 28% of all food waste in Switzerland originates there. All that is needed for the Madame Frigo is a refrigerator, a location and electricity. Like the book boxes, this fridge is a rotating platform that receives foodstuffs at the end of their run.

For more information about Madame Frigo and their fridges, visit their website: www.madamefrigo.ch

Dita Srkala from Madame Frigo (Image: Lou Pfister)

Team Madame Frigo (Image: Lou Pfister)

Interview with Dita Srkala from Madame Frigo

"We are trying to close the waste circle and extend the life cycle of food". It takes very little to be a little more sustainable, in the case of Madame Frigo just write to the organization to put near you one of their Frigo, then the only thing left for people to do is get up and walk to a fridge to put the food they no longer want in it. The first idea should be "I am saving this food from the garbage".

A: What is sustainability for you?

D: So, we are trying to close the circle again, it's like not producing food, then waste food and putting it in the trash, but we try to make the circle longer. At the end Someone is using the food. So that's why we are giving with the fridges a second or third life to the food, that it's not waste.

A: How has the interest evolved science you have started your project?

D: Now it's much bigger. It started more in the city in Bern. At first there was an interest only in Bern. But after, I think two years, that also cities around Bern wanted to have also a Frigo. And now it's like, almost everywhere in Switzerland, we are trying to be in every Canton. We are also present in the French part. And now it would be nice if we also have a Frigo in the Italian part. But it's always another step because we need all our papers, contracts and we need also another language. So this is a tough situation in Switzerland. It's not only one language, they are like three, and you'll always have to change and organize everything.

A: Who ask for a Madame Frigo?

D: The smaller part of city is asking for Frigos. But is more private people that ask to set up a Madame Frigo in that place. So, it can be somewhere in the middle of the city center, or where someone is just living or someone is studying there. And they are organizing the Madame Frigo around it. Or it's someone it's like a mother who is working at home with the kids and wants to do something against food waste. Also, somewhere in the mountains, kind of in a small village, there are Frigos. So it's more a private person who is asking. We have some situations that also villages are asking or maybe like bigger schools, but usually they are private people.

A: The placement of a Frigo cost something (e.g. for a privat who want to place one)? Or you have sponsors that give you "founds"?

D: In the beginning, all our Frigos were for free for the people to place, but now we have to change because we have also some help from some cities who are participating in the project. Some cities, which are giving us some time and money; and they are helping us with finding good places to place a Frigo or they are paying the electricity, but we have a lot of foundations that are helping us. But we are changing now. Because that it can be like long term that we can offer this Frigos, we need a little bit of help. Maybe when you asked me about half a year, maybe change? So we don't know. It's like really dynamic.

A: What are your experience with customers?

D: I mean, we are not telling them that they are kind of customers, because yeah, they are just them Sometimes. There is People who only take food from the fridge. There are also people who only giving food. There are people that are doing both. Yeah. So it's hard to say who is like the customer who is offering, but, I mean, it's everything from an amazing idea, I want to participate in, like, a kind of way. There are people who are saying: "How is it possible? That it's working? When is the delivery coming?". So they are sometimes not really understanding that it's a sustainable project. And not a social project. In the end you have kind of food for free, but the idea, the first idea should be "I am saving this food from the garbage". And "I am saving my money". Yeah. This is always hard to explain. So this is kind of the biggest problem, that the people are not understanding that first of all, it's a sustainable project. But the people who are understanding it, they are fully in the idea, they want to be kind of part of the community.

D: So, sometimes companies wants to purchase they want to participate with us, but they have only like the social thinking, the social mindset. And we always are saying to them, when we want to have a collaboration, that it's important that they also follow the sustainable mindset. Yeah, because this is our thing. We are not a social project, but it's just food waste and saving food.

A: What could be done to make Zürich more sustainable?

D: For sure most Frigos, especially in the city center (they are coming also in there). Next to the center, in downtown, at the ETH, there will be a Frigo soon. So it's important that it's, like, always kind of walking distance for everyone. Because if you have something at home, and you know, "okay, now I have to go 10 minutes by walking to put my banana into the Frigo… Oh, no, I'm just putting it in the garbage". This is like the thinking that when there are more Frigos, then also, like, the people are more also aware of that problem. Something the frigos should be for the change, but they should be also just for the awareness, because if you see it, then you are at home, and you're thinking "Oh, no, I can't throw it away". But I think even more project should, because I know cities like Bern, they have everything. And it's like that the people are coming with their copper wares. And they are filling it out. And then they are paying like for the cereals, how much they took when they don't take it in a plastic bag. So these are things I'm not sure if Zürich is aware of, they are really living fast. And it's like, "Okay, I'm just grabbing shortly my lunch, throwing it away, like the papers and the plastic. And then I'm working again. I mean, I have the money for it, I can do it". So I think like, in theory, they should be much more work putting effort in the awareness. And it's like starting with the thinking, I want to produce less waste less plastic. And so it's, it's worth it for me, but how should it be worth it for a student because you're like saving money everywhere?

D: Also like, all these projects in Bern, the city is helping us or they are like really helpful. Also the latency clunk. And then you're coming to CERN, for example, and it's really conservative, and it's not easy to handle with someone. So that would be also nice when Zürich is helping, but I have to tell you that the city, they want to collaborate with us, but it's like, hopefully in summer, we can realize that so it's like it's starting. I think they recognize maybe the problem so Your project is kind of exactly the right time.