‘Eco’ Status Quo? Why We’re Growing Our Own Food

31st October 2013 by

Our friends over at Ashoka have been supporting social entrepreneurs’ solutions to the toughest social and environmental challenges for the past 30 years.  Here, they share a series of some of their relevant learnings and top stories for our Otesha readership – the first installment is by guest blogger Julia Koskella. Enjoy!

 

The past few years have seen a massive increase in demand for locally-sourced food in countries around the world. Fed by well-rooted concerns that processed food transported globally and treated chemically is not best for the planet or people, consumers are driving a new localism in supply chains.

Most consumption decisions are made by individuals at the supermarket shelves. But behind this change in consumer habits is a global league of leading social entrepreneurs, innovating, creating new markets, and understanding the key drivers of human behaviour.

Michael Kelly says “Grow It Yourself”

GIY 3 - Otesha photoThe latest trend to hit the local food movement is to go straight to the source and grow your own.  Increasingly consumers are asking themselves where their food comes from and how they can be sure it is safe and healthy.  Five years ago, this prompted a real “aha” moment for Michael Kelly, Founder of Grow It Yourself (GIY) and now an Ashoka Fellow. Picking up a clove of garlic in Ireland, Kelly was bowled over to see a “fresh from China” sticker on as small and cheap an item as garlic – a product which grows naturally and abundantly in Ireland.

Digging deeper, Kelly found Ireland imports no less than €4 billion per year of produce, which could be grown locally, despite being a net exporter of food and drink. His solution was to plant garlic himself and convince thousands of others to grow some of their own food too.  Through GIY, Michael aims to make it easy and sociable for anybody to start growing food for the first time. He has created a GIY network with dozens of locally-run chapters and events and an online platform to share tips and resources.  

Five years on, the GIY network connects more than 50,000 people and 800 food-growing groups. In Ireland, GIY is not just a network but a new cultural movement cutting across age and class divides. Michael is now ready to take on other global markets. Last July saw GIY formally launch internationally, with Michael leading a day-long UK event mobilising food enthusiasts, community groups, and growing experts from across the country.

Key drivers behind the ‘Grow It Yourself’ movement

Four key insights have allowed social entrepreneurs like Michael to have real impact on human behaviour and food consumption patterns.

1. Sustainability just got personal:

Localism is having great impact on the environment, cutting down food miles and chemicals from agribusiness. But social entrepreneurs like Michael know you must tap into a range of personal motivations and interests to create a successful mass movement. In the case of GIY, foodies know that locally-grown food is more tasty and cost effective. Cutting out the commute means your food will be on your plate fresher and faster, without losing vitamins B, C, and E.  If that’s not enough motivation to get you growing, then experiencing the simple pleasures of being active outdoors might: gardening is regular exercise and a dose of sunshine. And any food grower will tell you about the glowing pride they feel at watching their crops sprout, fruit, and harvest. So whatever market you’re in, make sure to appeal to people with a range of interests.

2. Cultivate food empathy:

The first-hand experience of growing food, even if it’s just a few basil pots on your windowsill, leads to a wider mind-shift change that Michael calls “food empathy.” Growing your own cultivates a deeper understanding of the value of food, the time and effort invested, and even awareness of the seasonality of food crops. GIY impact studies have found people who grow their own food start making more sustainable and healthy food consumption decisions throughout the week, not just when they’re picking a home-grown carrot.

3. Collaborate to innovate:

When you’re in the business of changing behaviour, social entrepreneurs understand they must collaborate, not compete, to affect change. For GIY’s launch in the UK, Michael received the collaboration and support of Ashoka Fellow Rob Hopkins, co-founder of Transition Towns.  Many local Transition Town groups are also linked to the Slow Foods movement originally created by Carlo Petrini in Italy.  Petrini, originally elected an Ashoka Fellow in 2008, works through 1,300 local chapters worldwide to promote the greater enjoyment of food through a better understanding of its taste, quality, and production – again linking to the concept of food empathy.

