Kickstarting foodsharing Bilbao

This is a foodsharing kickstart, that takes place during two weeks in Bilbao. It was prepared beforehand, almost exclusively by Joachim Thome and our local contact Unai Gaztelu. During the kickstart Janina Abels was also present.



The main challenges, that need to be tackled in order to build a working foodsaving and -sharing project are community building and cooperation creation. To create cooperations it is important to talk to a lot of stores to try and convince them. It is perfectly normal, that many don't want to or need some time until they finally agree to regular pick-up times, so it can never hurt to ask them early. To build a community it is useful to hold events together, to raise awareness of all the waste that is going on, and to then integrate new people into existing structures, that's why it is smart to start with some enthusiastic people, who can build up maybe one or two cooperations and/or FSPs, before engaging with the wider public.

Facebook group and conference calls

  • Joachim got the contact of Unai via a friend, so he knew that there were people wanting to start foodsharing in Bilbao.
  • Unai came to know the idea of foodsharing in Copenhagen and was (and is still) enthusiastic about starting it in his hometown as well.
  • Unai had already created a closed facebook group for foodsharing Bilbao, to collect and connect other people interested in the topic.
  • Over the course of more than two months Joachim coached Unai in weekly online meetings. In total 9 conference calls were held.
  • These conference calls were made public through the facebook group, and a doodle was used to specify the exact time for each call individually.
  • Sometimes other people took part in the calls, be it Bilbaoans or yuniteers, but no call had more than 4 participants.
  • Still, the proceedings of each call were documented in the facebook group as well, to keep possibly interested people up-to-date.

Setting the stage

  • Joachim linked Unai to the resources we already collected for international foodsaving groups:
  • He also encouraged Unai to go out and already make some contact with stores, look for Food-Share-Point locations, maybe find a fridge and think of what he wants to do and achieve with this foodsharing project in general.
  • Soon it was clear that transportation will be an issue, since Unai has neither a car nor a bike trailer. Joachim knows how to build stuff, and events a good community building catalysts anyways, so they decided to build a simple bike trailer together.
  • When the time drew nearer for Joachim and Janina to actually come by Bilbao, Unai went out to ask in workshops, squatted buildings and community centers, if they'd be willing to let us use their facilities to kickstart foodsharing - either by building the bike trailer mentioned above or by holding presentations about foodsharing in general.
  • He also made it possible that the two yuniteers could be hosted in his father's flat - thanks again for that!

Arrival and stay

Joachim and Janina started hitchhiking from Saasen on March 29 and arrived in Bilbao at 11am of March 31.

Friday 2017-03-31

  • The 1st day Unai took Joachim and Janina on a walk through the city, which was both productive and fun. They visited:
    • Recreaz - a private workshop at Mariaren Bihotza Plaza. This will be the place to build a bike trailer.
    • A srap metal shop - in Gimnasio Kalea. They told us that to ask for material for the bike trailer we should come in the morning, where the not-so-nice boss is not around...^^
    • A bike shop - in Gorte Kalea. They had one wheel to spare, but since it was only one and pretty big we left it there for now. They pointed us to:
    • Ciclos la Ferro - another bike shop in Martzana Kalea, who didn't have any fitting parts to spare.
    • Bilbiko Kultua Etxea - a squat, where we could hold a presentation and maybe have some other people sleep for some nights. We'd need to ask again at the assembly of the house. They also pointed us to:
    • The wheel man - a guy that could maybe help us with getting wheels for the bike trailer. Unfortunately he was not there at the time, but we'll try again.
    • Karmela - in Fika Kalea. A huge compound full of possibilities and people, that is well integrated into the neighborhood (e.g. the old people come here to do Tai Chi together). We were told to write an email to ask for a presentation space, as they have so many people coming to their assemblies, that they often lack time to discuss internal stuff...^^

Everywhere we went the people were friendly and cooperative. In most cases Unai had already been in contact with someone via facebook or email, but we didn't have any appointments. Still, we got full house tours in both squats and nobody was in a hurry or seemed to want to get rid of us.

