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Thoughts from author: Anna Clare

fruit fishing in Costa Rica

A few weeks back, Mario and Easton from our Fruit Team travelled over to sunny Costa Rica in search of the best tasting bananas, oranges and pineapples to crush into our drinks.

 

First stop: bananas. Here they are growing upwards on the trees, casually defying gravity.

 

While a lot of plants are happy to sit about in the soil twiddling their thumbs all year, bananas are actually walking plants. In one banana plant there are three generations; the grandmother, who produces the first bunch of tasty bananas, the mother who gives the next bunch and several sons who grow at the bottom, next to the mother. The farmer will choose the son in the best location and the family will rotate every year. They end up walking about forty centimetres, which isn’t quite a marathon winning pace but is still pretty good for a plant.

Mario and Easton didn’t mess about when it came to their own walking either. One of the farms they visited was the size of 3000 football pitches, and contained 412,000 orange trees (we don’t think they managed to see them all).

And, if you thought that was impressive, another farm they stopped at was growing 46,800,000 pineapples at various stages of maturity. That's a lot of pineapples.

 

If you fancy getting your own pineapple population going, you can plant one in the garden by cutting off the crown, removing some of the lower leaves and popping it in the ground. The only downside is you’ll need warm and sunny conditions (good luck), and patience as they take about twelve months to grow.

So, unless you’ve got a spare pineapple sauna lying about and a bit of time to kill before next summer, it’s probably best to leave the growing to us.

saying hola to our strawberries

We use a lot of different fruits in our drinks. Pretty much all of them, actually (if you don’t count the weird ones you sometimes get with posh desserts). To make sure that we’re only ever putting the best tasting ingredients into our drinks, we go out and visit our farmers during the season of each fruit to make sure everything meets our standards and that the farm is ship shape from a technical, safety, quality and sustainability point of view. April means strawberry season in Spain so our Elodie and Lotte went over a couple of weeks back to pay a visit to our sunny Spanish farms.

 

While on their travels, they met with Pepe, one of our farmers. He has been working at the farm for more than thirty years and is really passionate about his work. Elodie and Lotte had the chance to try a few of his strawberries and can confirm that they were delicious (and would make a lovely pair of earrings). 

 

While the strawberries are in season, one plant will flower an average of eight times and it takes roughly twenty one days between the flower blossoming and picking an actual strawberry that we can use in our drinks. We don’t mind waiting around a bit for the perfect berry and we know they’re ready when they’ve grown large, orangey-red and sweet with a jammy flavour.

 

While we’re very picky about the taste of our berries, we aren’t picky about what they look like. We're happy to include all the weirdly shaped strawberries that the fresh market doesn’t want, which means there’s pretty much no waste.

Berry-illiant.

and the award goes to...

 

We don’t normally like to go on about all the awards we’ve won (except on this page dedicated to all the awards we’ve won) but we’re really proud to say that the innocent foundation has just picked up a Better Society award for their work with Action Against Hunger

Together they’ve launched a ground-breaking project that aims to stop children dying from severe hunger all around the world by transforming access to treatment services. By empowering community health workers to diagnose and treat children at home, rather than expecting their parents to walk up to 40km to the nearest clinic every week for treatment, they can tackle undernutrition head on.

If you’d like to find out a bit more about all the awesome stuff they've achieved so far, you can have a read here.

jasper's sustainability round-up

Jasper is our office superman. That means he does all of the tricky practical jobs that crop up around Fruit Towers and generally keeps everything ship shape. Since the start of the year, he’s been working on a project to make the office as sustainable as it can possibly be. We thought some of his successes were worth shouting about, so here are a few of the highlights:

 

The gas we use to power the boilers will soon be super green and we will be using 100% biogas from 1 August. This is a major win as most gas contracts only offer a 10% biogas rate. The biomethane we will be using is generated from smelly stuff like organic matter and manure. However, it is essentially scrubbed and cleaned before being put back into the national grid so don’t worry - we won’t have any farm smells coming from our boilers just yet.

From 1 August we will also start a new electricity contract and will be able to choose exactly which renewable suppliers give us our energy, be it a wind turbine in the Quantocks or a hydroplant in Wales. The 100% renewable energy we use can therefore be tracked and we can even create an energy trail, working out exactly how far our electricity has travelled to get to us.