4. Social networks on the ground, not the cloud:

Behind all of the leading local food initiatives is the act of bringing people together regularly on the ground.  Changing your behaviour away from the status quo – whether by putting up solar panels, biking to work, or growing lettuce on your windowsill – takes time, energy, and often money. To counterbalance these costs and shift behaviours on a large scale, social entrepreneurs know the power of bringing people together in a supportive community.

 

Social entrepreneurs are creating online communities that are just as smart, and often more vibrant, than their GIY 2 - Otesha photocorporate counterparts. But crucially, the Grow It Yourself movement is also bringing social ties back to basics at the local level, meeting a deep human need that can’t be satisfied on Twitter – especially when the sun comes out.  People are coming together in community gardens, local garden allotments, or starting their own “GIY Groups” – a structure Michael created so that any member of the public can facilitate new and deep conversations focused on lifestyle, food, and the joys and frustrations of food growing.

If you or a local group are already involved in food-growing, make sure to sign up to the GIY network and strengthen the movement world-wide. If you’d like to try growing even a small amount of food for the first time, or even set up a local GIY group, then check out the website for full, free tips and support. Happy GIY-ing!

 

This is part of a series of articles on Ashoka’s network of social entrepreneurs transforming environmental systems, originally posted on Forbes.com.  Ashoka is building a movement of leading social entrepreneurs innovating for sustainability. If you know of anyone whose work will truly change the system, please consider nominating them. Find them online, or follow the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

Totally Tasty hits Tuppenny Barn

24th July 2013 by

As I write this the sun is setting with pink and orange streaks across the sky. I’m sitting in a beautifully crafted living willow shelter with the rest of the team buzzing around me getting ready for tomorrow’s early start. I love watching them work together, helping each other out with humour and affection – I can’t believe that we only met less than two weeks ago, I feel completely integrated into our little community, like a cog in a very happy machine!

Today has been particularly wonderful. We are staying at Tuppenny Barn, a tranquil and creatively planted organic small holding run by a wonderful lady called Maggie who welcomed us last night with homemade elderflower cordial and a mountain of the ripest and best strawberries I’ve ever tasted.

Back in 2004 this land was empty except for a large barn burried in brambles. It is so inspiring to see how Maggie and her team have transformed it into such a paradise – a place bursting with delicious food waiting to be harvested, flowers and herbs, and orchard, bee hives, an amazing plastic bottle greenhouse and a soon to be completed community centre.  Maggie’s plans for this centre are really interesting – a space for the community to hire, fork -to-food cookery lessons, pop-up restaurants, a library of books about environmental issues and food growing, educational school visits, a farm shop and lots more. I hope to get to visit again in a few years when it is in full swing. This tour has reminded me of the importance of community so it is great to see people who are actively trying to nurture it in their local area.

We spent today gardening, learning new songs, picking raspberries, gooseberries and black currants and having lovely conversations amongst the plants. Our lunch was a deliciously fresh salad, including the first crop of tomatoes. Then at 5 we were treated to a cream tea.

veg

It has been a perfect day and we are so grateful to Maggie and Becca (the site manager) for the generosity we’ve been shown here. I’m really sad to leave Tuppenny barn so soon but am sure I will be back one day.

Jessie, Totally Tasty tour liaison 

Riding the airwaves – our visit to Stroud

29th August 2012 by

Putting the kettle on, Otesha-style..

Western Quester 1: How ‘bouts we brew up a nice cup of tea?

WQ2: I’m game, but hadn’t we better put it to the group? Consensus, consensus, consensus!

WQ3: Good shout. Roll up, Questers: a decision is to be made! Shall I facilitate?

WQ4: Sure- I’d be biased by my intense hankering for tea right now. Still, does the warmth of a steaming mug in the hands justify all that gas to heat the water? [Fingers waggle all round]

WQ5: And don’t forget the vegan food mandate: oat milk’s an option, but there’s nothing on this Tetrapak to suggest that these are even vaguely local oats. Uh-oh…Tetrapak…

WQ6: Problem-led solution: that empty carton’s perfect for our next recycled wallet-making workshop!