At night we did a short dumpster diving tour and found quite some bread, a bag of lettuce, half a jar of mustard, as well as one single Jiaozi. No supermarket dumpster was found accessible so far, but some smaller shops seem to put their trash into the bis in the streets, together with the households. Another interesting thing is, that the organic waste dumpsters are locked and the key is handed out only to the people who request an organic bin from the authorities. That's probably to precent people from throwing random stuff into the organic waste dumpsters. Unai's father has such a key, we'll try to dumpster dive with it next time.

Saturday 2017-04-01

  • The 2nd day Joachim and Janina spent mostly at Azkuna Zentroa, the huge cultural center in the heart of the city, where there is WiFi, working space and clean toilets.
    • Janina started documenting the progress on the wiki, to keep the information available.
    • Joachim wrote to Laura, the initial Bilbaoan contact and researched some more spaces.

Afterwards they met with Unai again, this time Leire joined as well, and made a more detailed plan for the coming week, namely:

    • Sunday: Visit the weekly flee market at the local open space to ask for the possibility to use their workshop, if they would be willing to host a Food-Share Point and if we could promote our foodsharing introduction event through their online channels.
    • Monday: Revistit the stores, which expressed interestin participating in foodsharing, when Unai had contacted them for the first time around a week ago.
    • Wednesday: Participate in the assembly of Bilbi (=Bilbiko Kultua Etxea) to ask for a space to hold our presentation on Saturday 6pm, if they would be willing to host a Food-Share Point and if we could promote our foodsharing introduction event through their online channels.
    • Thursday: Have a tiny workshop on syscon and transactional analysis with Unai and Leire (not really foodsharing-related, but still important for community building).
    • Friday: Unai has a meeting with a new start-up named Come Coop, that also deals with saving food, to find out if there are possibilities to cooperate.
    • Saturday: Hold a presentation for potential volunteers at 6pm, preferably at Bilbi or KRML (=Karmela).

Apart from these appointments, there are the following things to do inbetween:

    • Write an email to KRML to ask for a space to hold the presentation on Saturday, as well as the possibility to promote it via their online channels, and to inquire if they'd be willing to host a Food-Share Point.
    • Create a nice invitation post for the event, that can be shared online and let Bilbi, KRML and espacio open share it through social media.
    • Get pick-up appointments with stores, so that we can display saved food at the foodsharing introduction event.
    • Get materials for the bike trailer and secure a location to build it in.

This night's dumpster diving tour was more random and not that successful: In the street we looked first the bins had just been emptied - we even saw the garbage truck. We roamed some more streets and randomly looked into the dumpsters, but all we found was a package of Japanese bread crumbs (you now, those light and flakey ones). We'll see what we can do with that...^^

Sunday 2017-04-02

  • The 3rd day Joachim and Janina went to espacio open together with Leire to talk to Karim, a guy Unai had already been in contact with via email. Unfortunately he was pretty busy and apparently we should have made an appointment, but hey... now he already knows our faces, we know his and we know that he speaks English, that their workshop is generally available as long as we have our own material and that they're willing to repost the invitation to our foodsharing introduction event.
    • Karim told us to write an email with all other questions and info.

Afterwards Janina went to Az (=Azkuna Zentroa) again, created a free card for the library (and all libraries in Basque Country actually) and booked a small study room, so that she and Joachim could work together on the invitation. They got a room for 45 minutes starting at 8pm and Fenja Jacobs and her friend Fernando, who just got to Bilbao that day joined as well.

This is the invitation Joachim prepared beforehand, and which was then finalized by all of them together:

The obligatory dumpster diving walk that followed lead to the confirmation, that the only good spot they had found so far was one small bakery. But at least they got some bread and viennoiseries again (and three tiny packages of ketchup, as well as some sad salad, but that maybe doesn't even count...).

