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Tamara’s Trio of Food Smugness

This week’s post is a celebration of food and community. First pat on the back in my trio of food smugness goes to Foodcycle Portsmouth and my friend Alexa, a fellow Green Party member, who organised a Portsmouth Green Party meal ‘takeover’ of Foodcycle which I participated in recently.

Portsmouth Foodcycle

 

Foodcycle is a fantastic food waste charity that creates free meals for the community from donated food waste. Foodcycle  Portsmouth provides the local Pompey community with tasty, free vegetarian meals made from surplus food that would otherwise go to waste. They do this twice a week: on Tuesdays at the John Pounds Centre and Thursdays at King’s Church on Somers Road.

 

It was a blast! A group of us Greenies were welcomed with open arms by the regular volunteers and guided by a calm and knowledgeable Team Leader, we cooked a three-course meal of veggie soup for starters, pasta bake with potato wedges, garlic mushrooms and wilted spring greens for mains and fruit salad for dessert. The entire meal – the cooking, prepping, serving and cleaning up – took about four and a half hours and was attended by about 45-50 guests. The evening was both wonderful and exhausting. I took the mountain of veggie scraps for my compost and left on a complete high and with the vow to volunteer there once a month.

 

Trash Cafe Food Hamper

Credit: The Real Junk Food Project South East (Facebook)

 

The Real Junk Food Project South Coast run a number of pop-up ‘trash’ cafes in Gosport and Portsmouth dedicated to collecting and repurposing food waste.  They are part of a global network aiming to abolish surplus food through a variety of Pay As You Feel concepts. I bought my first veggie food hamper from their Portsmouth pop-up cafe, which can be found at  Buckland Community Centre on Wednesday afternoons, for a £10 Hamper fee paid in advance when I ordered online and a Pay What You Feel on collection.

There was so much food – a great mix of fruit, veg, proteins such as tofu and also snacks. It was so fun to receive as it contained foods and brands I haven’t tried before. There was some fancy fake-chicken that I would not have bought in the supermarket as it is rather pricey! All that perfectly good food would have been destined for the bin but instead was destined for my belly! Double win! They also offer gluten and dairy-free hampers and can deliver for an extra fiver. As you know, I’m not a big fan of leaving the house, especially now winter is coming, so I will definitely be using their delivery service!

Being Neighbourly

 

At the Dutchman’s (my hubby) work, his office has a plastics-free fruit box delivered each week. I hadn’t realised that if the fruit isn’t all eaten or taken home by a colleague, it goes in the bin. Sacrilege! About 40 apples and pears were destined for the bin. Not on my watch!  I offered the fruit on the  Zero Waste Portsmouth discussion group on Facebook, with Foodcycle Portsmouth and the Olio app as my backup.

In less than an hour, the apples and pears were collected by a Zero Waster who turned out to be a neighbour who lives on the same street as me! We’d never met before and both happened to be members of Zero Waste Portsmouth. And as a kindness, the next day she gave me a bag of parsnips that she’d won in a hamper and did not want. It gave me the warm fuzzies and I am loving the green community in Portsmouth!

 

And what about you, dear Reader? Have you had any experiences with FoodCycle or the Trash Cafe Network? Or any tips and tricks on reducing food waste? Leave your thoughts in the Comments section below. We really do LOVE hearing from readers. It gives me such a buzz! Byeeeeeee buzzzzzzzzz 🙂

How to eco hack your wedding

Couple in wedding outfits

 

Your dress may be white, you might have borrowed something blue, but here’s how you can make your wedding greener.

NOTE: This article, written by Emma, was originally published on Blue and Green Tomorrow and has been reprinted with permission.

Big events, like weddings, always have the potential to be unkind to the environment. As such, many eco-friendly people (myself included) can’t help but feel a little nervous about planning such an occasion.

There are so many decisions to make, and it can be more stressful when you’re also worried about how those decisions will affect the world around you.

Luckily, this eco-friendly guide will help you plan a wedding that your inner (or outer) hippie will be proud of.

Vendors

In any wedding, vendors will be in control of the majority of decisions that could negatively impact the environment (such as using disposable cutlery/crockery at your reception or blasting the heat/aircon in every room, as opposed to just the ones you are using).