WQ7: Phew, thank goodness: I love a dash o’ milk in my tea. And look: the tea’s fairly traded, too…

WQ8: May I make a Proposal? It’s blowing a gale, most of our tents contain at least one puddle and a team of slugs and we’re cycling 45 miles today…a cup of tea is just about justifiable…[all hands waggle frantically…brew time…]

And so on… Otesha tours try to organise themselves through a process of reaching consensus wherever possible. Using facilitation, hand gestures and an ethic of careful listening, the rainbow of personalities, lifestyle preferences and communication styles among us thus get a chance for equal airing in discussions. It’s getting us along just fine, for the most part. There are certain things that consensus can’t help us out with, however. Rain/sweat/hills: recurrent pests, those. ‘Roads’ that peter out into tracks whose clods and pits are obscured by knee-long grass. The flatulent results of the copious quantities of dried fruit and nuts required to keep us conquering all those hills. The fact that said fruit and nuts are generally shipped from China (not ideal for a ‘preferably local’ food mandate). We are heartened to hear that Totnes has christened itself a Nut Town, and we’re going! For now, snack nutrition and snack origin ethics are a challenge to balance, but the cooking teams have been producing most winsome meals for our trusty Tupperwares.

 We were sad to leave the Stepping Stones co-op at Highbury Farm, after a busy day off in Monmouth seeing to our laundry, bikes and grubby bodies (thanks to the kind folk at the leisure centre for the use of the showers!). An intense yet laughter-packed training week was rounded off by an evening of Olympian treasure hunting and feasting, sealing our Otesha initiation with suitably recycled tour t-shirts and bike bells. Proudly clad, it was time to finally get on the road!

Our first cycling day took us 45 miles from Redbrook to Stroud. We snaked along the broody woodlands of the Wye Valley, passing Tintern Abbey, the majestically spooky ruins of 12th century monastic life, whose setting inspired the following snippet from Wordsworth: “O Sylvan Wye! Thou wanderer thru the woods, How often has my spirit turned to thee!”. These wanderers admired the sublime nature too, in between handfuls of raisins and wondering whether those Team GB-clad tandem cyclists scoffing coffee cake were the real deal…indeed, the Sunday sightseers were out in force- vintage cars, Harley Davidsons, hot air balloons; but what we were most cheered by were the many cyclists- from families to the lycra-laden Competitive Camp. We crossed the Severn Bridge and swooned at the steel above and sand below, before joining part of the National Cycle Route all the way to Stroud. There were plenty of thatched rooves, cottage gardens and memorable place names to admire en route: Tomtit’s Bottom, Bendy Bow, Muzzle Patch… Lunchtime shade from the glorious sunshine came in the form of a grandfatherly oak tree on a village green. The day was also peppered with foraged blackberries, as the autumnal hedgerow harvest of sloes, hawthorn and rosehips begins to ripen. August seems rather early for this, we thought, but this has hardly been a meteorologically sane year. The food producers we’ve met so far have almost unanimously reported the worst growing season for decades. Rain-logged soils. Potato blight. Slugs with 10-foot fangs (actual quote, accused pest unverified by us).

Despite the setbacks, our hosts at Stroud Community Agriculture furnished us with a box of delicious, biodynamically-grown veg to cook upon arrival. The community-supported agriculture (CSA) model allows risk to be shared among the 190 members, who pay a regular amount for their veg box (or simply a donation) but accept that content and yields vary. The food and the setting were beautiful: they’re based at Hawkwood College, an adult education centre inspired by the teachings of Rudolf Steiner and featuring such courses as ‘making your own Tibetan singing bowl’ and ‘The Sacred Clown’. After our long ride, the warm shower was all the enlightenment we needed for one day…

We were looked after most handsomely by Mark and Rachel at SCA and by James from Transition Stroud. We spent Monday morning weeding kohlrabi and holding an impromptu play rehearsal in a churchyard (thank goodness for the right to free speech, but apologies to the snoozing man bolted awake by us practising our human alarm clock). James had organised us a slot on Stroud FM, a community radio station: we got all stage frighty but managed to overcome the shyness to transmit the media scene from the play down the aerials of Stroud. The Stroudies weren’t exactly out in droves for that evening’s performance (our first!) at the Market Tavern, but that suited us fine: the audience were a lovely, encouraging bunch who gave us some tips and told us about some of the many Transition projects bubbling away: Stroud Community TV, open days to showcase edible gardens and eco homes and a hub system to distribute and exchange locally-grown produce. Stroud, in the growing trend of ‘specialising’ Transition Towns, is to be an ‘Apple Town’: we look forward to being able to replace our raisin addiction with Stroudian dried apples on future rides. James also told us about Bicycology, which organises bike tours and activism-based projects: we’ve been inspired to cook up more awareness-raising street action to shout about our growing love of all things bike, so watch this space…

