Strawberries for christmas

Everything should be available everywhere and anytime, including fruits and vegetables. Whether strawberries at Christmas or plums in February. In our society, it has become a convenience to have unlimited access to everything we desire. There is hardly any fruit or vegetable that is not available the whole year in our supermarkets. But what exactly does this mean for our environment and our health? And why is it probably better to eat sesional and perhaps avoid our loved asparagus from South America?

But firstly what is behind the word “seasonal”?

I am sure that all of you have someone in your family who owns a small (or large) garden and has already brought you a fresh salad or some delicious cherries. And for sure these were much tastier than the products from the supermarket that once traveled halfway around the globe. Seasonal nutrition means buying fruit and vegetables that are naturally ripe at certain times of the year and are produced regionally or at least in the immediate region. It’s not the case that there are no sesional fruits and vegetables in the supermarket. You just have to search in the right month.

Fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables

Are asparagus from Mexico that bad?

In Switzerland, half of the fruits and vegetables consumed are imported. They not only come by truck from the surrounding countries like Spain or Italy, they are also imported by plane or ship from all over the world. Especially fruits and vegetables such as litchis, passion fruit and asparagus are always transported by air, because of their short shelf life. They are usually harvested green and later treated with artificial ripening accelerators to ensure that they are ready for our supermarkets. Air transport with its CO2 emissions has the greatest impact on the climate, followed by truck, rail and ship. This is a particular burden on the environment.

Why not regional tomatoes in january?

Not everything that isn’t seasonal comes directly from abroad, it often comes from your own region. Therefore they build huge greenhouses, where the humidity has to be controlled constantly. The energy is often obtained from gas or oil, which causes ten times more CO2 emissions than a sun-ripened tomato from Spain. It has also been proven that pests grow better in a greenhouse climate, so it’s urgently necessary to treat the fruits and vegetables with several pesticides. Unlike seasonal fruits and vegetables grown outdoor, are the others harvested green in the greenhouses, transported to the warehouses and also here they are treated with artificial ripening accelerators. Which also harms our health.


No more strawberries for Christmas

Unfortunately, we are all very used to the fact that we can always and at any time eat whatever we like. But there are a lot of good reasons why seasonal fruits and vegetables are important. They definitely taste better when harvested fully ripe. The natural sunlight and the good soil provides important nutrients for development and last but not least they grow by themselves and without much human influence, which means that no pesticides or genetic modifications are necessary.

I hope that you will pay attention during your next grocery shopping and ask yourself the question: “Do I really need these strawberries now in December or can I wait until June when the strawberries grow in the fields nearby?”


Urban gardening and why you should get your hands dirty

Growing up in the countryside, almost every neighbour had a little garden, growing their own vegetables, flowers or berries. I’ve always been interested in gardening although we never had one of our own. A few years ago, I started growing strawberries and tomatoes on my parent’s balcony and have been doing this every year since. As I’m planning to move to Bern later this year, I began to wonder how I could continue my gardening project.

The city of Bern offers a variety of gardening possibilities, reaching from allotment gardens to urban gardening projects. For the latter, they offer their support in finding the perfect location, ecological design and establishing contact with other stakeholders [1]. There is a lot to get inspired by, if interested, you find more on this topic here (german).

The Urban gardening project at the ‘Alte Feuerwehr Viktoria’

What’s Urban gardening?

While doing my research, one term seemed to come up again and again: Urban gardening. Urban gardening and farming are a combination of techniques to growing food in densely populated urban centres. It doesn’t matter if it’s a balcony, an empty area in your neighbourhood a public place in your city. Urban gardening offers city dwellers the possibility to take matters into their own hands and produce local and sustainable food [2].

This is not only important for our fast-growing global food demand but also the key to a more sustainable food system. ‘Our food choices impact on the planet, and meanwhile the conditions to which we contribute make it more difficult to maintain reliable food systems which will stand up to a changing climate.’ says Indira Naidoo, an Australian broadcaster and the author of best-selling book ‘The Edible Balcony’ [3]. ‘Many parts of the process are wasteful and compromise certain people and environments, whether through exposure to chemicals, the clearing of land to grow commercial crops or corporate monopoly over the market. This is before even mentioning the energy involved in harvesting, storage and transportation.’ [3]

Urban gardening as a solution regarding climate change

Urban gardening could be a key element to a more sustainable future. Vegetable from your balcony doesn’t need artificial fertilizer or pesticides [4], hasn’t travelled thousands of kilometres and didn’t involve deforestation. Even here in Switzerland, where the domestic share of fresh vegetables is 55%, 312’000 tons still need to be imported to cover the demand [5]. ‘Food systems have caused problems, but when viewed holistically, they can also be a part of the solution for communities and the environment’ states Indira Naidoo [3]. But how could a little city garden solve a global problem?

‘Food systems have caused problems, but when viewed holistically, they can also be a part of the solution for communities and the environment’

Indira Naidoo

Research shows that sustainable urban gardening and agriculture not only connects people, it integrates the three main principles of sustainability: environmental health, economic profitability and social wellness. Urban planting reduces the heat and noise in urban areas, helps clean up the air and water and promotes biodiversity [6]. This improves the microclimate, produces oxygen and most importantly: absorbs carbon dioxide [4]. Urban fields create employment opportunities, increases business and reduces food miles. It is the perfect project to educate our children about food security and access and to increase awareness about climate change while promoting community engagement. Those factors also have a huge impact on our health and improve our overall well-being [6].

Why you should get involved

Urban gardening enables you to fight climate change while caring for you and your loved ones. It gives you the possibility to contribute on a small scale, if you’re not the type of person who takes part in demonstrations. Even though you might think: ‘What’s the point of one person?’, you may inspire others to do the same. You don’t have to worry about where your food comes from or if it was produced sustainable anymore, because you grew it yourself. It’s cheaper than store bought organic food and tastes amazing! And honestly, nothing feels better than proudly saying to your picky in-laws: ‘That vegetable? It’s from my balcony!’


Cover picture:

[1]       ‘Anleitung zum urbanen Gärtnern’. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 02-Apr-2020].

[2]       W. Jen, ‘What is Urban Gardening? The Hot Trend That’s Taking Over Cities’, Organic authority, 2018. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 02-Apr-2020].

[3]       I. Naidoo, ‘Urban agriculture is the key to a sustainable future’, Aljazeera, 2018. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 02-Apr-2020].

[4]       R. Jasionkowski and A. Lewandowska-Czarnecka, ‘The potential of urban agriculture for sustainability of cities in Poland’, Ecol. Quest., vol. 24, p. 59, Jun. 2017.

[5]       ‘Gemü’. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 02-Apr-2020].

[6]      S. Krishnan, D. Nandwani, G. Smith, and V. Kankarla, ‘Sustainable Urban Agriculture: A Growing Solution to Urban Food Deserts’, vol. 9, 2016, pp. 325–340