This means that it’s a good idea to look for vendors that share your values. A quick look using your internet search engine of choice should bring up a wealth of results for “eco + florist/caterer/venue + your town”.

If it doesn’t, then turn to Plan B. Create a small list of vendors that you’d like to pick and contact them individually to explain that although you’d like to hire them, they’d need to agree to certain eco requirements on your big day. After all, there’s one type of green that all businesses care about — and they’ll work hard to earn it from you.

In that case, what sort of requirements should you consider? Well, it’s naturally all up to you, but here are some things that eco-friendly people want from the vendors at their wedding.

Venue

venue - Eco Hack Wedding
While many eco-friendly people would enjoy having their wedding outside to cut down on energy usage, there can be various local laws or adverse weather conditions that make this impractical.

As such, for this article, we will focus on what should you look for in a venue for an indoors wedding.

Recycling Bins

Your guests will need somewhere to dispose of empty drinks bottles and cans during the reception and most guests will find something in their bag or their pockets (invites, receipts) that needs recycling.

Low-energy bulbs

While your venue is unlikely to replace every light bulb with the earth kind alternative, they may be convinced to change out the bulbs in the ceremony and reception rooms for you. After that, they might even choose to keep them installed.

Alternative heating/cooling methods

Rather than switching on the AC/ electric heaters at the first sign of a change in temperature, have your venue open the windows, set up a log fire, or provide blankets to keep your guest comfortable.

Caterers

Wedding Cake - Eco Hack Wedding

Animal Products

Depending on your own version of being green, you might be okay with giving your guests the choice of eating hand-reared meat, line-caught fish, or small-farm dairy. However, you should ask the caterers where their animal products came from so that you can ensure any animal products were sourced through humane and sustainable methods.

Locally-sourced, organic ingredients

One of the biggest environmental challenges when it comes to food is how it is grown/reared, and how far it travels to get to your plate. In order to make your food greener, have your caterers use only produce from a local farm that uses organic growing practices.

Pro Tip: If you’re having your cake created by a separate baker, ask for them to use only local and organic ingredients.

No disposable cutlery/crockery/napkins

If you’re having a sit-down formal dinner, it’s unlikely that the caterer will serve it on paper plates with plastic forks and red cups for your champagne toast. If you’re having a less formal dinner, say from a food truck, then the caterer might just serve the dinner on the dreaded Styrofoam products.

If china plates would be a problem, or the caterer is a small vendor that doesn’t use real plates, consider buying reusable plastic picnic sets for everyone to use. They can always be used by the guests for future picnics, or donated to a good cause after the wedding.

Florist

Woman in Wedding Dress holding flowers - eco hack wedding

Dried Bouquets

The beauty of dried flowers is that they do not have to be discarded after the wedding and can be used in home décor or placed in your wedding memory box.

Limited Floral arrangements

Cut flowers are never going to be good news for the planet, so if you’re going for fresh over dried, you’ll likely want to limit the amount you have to just the bridal bouquet.

Potted Plants

You might consider having potted plants make up the floral decorations in the ceremony/reception.

Pro tip: The plants will also make nice gifts for the wedding party.

Choose naturally-grown, locally-sourced plants

As with your food, you’ll want to make sure that your plants are locally-grown without pesticides. As a result, you may have to compromise on the type of flowers you select depending on what’s in season and native to your area.

Couple’s Choice

So we’ve discussed what you should consider from your main wedding vendors but what can you- the happy couple- do as individuals? Well luckily, there are still many ways for you to eco-hack your wedding on your own.

Outfits

women in wedding dresses - eco hack wedding

No animal by-products

When choosing your wedding outfit, you probably want to avoid items that contain animal by-products (i.e. leather shoes, fur stoles, silk gloves), but you may also wish to avoid items that have been dyed or treated with casein (a protein found in milk and used to make some plastic buttons) or lanolin (a wax produced by wool-bearing animals).

Secondhand

Many thrift stores and vintage shops have wedding dresses/suits that have been donated/sold after only over being worn once, and that is a waste of resources. The prices will be reasonable and you might even find a gem from a long-gone era.

Alternatively, take a look through the family closet to find the items that a beloved relative wore at their own wedding, from grandma’s dress to your brother’s cufflinks. After all, as the old saying goes, you will need “something borrowed” for your wedding.