On Tuesday, we met Helen from Ecotricity and learned about their aim to increase provision of wind-derived electricity and to widen the growing infrastructure for powering electric cars. A reviving vegan cappuccino in café Star Anise was followed by a magical interlude in Dennis Gould’s cosily cluttered woodblock letterpress studio. The walls are jewelled with Dennis’ musings, more often than not amusing: digs at the Powers That Be; odes to anarcho-cyclists, Lorca and Colin Ward; ditties, wordplay and quotes galore, many printed on thick handmade paper. Showered with little gifts and most with a new wannabe career in printmaking, we prised ourselves away to grab another quick session in the recording studio to record a little piece for James’ Transition-themed radio show…getting media-savvy now… (Click HERE to hear the the team performing on Stroud FM )

The evening was dominated by a lot of daily bread: two groups of us, unbeknown to the other, had stumbled across shops about to throw away vast quantities of bread, sandwiches and pasta salad and so decided to rescue the abandoned fare. The ingredients lists took us way wide of our democratically-decided food mandate, as did the horrendous packaging, but purely in the name of preventing food waste, we dined predominantly on sarnies. Breakfast, too, was a breaded affair: with hunks of the stuff in our bellies, it was time to wave goodbye to Stroud…

Plastic fast part 5: Down the tubes!

5th July 2012 by

It’s week 4 of my drastic plastic fast. One of the rules I set myself was that we could keep on using plastic-packaged products that we had bought before the fast began – but that when those ran out, we’d have to stock up with a plastic-free alternative.

One of the products that had me stumped for a while was toothpaste – they all seem to come in plastic tubes, and I don’t recall seeing those old-school metal tubes for a long time – and even they would most likely have plastic caps. So a bit of investigation (and some brilliant advice from commenters on this blog and from Facebook friends – thank you!) unearthed some more sustainable options.

First up: toothy tabs! These strange creatures are basically toothpaste in the form of a dry tablet. They weren’t too hard to find in London. But to be honest I found the idea pretty out there and not very appealing, so I’ve been putting off trying them. Yesterday morning, however, I finally bit the bullet (or the tablet, rather). Here’s what happened:


OK, not bad at all. Thanks to Karen from The Rubbish Diet for pointing me to these. Much less weird an experience than I’d feared. But I’m afraid a little pricey compared to regular tubes: 40 tablets in a box, that’s 10 days’ worth of brushing in my house; cost: £2.50-3.50 per box depending on what flavours you go for.

At Otesha we’ve got a bit of a DIY, make-do-and-mend ethos, so why not make your own toothpaste? I haven’t tried this yet, but I intend to.  One recipe goes like this:

  1. Mix three parts baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) with one part table salt (sodium chloride).
  2. Add three teaspoons of glycerine for every 1/4 cup of dry mixture.
  3. Add enough water to make a thick paste. If desired, a few drops of peppermint oil may be added to improve the taste.
  4. Apply and use just as you would any other toothpaste. Store unused toothpaste at room temperature in a covered container.

Click here for the source of that one and for more info.

There are more pearls of wisdom for your pearly whites at Polythene Pam’s blog. Pam has chosen the home-made route for herself – and though some people will tell you bicarb plus a bit of salt will do the job, Pam has gone all gourmet with her toothpaste recipe.

Or… how about going foraging for a twig to chew on – a combined brush-and-paste?

This one kind of tickles me – I love the idea of spurning shopping altogether and just finding my toothbrushing solution in a local park or garden. Of course, it has to be a twig from a tree with the right properties. In Senegal you’ll find people using gum tree twigs, among other species – and they’re said not only to clean as effectively as any brush and paste but also to have medicinal properties.

