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Gardening, composting and diet: Data on ecological consumption and production
Mon 7 Nov 2022

As more and more individuals grow their own food and ecological communities pop up in Europe, it is time to consider the data. What data do we have available at a European level and more specifically in the Czech Republic? And what do these data tell us about how people think about the environmental consequences of food production?

A CESSDA Training webinar “Ecological consumption and production” took place on 21 September 2022. Attendees of the event were mainly researchers, but there were also data specialists and students in the audience as well. 

Searching for the data

Martin Vávra introduced both organisers, the Czech Social Science Data Archive (CSDA) and CESSDA, and how to access their data catalogues. He demonstrated how to search for data on ecological consumption and pro-environmental behaviour in various data repositories (e.g. CSDA and GESIS).

For example, the CESSDA Data Catalogue contains 49 studies related to ecological consumption. They cover a range of topics, from consumer perceptions, community views and individual changes, to environmental consciousness environmental behaviour.

Growing your own fruit and vegetables in the Czech Republic

Next, the focus was on individuals and communities growing their own vegetables and fruits in Europe. Jan Vávra from the Department of Local and Regional Studies of the Institute of Sociology of the Czech Academy of Sciences explained how widespread gardening is in the Global North and what role it plays in individuals' lives and the economies of nation states.

He also pointed out how gardening can have a positive impact on people's health, well-being and on their social connections. He presented findings from survey data collected in the Czech Republic in 2015. Respondents answered questions regarding growing their own vegetables and fruits and about food sharing in local communities.

The findings revealed that a strikingly high proportion of Czech people grew their own food. The study also showed that gardening plays not only an economic role but also a social role in people’s lives. It can lead to social inclusion and strengthen local ties between people.

The outcomes of the study were published in two journal articles1. The dataset from the study is available in the CSDA data catalogue under the title “Formy a hodnoty alternativních ekonomických praktik v České republice.”

The “Food for the future” project

The final presentation was on “Environmental behaviour of Czech households and individuals with a focus on food waste” and it involved the issue of ecological consumption. Researcher Radka Hanzlová from the Public Opinion Research Centre of the Institute of Sociology of the Czech Academy of Sciences introduced the “Food for the future” research project. It was based on a survey of Czech people’s opinions on food waste and other aspects of ecological consumption that took place in 2022.

Radka was speaking mainly about people’s attitudes towards food consumption and the households’ environmental behaviour (e.g. the sorting of waste, recycling, composting, dietary choices, conscious food shopping, etc.). The survey data from this project is expected to be published by CSDA by the end of the year.

The following points were raised in the discussion:

  • The surprisingly low percentage of alleged vegetarians in the presented population sample of the Public Opinion Research Centre.
  • The sociodemographic background of people buying organic food.
  • The difficulty to compare across borders due to different methodologies being used in the research.

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