Monday 2017-04-03

  • The 4th day began with Joachim and Janina picking up Unai at 9:30am to go to the stores again, which he had already successfully contacted beforehand.
    • One organic supermarket - Unfortunately the boss was not there, but we called her and were able to arrange an appointment for the following day.
    • One small panadería - The boss was extremely relaxed and cooperative and agreed to us coming again on Wednesday and Friday to pick up his leftovers.
    • One branch of a huge supermarket chain - The local boss expressed interest, when Unai visited the last time, but this time a representative from the headquarters was there as well and she was more cautious. Still, the general willingness to cooperate was still apparent, they just wanted us to contact the headquarters, so that they wouldn't risk to run into conflict with the higher levels of hierarchy in their enterprise.

It was definitely good, that Unai came well prepared: He brought a copy of the liability contract, which he already translated before, as well as other info material (you know, the resources on the wiki). That, as well as Joachim telling them about the fact that in four years of foodsharing in Germany there has never been a single case, where stores had liability problems because of them letting foodsavers pick up their leftovers, put the more nervous representative of the huge and well-known supermarket chain at way more ease.

The two stores we successfully visited are two great examples of how different shop owners can be and how important it is to flexibly adapt to their attitudes. The boss of the small panadería didn't even want to give us specific times for the pick-ups - he just said 'Come whenever you want to...' - and he wasn't worried at all about possible risks, so that we'll need to specify concrete pick-up times ourselves to prevent foodsavers from just randomly going there and to keep up a certain level of organization. Handling a branch of a multinational corporation is something completely different after all, and in these cases professionalism is key.

That's why we started writing the draft for a mail to the Spanish headquarters of the mighty chain, trying to be short and concise, while sufficiently informative at the same time.

This night's dumpster diving tour was limited to checking out the known bakery and lost of cream-filled pastries, possibly whole-grain croissants and some white bread rolls could be saved.

Tuesday 2017-04-04

  • The 5th day Joachim and Janina's first appointment was at 5:30 pm, so they took the chance to do some sports (Joachim) and sleep in (Janina). At noon Janina went to Az again, to finally start working on the presentation for the introductory event, which would need to be held in Spanish. The first slides are now created and fortunately Unai will proofread them...
    • At 5:30 Joachim and Janina met with Fenja and Fernando again and when Unai showed up, all of them went to the organic supermarket again, to finally have the talk with the bosses.
    • They were super friendly and interested in cooperating with us! We can go there every working day and pick up, what can not be sold anymore and was left over by the employees as well, so the amounts will definitely be manageable. They also agreed to us publicizing our cooperation: Thank you Ecorganic! May this cooperation be long-lasting and pleasant!

The time between the talk with the bosses and the first official pick-up at Ecorganic was spent at Az again, where Janina put more thought into the letter to the central of the huge chain. Luckily, she found a section on the official website of the corporation, that states, that one of the enterprise's goals is fighting food waste as well! This will be the major argument for them to allow a cooperation with foodsharing, apart from the great success of in the German-speaking realm, the cost-reduction due to less garbage disposal needed and the possibly good PR - if they agree to us naming them.

At 9:30 pm sharp we stood in front of Ecorganic again, to make a reliable and punctual first impression. Maybe that was a too German approach, because the staff was just starting the closing procedures of cleaning and sorting and didn't really have time to look through the leftovers. The store manager told us to come a bit later the next day (~ 9:45 pm), but that it would be fine for today if we just took everything, so that we didn't need to wait for so long. Well, thank you, store manager! (wink)

Wednesday 2017-04-05

  • The 6th day started with Tai Chi at KRML for Joachim and with a shower for Janina.
    • At 11:30 am Janina and Unai met at the smaller library close to their places, to talk more about the liability contract. Unai had translated the one from Edinbourgh, but was not completely sure about the general structure of the contract. He had some pretty good questions like:
      • Don't the stores need to sign the contract as well?
        • Answer: No. It's just the foodsaver, who sign for taking responsibility. The stores don't need to sign anything, since the agreements on pick-ups times and such are flexibly changeable anyways, and the they don't need to sign for the foodsavers to be able to be liable for what happens with the saved food.
      • Where will the signed contracts be stored and who has access to them?
        • Answer: Good question, in Germany they're integrated into the online platform, which definitely means that foodsharing has them. You could just make a box full of signed prints and store it wherever you have room for it, while still holding it accessible. It would definitely be nice to also have a digital solution for this, maybe via a form? Would that be legally binding?
      • If the stores want copies, do we give them all or just a randomly chosen one?
        • Answer: Well if you offer them your box full of paper, I bet they suddenly won't be so interested in having all the contracts anymore... (wink) It will probably be enough to guarantee them that every single foodsaver has signed the liability contract, and that the copies are available, whenever the need should arise. Still, they need to be relaxed in order to keep cooperating, so abide to whatever wishes they might have!