Of course people have found a way to make a buck out of naturally-occurring products. Buying it takes the fun out of it if you ask me. Wikipedia has a list of natural chew twig species – but of course, as with any wild plant consumption, please do your research thoroughly before you put anything in your mouth. NB. Reading something on Wikipedia does not constitute doing your research!

Talking of wild foods, there’s still time to join our east London wild food cycle, which takes place this Saturday, 7 July, and ends with a feast at Otesha HQ. All the details are here.

That’s it for now.  A final thought from National Geographic (thanks, Val, for finding this great image):

 

 

 

 

In a pickle

11th November 2011 by

Now that the franticness of the growing season is over, it’s time to sit back and admire the winter store cupboard. This year I have been a preserving powerhouse. It’s taken perseverance and there have been painful moments, like when the marmalade didn’t set or the cordial exploded.

It all began with a bout of blight in an allotment full of tomatoes – suddenly I found myself with kilos and kilos of green tomatoes. I don’t tend to anthropomorphise vegetables, but at times I really felt that all those tomatoes were laughing at me.

But now I’ve got cordial, marmalade, jam and chutney to see me through the winter and cover up for many inevitable forgotten birthday presents.

This is what I’ve made:

Green Tomato Marmalade

– Green Tomato Chutney (an amalgamation of lots of different recipes)

Hawthorn Ketchup

– Grape and lemon jam (an attempt to fix and set some fermenting cordial, hence the weird combination, I’m not sure if sour jam is going to take off)

– Pickled Gherkins

– Pickled Turnips

– Grape Cordial (learn from my mistakes and don’t skimp on the citric acid, or it will ferment and explode in your face, or all over your kitchen)

Elderflower Cordial (I wasn’t organised enough to catch the elderberries)

– Hawthorn Cordial

– Sloe Cordial

– Rosehip Syrup

Next up: chilli oil in a range of strengths, one for every occasion; there’s some wine still in progress, which I have merely been an observer to but can’t wait to try; and two marrows, one of which, controversially, is destined for rum.

Feel free to share below the pickling and preserving recipes that will see you through the winter.

Food, glorious food sovereignty

6th October 2011 by

My cycle ride to work takes me through Greenwich Park, and at this time of year, even just after dawn, you can hardly move for (mostly older) people scanning the ground intently and filling bulging bags of sweet chestnuts.

Extremely local food: Greenwich Park chestnuts

I’m a sucker for foraging, too, and have to resist the urge to leap off my bike and join in, because if I started I’d lose track of time and never make it in to the Otesha office that day. But to me these foragers make a beautiful sight, and I’ve been pondering why.

It’s not just the setting of Greenwich Park, with its ancient trees, autumn colour and long shadows, though of course that helps. It’s something beautiful that foraging shares with ‘growing your own’ and with truly locally produced and sold food: knowing your food from field (or tree, or hedgerow) to plate, having control and influence over how what you eat is grown or gathered, transported, prepared and cooked.

That idea of local control over food production is at the heart of the ‘food sovereignty’ movement, which is taking an important place in the debate about how food, social justice and the environment are interconnected.

The concept arose out of the landless peasants’ movements of South America, particularly La Via Campesina, and focuses on the need to return control over and access to land, seeds, water and finance to local, independent producers. That’s a big challenge in the face of a food system dominated and controlled by agribusiness and mega-retailers, but many see it as crucial to building a truly sustainable food system.

A few of us from Otesha went to a fantastic night of films and talks on food sovereignty recently, organised by 6 Billion Ways – you can still watch the films online here.

Much of the debate about food sovereignty focuses on so-called ‘developing world’, and deals with poorer countries’ struggle against unfair trade rules imposed by the rich countries. But could the concept take off here, too?

Is there a need for a UK food sovereignty movement?

Why not? Agribusiness and the supermarkets dominate here just as they do elsewhere. Small farmers are going bust and being swallowed up into corporate-owned megafarms at alarming rates. Young people who want to make a go of working the land find it is priced way out of their reach. A new survey says 9 out of 10 Europeans see buying local as a good thing, but half say it’s too hard to figure out what’s local and what is not.

