I’m so proud.
Guess what I did on Thursday?
It was the first day of my volunteering placement with HASL, a local sustainability action group in my city. One of the many awesome things they do is the community vegetable garden. I rocked up to the garden at 2:30 in the afternoon, and was greeted by one of the more committed members, who I’d met once before. I started by moving lots of potted plants around, before getting roped in to mending a large wooden tool box. Let me just say now that I’ve never learnt even the simplest DIY, so sawing and hammering away like that was a small miracle.
Next we got stuck into some ”proper” gardening: we harvested sweetcorn, potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes, and dug the soil ready for some hardy winter veg. This was really fun. The potatoes had apparently grown there uninvited, so it was a magical surprise every time I dug one from the ground. By this point I had forsaken all attempts at cool interest and was squealing with excitement every time I struck edible gold with my oversized spade – grinning, sleeves rolled up and Converse covered in mud!
After all this excitement it was high time for lunch, and quite a few other people had turned up at this point so we ate together at a picnic table. I’d brought a packed lunch, but it seems the custom with these guys is too bring food to share with everyone, which is pretty cute. The other volunteers were all really friendly. Everyone else seemed to know each other so I did get a few ”um, who are you?”s from various people. They were all very impressed when I said I was doing a volunteering placement for a module of my degree. Everyone was at least ten years older than me, which is cool, but I do think it’d be awesome if more students and young people got involved with this kind of stuff.
After a quick seed-collecting mission, I left the garden at sunset, feeling satisfied and proactive.
I’m so keen for next week. Someone promised they’d bring pumpkin soup to share…
What a result!
In my post: Erratic Recycling Isn’t Impressive, I complained about how a lady I work for doesn’t have a food waste collection at her home. Today when I arrived at work I was happy to see a neat little brown box sitting outside her door… At last! I thought: the council have come to their senses and provided proper waste disposal services throughout my town. Way to go, Mendip! Smiling, I brought it into her kitchen and enquired about it’s arrival. She told me it wasn’t actually from the council at all… Basically one of her other helpers (who lives in the part of the town that does have this service) had ordered a second food waste bin for herself and given one to my boss. She apparently said she would take it once a week and put it outside the shop that she works in, where they do collect food waste on a weekly basis.
I was struck by two things- firstly, the continued ridiculousness of my local council providing varying levels of waste collection throughout one small town, and secondly, a respect for this lady that was prepared to go out of her way, doing the council’s job for them, to make sure somebody else’s (not even her own) waste was composted and not just send to landfill.
My motto is that we need to make the green way the easy way. However, isn’t it inspiring when you see people taking the green way even when it’s not easy but in fact quite a hassle? Well it cheers me up, anyway. This little story may of even made me proactive enough to write a letter to my council, explaining the whole thing and asking for the situation to be amended.
We will have universal composting facilities yet!
What’s up with all this erratic recycling?
I don’t mean on an individual level, I mean in terms of what is provided. My mum’s street takes almost everything weekly and so does mine, which is great. But my boyfriend’s house (which is in the same town) doesn’t take paper, and my friend’s (also in this town) takes paper and etc but not food waste. My dad’s flat in Cheltenham recently didn’t have a collection at all and they had to take stuff to the local dump (which did recycle). What is this? I mean if it’s up to local councils to sort out then I can see how it would differ between districts – and towns at a push – but why would my own town have different schemes depending on the street?
Recycling may not make the entire materials economy sustainable, but it takes more steps down that path than most things, that’s for sure. It reduces the amount of waste going to landfill at one end (reducing methane emissions and land-use and saving money) and reduces the pressure for virgin resources at the other end of the production cycle. (reducing habitat destruction plus pollution and waste from extraction and again, saving money). And what’s more, it’s relatively easy to get the average Joe to jump on-board. Once the council gives you a couple of boxes and sets the mixed rubbish collection to every fortnight, it doesn’t take a spark of brilliance, a commitment of the purse or even a care for the world to put your paper and bottles and stuff in the recycling box. It’s easy. It doesn’t cost anything. It’s just throwing a piece of trash into a different container. Even people who don’t care about the ‘environment’ (as if that’s some faraway place made of compassion and bunny rabbits) will recycle if that’s the most effective way to get rid of their rubbish each week. And that’s just the kind of solution we need, isn’t it? Things that are hugely effective and easy to implement on a wide scale. I’m afraid waiting until we can convert the entire world’s population to a ‘green’ way of thinking will just be too slow… In order to avoid environmental collapse we need to make the green way the easy way.
So, local councils, what are you thinking?! You have this power to control the recycling rate of your district and you squander it on a patchy service that is great in parts and shoddy in others? This just isn’t good enough. And don’t tell me it’s ”better than nothing” because I know that. But we haven’t got time for ”better than nothing” – we need ”as good as humanely possible”.
I want to be able to send a scrap of paper or apple core of whatever on it’s way to reincarnation whosoever house I’m in. It’s 2012 now, let’s up the game a little.
Having fresh, local, seasonal and organic fruit and veg delivered straight from the farm to your doorstep is not a novel or revolutionary idea. But it’s an idea that makes perfect common-sense, and which is very much in vogue. I thought this was worth talking about because, you know, common-sense isn’t exactly always in vogue these days.
There are currently over 600 veg box schemes in the UK and the figure is growing all the time. I guess it must be down to a combination of people feeling the pinch, the general trend towards having a go at the ‘5 a day’ target and perhaps even concern over food miles?
In case you’re ignorant to the ways of the botanical treasure-trove, let me tell you how it works. You hit up your favorite search engine, type in ‘veg box scheme’ followed by your town or county, and take your pick of the choices the lovely internet throws up for you. Shop around because all schemes are slightly different, but generally a nearby farm will offer to supply you with a weekly box of fresh produce which will change throughout the year depending on what’s seasonally available. Usually you’ll be offered a choice of a small, medium or large box, and many suppliers chuck in recipe ideas as well. Most schemes are organic and Soil Association certified.
Why they’re quite so great:
- They’re cheap. A small box can be as little as £7 per week. Because they come straight from the grower they cut out the middle man and this results in a much cheaper price, undercutting most supermarkets. It also means lower income households are more likely to afford a healthy array of fruit and vegetables.
- Even though they’re cheap, the growers are getting a better deal than if they sold their crops to wholesalers. Again, because that pesky middle-man is cut out the loop.
- They’re local. This means less food miles and less carbon emissions from transportation. It also means you’re directly supporting your local economy. It’s important to give local farmers and growers all the support possible because as oil prices rise, it’ll be increasingly important to have food security within your own country and region.
- They’re fresh. Most of the produce in a veg box will have been harvested in the last few days. This means they’re way healthier for you than shop-brought veg that could have been sitting on the shelf for literally weeks!
- It’s convenient. As you can order the box online and have it delivered straight to your doorstep, it requires minimum effort on your part. This will be a major plus if you’re very busy or very lazy.
So yeah, they’re a pretty good all round really. And the best thing is they’re just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sustainable and forward-thinking foodie solutions. There’s also Community Supported Agriculture schemes, farmer’s markets, food co-ops, allotments, community gardens, seed swaps, ‘’100-mile diets’’, locavores, hydroponic window farms, and a renaissance in growing your own vegetables… All of which are on a happy upwards curve.
So isn’t it time you ditched the packet white bread and air-freighted un-fair bananas? Throw yourself mouth-first into the future of food!