From the beginning of May we will have LED lighting in the front and back staircases and the loos. This is one of the most ecological systems we can use and reduces our energy use and costs.

We’ve replaced our courier service with Green Couriers, a sustainable and ultra-green company. All of the bright green vehicles that Green Courier use are at the very least low-emission, but will often be ultra-low emission hybrids and 100% electric vehicles.

The Bugrassi Veyron, our new little grassy van, is running on the latest Euro 6 engine with significantly reduced emissions. We are working on the rest.

 

We have been working with the Goldfinger Factory, a community furniture workshop based underneath the Trellick Tower (just down the road from Fruit Towers) that have been recently involved with designing a range with Tom Dixon. Jasper has been using them to reuse and up-cycle old furniture, our old benches went to a vocational school in Fulham and they built our second Big Knit crate out of re-used plywood.

Our waste collections are now managed by First Mile, a company with the capacity to recycle 99% of our office waste. They have been turning our food waste and compost into renewable energy and fertiliser and taking our mixed recycling to a state of the art facility in Bow where it is then sorted and sent on to be turned into brand new shiny things. Even our general waste is sorted and then incinerated to produce energy and heat. Nothing goes to landfill so we are leaving no trace behind us.

 

Additionally they have the ability to send us reports letting us know our exact recycling rate, how many tonnes of CO2 we have saved and even how many trees we have saved through our recycling efforts. They are currently also doing magical things like turning our coffee grounds into biomass pellets and briquettes.

 

Some of our new chairs are made by a company called Solidwool. Each chair is made from the sustainably produced wool of one Herdwick Sheep and is combined with a bio-resin made of 30% renewable content. Solidwool have pioneered a material that champions the beauty of British wool, unfortunately a product with barely any demand. By combining the wool with wood from Somerset and fabricating the chairs in their Devon workshop they have created a truly British product which also just happens to look rather nice in our meeting rooms.

Jasper has definitely been keeping our office green, and he assures us he has even more sustainable plans up his banana covered sleeve for the future. Cheers, Jasper. For this, and for agreeing to climb into a bin for a photo opportunity.

Becky's visit to Cambodia

In December, our Becky went on holiday to Cambodia. Here she is on holiday, wearing a nice hat.

As well as going over to Cambodia to catch some winter sun and try on local hats, she also paid a visit to one of the projects the innocent foundation is working on with ADD International.

ADD International are a UK based disability rights organisation  who work as a major ally to the global disability movement. They partner with disability activists in Africa and Asia to help them access the tools, resources and support they need to build powerful movements for change.

ADD International is currently working to help women with disabilities in Cambodia, through providing loans and grants for farming training as well as advising on income management and talking to families and communities about disabilities to increase understanding. People with disabilities in Cambodia are often the poorest of the poor and are highly discriminated against. Disability has its own stigma present in every society but in parts of Cambodia discrimination towards disabled people can be particularly oppressive. Disabled people are often considered weak, worthless and in some cases, subhuman. Women with disabilities are marginalised and excluded to an even higher extent, discriminated against for both their gender and their impairment.

As part of this project, disability activists supported by ADD International run self-help groups where women meet weekly to share tips and get help if they need it. Becky went along to one these meetings so she could listen to any problems that might be having and they could ask her a few questions. The local chief even turned up, and asked how people with disabilities are treated in the UK. They found it inspirational that disabled people are integrated into society, and hoped that that could become a reality for Cambodia one day.

After the meeting, Becky went to meet a lady called Kem De. During the Khmer Rouge regime, Kem De was injured and, as a result, she can’t walk or dress herself. Her husband left her after she sustained her injuries, so she now lives with her elderly mother. Before the project, Kem De would lie on her wooden bed, alone for most of the day, saying she felt like a burden to her family.

Now that she’s involved in the farming project, her mother does the physical farming much closer to home, with Kem De directing her and looking after their finances. She is now on the third cycle of pig rearing and has more money than she did. She’s also been made a role model for the project within her community, meaning that other people come to her for advice. She’s much more included in the community and is much happier and more empowered as a result.

This three-year project with ADD International is funded by the innocent foundation, whose main mission is to help hungry people around the world. Most of the women Becky met in Cambodia were living on one meal a day before the project but now, with the money they’re earning, they can afford to eat much better. The innocent foundation hopes to reach many more hungry people so that they can take control of their lives and access enough food for themselves and their families.