So why is ‘food sovereignty’ not on the agenda in a big way here? Well, perhaps it will be before long. Later this month we’ll be at the Houses of Parliament (they do let tree-huggers like us in sometimes) for ‘Food Sovereignty Day’, hearing how to “build the food sovereignty movement in the UK” and learning about what is already going on in this country to “challenge the dominant, corporate agribusiness model”.

Will anything come of it? I hope so. How we produce, distribute and eat food, and who controls those actions, is crucial to our environment, health and the bottom line, so the food sovereignty movement is looking like a really important development in the wider debate about sustainability and justice.

Sally forth with seasonal feasts

1st August 2011 by

This month, whilst the freshest, crunchiest, fruitiest, deliciousest, localest produce is in abundance, we challenge you to hold a seasonal feast.

Find a friend with an allotment or a neighbour growing in their garden and beg some excess off them (we can almost guarantee that they’ll have more courgettes than they know what to do with). Visit the market and buy up as much British produce as you can carry home. Scramble in the brambles for some blackberries. Take all your bundles home and invite your people over for a feast of plenty.

Seasonal recipes here

Find out what’s in season here

Why we forgot how to grow food

We are heading towards The End of Days, and you’d better get yourself an allotment
an unexpected piece of wisdom from that great environmentalist Jeremy Clarkson.

Wild about foraging

1st August 2011 by

Courtesy of James, the intern that wouldn’t leave, we proudly present to you

The Otesha Project – Wild Summer Food Recipe Book (download here)

The book includes tips for safe and sustainable foraging and recipes from the Invisible Food Project.

We hope the recipe book will inspire you to get out there and forage. Foraging can be an amazing source of local, healthy, sustainable food for free. We also think that getting people outside, getting connected to their local green spaces and observing the nature around them no matter how urban they are, can only be a good thing.

If you like this you’ll love Otesha’s Wild Food Cycles, where we take an intrepid band of individuals on a cycle around London’s parks and impart our wild food knowledge at stops along the way, the ride ends with everyone getting together and enjoying a freshly foraged meal.

Otesha members get free entry to our events.

Thanks to the Invisible Food Project for help and inspiration in wild food ways.

Fantastic fables and foraged feasts

26th May 2011 by

This year we’re taking part in the Two Degrees festival by Artsadmin.

“Sitting between art and activism, performance and protest, this year’s festival is a chance to be part of artist led actions; tell your own revolutionary story, help eradicate an invasive species, go on a mass bingo bike ride, ask an expert about the future or exchange your own personal and political views for a free haircut.”

The festival kicks off on Sunday 12th June with Cycle Sunday at the Arcola Theatre in Hackney. We’ll be there leading a Wild Food Cycle from Dalston to the Lea Valley. The Wild Food Cycle is inspired by the work of the Invisible Food Project, which brings people together in their local green spaces to hunt for wild food, which they then cook and eat together. We too will be exploring urban green spaces, foraging and sharing food.

We’ve roped in Adam Weymouth, a walker, writer and storyteller to accompany us on this walk. Adam recently spent 8 months walking to Istanbul and is interested in slow travel, the hospitality of strangers, plant folklore and being nourished (literally) by a journey. Hopefully he’s going to tell us a story or two.

There may (or may not) also be drawing, sunny weather and the discovery of amazing things. There will definitely be walking, talking and eating.

If you want to join the Wild Food Cycle but you don’t, can’t or won’t cycle, contact jo@otesha.org.uk to arrange meeting us for the forage, which will all be done on foot. Otherwise meet us, astride your bike, at the Arcola Theatre at 3.30pm.

There will be a trailer load of other bike-themed events on the 12th, from pedal powered freegan smoothies, to bike customising and maintenance.

P.s. This event is free.

Bin your bin

3rd May 2009 by

It’s the rubbish challenge – we challenge you to do away with your bin and see if you can go a month (or more) without producing any rubbish.

That means trying your very very best not to consume anything that can’t be reused, recycled or composted. What’s more, you’ve got to reuse, recycle or compost all those things, even if it means carting round old apples cores until you find a compost bin.

