Visiting the University of Toronto – Bracing the cold to progress waste scholarship

By Jordon Lazell @jlazell 

At the end of January/ start of February 2018, I was invited to visit the University of Toronto (UofT) in Canada by Tammara Soma, PhD student in Department for Geography and Planning in the School of Graduate studies. This blog shares some experiences of the trip.

Visiting Canada in winter I expected the weather to be cold, however on arriving at the airport I was surprised how warm it was. With no sign of snow on the ground I was rethinking the several layers of jumpers I bought in my hand luggage for when I arrived. However this did not last long, and as I learnt over the week the weather is very changeable. Monday, my first day visiting UofT was a cold but bright morning that turned into heavy snow and -10 degrees in the afternoon. This was the weather I was expecting. It even reached -14 one day which was getting to the point of being unbearable to walk around in.

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This was a halls of residence, one of many historically ‘styled’ buildings

Walking through campus I realise how prestigious UofT is. Founded in the 1800’s the university has a history much longer than Coventry University (my institution) with the majority of buildings looking somewhat like Cambridge or Oxford. Tammara, a 6th year PhD student had her own office and was happy to share this with me during the week. Tammara was a fantastic host. I was shown around various different colleges, places to eat on campus and was even treated to a meal at Gallery Grill, one of the best restaurants in Toronto situated inside one of the colleges.

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The food was fantastic at the gallery grill

Myself and Tammara are the two co-founders of foodwastestudies.com, a network platform that consists of a blog and forum which connects food waste researchers and practitioners around the world. The visit was a great opportunity to think about and plan the future actions to further develop the group. As well as this I presented my PhD findings to the Department for Geography and Planning. My research explores consumer food waste behaviours, specifically looking at how food waste practices are interlinked with everyday routines and habits. Everyone at the Department was very welcoming and I enjoyed the chance to discuss my research, with one Professor in particular holding similar interests and we discussed how the spatial dynamics of shopping overlapped with some of my PhD findings.

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Seminar presentation to the Department for Geography and Planning

I also gave a lecture as part of the New One Programme which introduces a number of topics in a discursive learning environment to undergraduate students. The session I took part in, ‘Waste Imaginaries’ featured myself and 3 other waste ‘experts’ discussing the social and material side of different waste sources including, E-waste, food waste, municipal waste services and lead pollution. I really enjoyed the opportunity to present my work to an engaged audience, particularly the further discussion with the students and the other waste experts.

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Lecture to first year students as part of the New College Programme

I also had a chance to explore the city of Toronto. I visited Case Loma, a castle in the north of the city. The Royal Ontario Museum was also a highlight with several interesting exhibitions on the history of Canada, natural history and various exhibits of from different civilisations. I braved the cold on many occasions to wonder around and take in the sights.

The trip was a fantastic chance to travel to part of the world I hadn’t previously visited and I had the full winter experience in the cold and snow. I felt privilege to spend time with Tammara who is such an expert on food waste. My conversations over the week with her were inspiring, she has a wealth of knowledge on the dynamics of the food waste problem from her work in both Canada and Indonesia.

From the trip I feel driven to do more. I realise how important my PhD is and its place within the progressive area of food waste scholarship, such as the need to understand the societal arrangements that produce and frame food waste as an almost unavoidable part of the food system.