Apart from that Unai told, that he was in contact with Karim from espacio open again, who unfortunately is very busy this week, so that the meeting in the afternoon would not take place. He said he might have time next week, but that's probably going to be too late. Well, we have other options.

Back in the working room of the library, the following things to do were identified:

    • finish the letter to the Spanish HQ of the big-ass supermarket chain
      • English version is done, only the info for our envisioned external info event is missing.
      • we need to secure a location and set a time, to then be able to invite business partners and other NGO
    • finish the foodsharing intro presentation
      • add slides concerning the specifics of the foodsharing method, as well as the foodsaving tool
      • add slides concerning the current situation of foodsharing Bilbao
      • have the Spanish version proofread by Unai
    • be prepared for more food coming in
      • since we have daily pick-ups now, we need to find solutions for food distribution
      • make use of the public facebook group, so that it grows and can actually serve the purpose of an online Food-Share Point
      • translate the FSP notices, to be ready to get going with a physical FSP

At 8 pm the assembly of Bilbi was visited by Joachim, Janina and Unai to ask for a space to hold their internal foodsharing Bilbao intro event. They said it was no problem, so now our (already advertised...) event will take place at Bilbi on Saturday from 6 pm to 8 pm. And they even have a projecter, that we can use! (big grin)
They suggested to print posters and advertise the event physically in the neighborhood, but they also agreed on reposting our digital invitation on their social media channels. During the event we'll also asked if they'd be willing and able to host a physical Food-Share Point. For the envisioned external info event for store owners and NGOs a week later, a more 'official' location probably will be more adequate than a squat, (you know, to adapt to the culture of your audience...).

We planned the pick-ups this night for 9:45 pm each. Fenja and Fernando would go to Ecorganic and Joachim, Janina and Unai to the panadería. Afterwards they all met at the metro station Abando to see what everyone got and to share. The boss of the panadería (who is reluctant to agree on fixed pick-up times) had put some bread and pizza into the freezer for us to pick it up, so we got a bag full of frozen goods, which will be good until our event on Saturday, yay! At Ecorganic there have been three crates full of fruits and veggies again - so apparantly going to this cooperation partner will be more worthwhile, than they told us in the beginning... (wink) (The pictures below only show the share Joachim and Janina took home)

On the way home the space left in the crates was filled with croissants and bread rolls from the neighborhood's bakery's dumpster again.

Thursday 2017-04-06

  • The 7th day also no early appointments had to be attended. Janina went to the library at 11 am and Joachim took it slow and met with another friend that day.
    • At the library Janina updated the facebook event for Saturday with the location and shared it to Bilbo, so that they'd repost it.
    • She worked more on the presentation and almost finished it.
    • She finalized the letter to the huge chain and wrote another text on success already reached in the process.
    • She put Unai's Spanish versions of the benefits for cooperating stores and the background information on the FSINT space of the wiki.
    • Those three above mentioned files will be added to the mail to the chain headquarters.
    • But she also enjoyed some chill internet time... (wink)

At 6 pm Joachim, Janina, Unai and Leire met at Unai's place to have a very short workshop on transactional analysis (=TA) and systemic consensus (=syscon). Surprisingly, Joachim managed to get the basics across, as well as have some practical learning sessions and tell some funny but fitting stories in only one hour. Even though seemingly unrelated, these two methods work very well together and can be great tools to have at hand, when forming a community. TA teaches you to reflect on your own ego-states and to understand, in which moments you demand, share or give away responsibility, as well as enabling you to communicate most productively when done right. Syscon is a decision-making system aimed at adults, so it fits the efforts people make, when trying to behave as adult as possible according to TA. You can reach a functional group when you have two things: a clear goal and a good and well-accepted decision-making system. Saving food is a clear goal and syscon is a good decision-making system, that will probably be accepted by conscious adults.