It’s not easy being rubbish free, so we’d like you to share with us your trials, tribulations and tactical ways of avoiding rubbish. We will, in turn, share it with the world via our website. So send us your stories, photos and tips to info@otesha.org.uk .

We tried to go rubbish free last year, with some success (we were rubbish-almost-negligable but not quite rubbish free). Biscuits were our downfall, so if anyone knows where we can get packaging-free biscuits we really want to know. Recipes for homemade biscuits are also valuable information.

Bonus points if you rope your whole household into it with you. Bin the bin! Bin the bin! Bin the bin!

And here’s the results-

Everyone we spoke to managed to signifcantly reduce their rubbish, but the scourge of plastic packaging could not be completely side-stepped.

The things that were hard to get rubbish free (that we couldn’t quite give up):

  • Cheeeeeeeeese
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Camping equipment ordered online arrived packed to the hilt

Ways we found around creating rubbish:

  • taking our own plates and tupperware containers to the takeaway
  • seeking out unpackaged vegetables at the shops
  • baking biscuits and brownies instead of buying packaged ones
  • growing our own salad
  • foraging for free food

Jo’s joys of being rubbish-less:

The bin hasn’t entirely been binned but there have been a few long term changes:

  • Being the cheese addict that I am, I now only buy cheese from a cheese counter wrapped in paper or even better popped straight into my clean lunchbox.
  • I’ve discovered a great green grocers which sells fruit and veg bare and naked – including lovely herbs. No more supermarket fruit and veg for me.
  • If I eat from the work canteen I take my plate and cutlery and wash up afterwards – no more styrofoam containers and disposable plastic cutlery.
  • Camping was a little difficult, as we didn’t have a fridge, so we need to think about that a bit more before the next trip…
  • Pasta/rice – always wrapped in plastic…. I think I need to start shopping here at Unpackaged, a shop in North London which does what it says on the tin.
  • I’ve been doing some foraging this year, which I’ve never really got into before. We’ve eaten lots of greens (highlight being nettle paneer) and have enjoyed homemade elderflower cordial.

Eluned ranted a bit about her rubbish:

On the whole, I did fairly well at reducing my rubbish – but I was pretty rubbish (oh dear…) at binning my bin altogether.

Some things which helped:

  • Buying veg from a farmer’s market and getting a weekly veg box saved packaging – and often with veg boxes any packaging there is can be returned.
  • Buying meat from the butcher’s and taking a tupperware to carry it home in.
  • Guerilla composting (i.e. creating some neat little holes in the soil of London town, filling with veg scraps and covering over again).
  • Buying less, growing more and getting creative!

As I started turning more to these options, I found that week on week my bin got emptier and emptier.

However, the thing that really got me was that darned crinkly plastic!! If you shop in the supermarket, or buy anything brand new, this horrible crackly, clear un-recyclable rubbish wraps virtually everything. So surely if you avoid supermarkets and only buy second-hand goods you can do without it, right? But what I found is that even if you stick to local shops, veg boxes and farmer’s markets, and even  if you don’t buy anything non-essential or food-related (as I tried throughout these 4 weeks), its still hard to avoid; rye bread, pasta, nuts, pulses, cheese… it all comes wrapped.

What to do? Some suggestions I’ve heard include re-using the wrapping to make a toy for the cat, some kind of jewellery fashioned from scrumpled up plastic, or a contraption to scare birds off. Ideally though, I think I’d rather do without it full stop. Any other ideas on how to re-use this horrible stuff, or better still avoid it altogether?

Jessie told us:

One thing i did do which was probably the most significant is switch from rice/soya milks on my cereal, to fruit juice … so instead of a new tetrapak every 3 days or so (tons of difficult to recycle waste) i now have a small 500ml glass bottle of fruit juice concentrate to last me at least a month!

Additional tips for waste free periods- mooncups and washable moon pads.

Down at Camelot-the-eco-castle:

Adam, Nic and Kirsty made a planter out of a cereal packet and an old basket they found. They call it “sweet re-using-the-trash-for-green-things”.


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