Buy a reusable outfit

If you want to buy new, consider something that you will wear again and again as the years go by. You can always have your outfit altered slightly to be worn as a cocktail dress or a business suit.

All of these tips can, of course, be applied to the whole of the wedding party- not just those getting married.

Invites

wedding invites - eco hack wedding

Evites

If you think paper invites are a waste of a tree, send e-vites instead. Not only is it a lot more eco-friendly, but you’ll save a ton of money on stamps.

Recycled Paper Invites

If you do want to send paper invites, use recycled paper in order to lower your environmental impact.

Postcards

Alternatively, send postcards without an envelope to cut down on paper. Perfect for a kitsch wedding.

Gifts

wedding presents - eco hack wedding

Set up a wish list

If you and your partner have been living together for a while, you likely have everything that is traditionally bought as a wedding present (i.e. dinner sets, bedding). To avoid receiving duplicate gifts, set up a wish list. That way you can ensure that you get something that you really want, and prevent wastefulness.

Charity donations

Ask for donations to your favourite eco-charity, like Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, or Earthjustice, (or even the Green Party) as opposed to gifts.

 

Hopefully, this guide has shown you that it’s relatively easy to eco hack your wedding. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section!

 

Emma vs Stuff

A hoarder attempts to declutter in an environmentally friendly way…

I have too much stuff.

A few weeks ago, as of writing this blog, I (Emma) was trying to find the will to tidy up. I had four baskets of laundry that needed doing, I had at least one basket of ironed clothes that needed putting away, I had Christmas decorations to pack away, I had letters from my bank that needed filing, and I had new gifts from Christmas and my birthday that I needed to find space for.

That’s when it hit me. The reason that it felt so overwhelming to begin tidying is that I have far too much stuff.

I didn’t want to put my clothes away because there was barely any space in my wardrobe or drawers, I didn’t want to put my DVDs on the shelf because I didn’t have room, and I didn’t want to put away my bank statements because the folder was full.

How did it get to this point?

Well simply, I have long been reluctant to throw anything away for environmental reasons. Charity shops, where I’d wager most people dispose of their old items, are overrun with the castoffs from fast fashion and are unable to shift it- so they sell perfectly usable clothes as rags (to make some money) or send them to developing countries (which hurts the local textile/garment industry and the economy as a whole)- and are outright refusing or binning some items because they can’t make money from them (VHS tapes/cheap kids toys).

Besides, what if someday I fit back into that dress/ discover how to dismantle that perfume bottle/ find the lock that fits the key that I’ve had in my desk drawer since 2007/ want to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer on video?

I’ve known for a while that this hoarding is a tendency of mine and up until this year, I had decided just not to buy new stuff, but that doesn’t solve the problem.

In 2018, I’ve been attempting to get rid of my excess stuff in a way that doesn’t hurt the environment and I wanted to share with you what I’ve learnt.

Sell things

As discussed above, sometimes charity shops cannot sell donated items but that doesn’t mean you can’t. It began as an experiment with VHS tapes because I couldn’t find anywhere that would take them or how they could be recycled and I listed various videos that I didn’t want anymore on eBay because I had some free listings.

I had expected them not to sell at all, but a couple of them sold quickly. This might be because it’s rare to find that film/tv programme nowadays or because someone is still refusing to get a DVD player. Either way, they escaped the landfill.

I’ve done the same thing with several empty perfume bottles that I’ve been hiding at the bottom of my wardrobe because I wasn’t able to separate the glass bottle from the metal/plastic spray nozzle for recycling. Turns out some people really like to collect perfume bottles… why knew?

I even print the labels on scrap paper and use old cardboard boxes to send the items.

Remember, just because you’re being kind to the environment, that doesn’t mean you can’t make money.

Donating direct to people/organisations that can use the items

Again, if charity shops are overrun with goods that are made to suit fad fashion, then why not donate the goods direct to people who can use them. This might mean listing items on Freegle or Freecycle or googling “donate [item] Portsmouth”.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve donated a few bedding sets and some clothes to the local women’s refuge (someone collects them as they cannot give out the address for safety reasons), quilt covers and pillows to The Lifehouse, a homeless resource centre in Southsea, travel-size toiletries (collected from hotels over the years) to Two Saints, another homeless shelter, and donated cat treats and toys that my cat doesn’t like to The Stubbington Ark RSPCA Animal Shelter to feed/entertain their rescue cats.