Fenja and Fernando had left in the morning, so at 9:45 pm Joachim and Janina went to Ecorganic to do the pick-up and on the way home they passed by the neighborhood bakery's dumpsters again. The amount of saved fruits and veggies stored at Unai's father's place now looked like this:

Friday 2017-04-07

  • The 8th day began with Joachim and Janina picking up Unai at 9:15 am to accompany him on his appointment with other individuals pursuing circular economy - most notably Javier from ComeCoop.
    • ComeCoop is a business, that aims to make use of e.g. unused school meals by making them accessible to soup kitchens, which otherwise would by the food to feed the poor. It is mostly a logistical approach, but it also involves direct personal coaching. So far it is unclear how income could be generated from this approach.
    • Sylvia's project is professional coaching of enterprises to enable them to make better use of resources and omit waste. Since it is hard to get a foot in the door at most enterprises, Sylivia cooperates with bigger, and more established business couching agencies, so that her name gets known.
    • Patricia also coaches enterprises and spreads the word about circular economy in the business world in Brussels and Bilbao.
    • The last party at the table were Unai, Joachim and Janina, presenting foodsharing.

The all volunteer approach of foodsharing, as well as the relative moneylessness inspired the others and in general a pleasant atmosphere of understanding filled the room: Even though our approaches may vary, we all seem to work towards the same goal, which is a better world for everyone, where resources are treated with respect. Particia invited us to the NESI, the new economy & social innovation forum, which will take place in Málaga from the 19th to the 22nd of April. Unai will probably go there as a volunteer.

At 3:15 pm the Joachim and Janina met with Unai again. They went to a copy shop, where Unai printed eleven posters in A3 size using a monochrome version of the invitation graphic for our event on Saturday. We actually didn't plan on making posters, but the people at Bilbi wanted some, so we abode. Equipped with the posters and tape Janina walked through the city for an hour to put them up. (Small game: Can you spot the poster in all the pictures? (wink))

Meanwhile, Joachim and Unai went to the harbor to pick up a europallet for the bike trailer. This turned out to be quite the journey: First they rode the tram for 20 minutes, then they walked and picked up, what turned out to be not a europallet but a much bigger one, which Joachim estimated to weigh around 40 kg. They rode tham tram back with it and had to carry it around for almost 45 minutes until they could finally leave it at the workshop, where the bike trailer would be built. Most ironical part of this story: After all this hassle Joachim spotted an abandoned europallet next to the public dumpsters close to the workshop...

There was still some time left before the daily pick-ups. Janina spent it in the small library working on finalizing the presentation and updating this logfile. Joachim wanted to join in, too, but his laptop refused to start, so he went back home - only to find out, that after taking out the battery and putting it back in everything worked fine, again. Well, better than the other way around, right?

At 9 15 pm Janina and Joachim went to save some more food: First to the panadería, where they got six baguettes and then to Ecorganic, where two crates of fruits and veggies awaited them. On the way back home the dumpsters of the bakery yielded creamy tartlets, croissants and even three dinner trays, which would be perfect for the ecent the next day! (big grin)

Saturday 2017-04-08

  • The 9th day was all about the introduction meeting in the afternoon. That means, that no early appointments needed to be met and the day could start slowly.
    • Janina had some last looks at the presentation.
    • Joachim took some rest to let his sore muscles heal.
    • Unai ran a marathon (yep, seriously).

Around 4 pm Joachim and Janina packed all the saved food together to get it to the venue and distribute it there:

When they arrived at 5:30 pm Unai was not there yet, but they could enter the space anyways. They set up the projector and the laptop, presented all the food nicely and waited for people to arrive. At 6:30 Three people had come and the presentation started. It was held by Janina, who was not well prepared to hold a presentation in Spanish, but it worked out quite well anyways. During the presentation three more people showed up: Leire and two guys from Bilbi.

Even though it was not the biggest event ever, we still count it as a succes. Because the two people, that came first, already commited to do some pick-ups next week; we were able to distribute most of the food, we had just piled up in Unai's dad's appartment until then, and shortly after the end we found out that Unai was in fact still alive, but had to walk half of his marathon, due to his friend not being able to run anymore after some hours, and that it took them over 9 hours to finish the 45 km in the end...^^

The pick-up at Ecorganic yielded one crate of veggies that day and the bakery's dumpsters were empty - a welcome change to the over-eating of the days before... (wink) On the way from the pick-up Janina and Joachim encountered a frightening procession of what reminded them both strikingly of something awful, even though they'd already been told that it is something cultural and traditional and nothing explicitly right-wing... Still, the eerie feeling didn't go away so easily and Janina was determined to research this the next day.

Sunday 2017-04-09

  • The 10th day Janina got up unpleasantly early for a call with Germany concerning activities at the Southside festival in June. Joachim could sleep a little longer.
    • At around 10:30 pm they left the appartment together and met with Unai outside.
    • Unai and Joachim were then headed to the workshop to finally construct the bike trailer.
    • Janina went to Az to do some more online work, as well as taking care of another call scheduled for noon.

Reaching Az, Janina met a guy she had already talked with the day before. He said he wanted to come to the foodsharing intro meet-up but couldn't find the venue. He's on facebook though, so she just added him as friend and to the facebook group of foodsharing Bilbao, where the slides of yesterdays presentation are shared now.

The general feeling after the event the day before was, that possibilities for new cooperations are manifold, but the distribution possibilities need to be enhanced. That's why Janina researched Nevera Solidaria and the Banco de alimentos de Bizkaia and sent the info she collected to Unai. It seems that both of these organizations could make great cooperation partners in the future, for now something smaller could be more appropriate, though. Like a local soup kitchen, where just one or two crates of vegetables per day would be welcome and helpful. Maybe Unai has some ideas himself...

At the workshop the building of the bike trailer progressed slowly but steadily over the course of the day. Not only Joachim and Unai, but also Imanol - Unai's father and the generous host of Janina and Joachim - worked on realizing Joachim's design. In the evening the trailer itself was complete and only the part, that would connect the trailer to the bike needed to be added still.

Btw, the online research of the interestingly dressed people they saw the other night lead to the realization that those processions are carried out with similar costumes all over Spain in the last week before Easter. This week is called semana santa and the processions apprently are tributes to the passion of Jesus Christ. (The more detailed question of 'Why the hats?!' is to be answered as follows: It's a capirote, read it up yourselves! (wink))

Monday 2017-04-10

  • The 11th day was probably the most chill day in all of the days Janina and Joachim spent in Bilbao. No appointments or deadlines to be met and lots of time to use on whatever...^^
    • Janina spent most of the day in the library anyways, to enjoy the WiFi, talk to people online and do some more research (not only foodsharing Bilbao-related this time, but also in planning of the upcoming trip)
    • Joachim had several Skype calls with people from Germany, concerning the community in Dargelütz, which will probably be led by Joachim soon. Apart from that he also enjoyed the WiFi and his free time.

In the evening there was the pick-up at Ecorganic again, and this time even three crates of fruits and veggies waited for Joachim and Janina at the store. But they went about it smarter than before: After dumpster diving at the bakery, they repacked the food, so that one of the crates could be given to a guy sleeping underneath the iconic white bridge. They made sure just to include food, that would be useful for him, meaning ready-to-eat stuff like apples, pears, croissants, tomatoes and half a pineapple.

Tuesday 2017-04-11

  • The 12th day was already the last day Janina and Joachim spent in Bilbao.
    • At noon Unai and Janina took a bus to Galdako to meet with Alvaro Saiz Ruiz from Nevera Solidaria.

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