You may even find that someone you know is looking for an item, so update your Facebook status or send out a tweet. I donated my grandma’s moving boxes to a friend who owns an online business and ships large items and got rid of my many empty Lush pots to friends who wanted a free face mask.

Even stuff that isn’t in good condition can still have a use. My cat routinely claws clothing, bedding, blankets etc. and in the past month, I’ve donated ripped bedding to The Stubbington Ark for use as bedding for their animals and ripped clothing to the PDSA as rags- the charity can get money from the rag merchant and recycling credits from the government.

I’m not going to lie. It hasn’t always been easy to find the most environmentally friendly way to declutter but it has been worth it. Hopefully, at the end of the year, I can tell you that I’ve been able to declutter without damaging the environment.

Do you have any tips on eco-friendly ways to declutter? Let me know in the comments below.

How to eco-hack your Christmas

Christmas is my favourite time of year- it’s one long party for me (Emma) from December 21st until January 5th- but I think everyone can agree that it’s not the most eco-friendly of holidays. Food waste, excess packaging and single-use items all add up to a pretty bad time for the environment.

So what should we do to tackle this?

Decorations

Adorable cat under playing under the Christmas Tree

In almost every shop, you’ll find cheap Christmas decorations (in too much hard-to-recycle packaging) that are made to be put up in December and binned in January. This is not good enough.

  • Buy a real tree: As Tamara told you at the beginning of the month, she has an actual tree from a sustainable source and that’s much better than plastic trees.
  • Invest in long-lasting decorations: If you don’t think you have the money to invest in decorations that will stand the test of time, take a look around charity shops and fetes for second-hand decorations that are a lot cheaper.
  • Take care of your decorations: Keep decorations out of reach of little hands and curious animals, wrap delicate items in tissue paper and pack them in hard boxes when storing.
  • Create a theme: Resist the urge to buy trendy decorations (like an ornament featuring a Dabbin’ Santa) and create a theme that won’t go out of style.

Presents

Gift decorated with a pinecone and conifer needles

There’s nothing wrong with presents at Christmas but there are some inherent problems with how we give presents.

  • Second-hand items: While many people would only ever dream of buying presents from a store or online retailer, you can get some really rare goods by shopping second-hand. (Side note: If any of my friends are reading – click here)
  • Make your own: If you’re a crafty person, you’ll find it’s a lot more ethical to make your own presents because you can control the whole process, i.e. eliminate all animal byproducts from your baked goods or use eco-safe dyes on your scarves.
  • Charity Gifts: Everyone has one person that refuses presents during the holiday period (and on their birthdays) because they have all they need- they don’t want another keying with their initials or another mug with their favourite animal on it and they especially don’t want a book that they’ll never have time to read. Make a donation in their name to their favourite cause.
  • Don’t use wrapping paper: I know it’s cute and Beyoncé’s even got her own range now but wrapping paper is expensive and a blight on the environment (because many contain plastic or foil and are not recyclable). Try newspapers, outdated maps or plain brown paper instead.

Food

A food feast fit for a queen

My favourite thing about this time of year is eating all the food but there’s a lot of waste involved with the Christmas dinner.

  • Cut out excess packaging: Look for sweets and cookies that aren’t individually wrapped to seriously cut down on your packaging waste or better yet make your own.
  • Cook for yourself: Channel your inner Nigella by making your own nut roast (non-veggie options are available), sauce, and even Yorkshire Puddings from scratch rather than buying ready-made items which come with a ton of packaging.
  • Don’t buy food you don’t like: There are some foods that are traditionally associated with Christmas (Sprouts, Clementines, Quality Street) but some are bought, cooked, and abandoned without going anywhere near your mouth. Please don’t buy food that will just go to waste.
  • Use leftovers: What meat-eating person (so, not me) doesn’t love using up turkey in the days after Christmas? Sandwiches, curries, pasta, and more. Make sure to use up the veg too- even sprouts taste nice when hidden in a curry!

So that’s my top tips for making Christmas more eco-friendly, but I want to hear about yours. Let me know in the comments below.

If you celebrate a different holiday and would like to write a guest post for Shades of Green about making it more eco, we’d love to hear from you. Email us at blog@portsmouth.greenparty.org.uk or comment below.

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