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Thoughts from category: sustainability jess

we'd like to thank the academy

A couple of weeks back we told you we’d been nominated for a Guardian Sustainable Business Award for a project to reduce the amount of water used to grow our strawberries. This little film explains what the project was about:

We had our gracious loser face down to a fine art by the time we made our way to the ceremony, but, to our complete shock, we actually went and won the thing. No award is complete without an acceptance speech, so we’ve asked Jess, who leads our sustainability team, to say a few words:

“We are beyond thrilled to have won this award. We have been working with our Spanish farmers and the University of Cordoba for six and a half years to reduce the amount of water used in strawberry growing and, in doing so, protect the wetlands of the Doñana National Park. Our little project has grown from working with just four farmers, to now influencing the water management of 87% of all the strawberry farms (even though we only buy 1% of the strawberries grown on them.)  It proves that even if your idea starts small, if you find the right solution, and get everyone involved, you can make a big difference.  We are now sharing what we’ve learned with our berry farmers in Poland, and will see if we can use it with other fruits in the future too.”

The award itself is pretty special, and has taken pride of place on our Reception desk here in Fruit Towers:

 

As a business we’ve always wanted to leave things a bit better than we found them, so we’re really proud to be recognised for making a difference. We know there’s loads more we could do though, and we still have a long way to go before everything we do is award-worthy. We’ve got lots of exciting plans to get even greener in the next few years, so watch this space.

Now if you’ll excuse us, we’re off to the after party.

a sustainable diet - Katie & Atha go Masterchef

Katie and Atha both took on the challenge of creating some Livewell recipes for the rest of us - we think they might have Masterchef aspirations.

Katie - masterchef
Katie gives us spiced rice salad and prawn fajitas.

Spiced Rice Salad - serves 1

Ingredients: 75g brown rice, 1 x apple (ideally nice and crunchy), 1 x pepper (your choice of colour) and some peas.

Dressing: Tablespoon natural yoghurt, teaspoon garam masala

  1. cook rice and allow to cool
  2. chop up apple and pepper, cook peas and allow them to cool
  3. mix apple, pepper and peas into cooked rice
  4. mix yoghurt and garam masala and taste - change quantities to taste preference
  5. stir in dressing to rice mix

Can be made ahead for a lunchbox - but make sure you only cut up the apple just before eating to stop it from going brown. Optional extras to add would be steamed chicken or salad.

Prawn Fajitas - use the per person quantities from the Livewell menu

  1. fry onion
  2. add prawns and some yummy fajita spice mix
  3. add pepper
  4. serve with some lettuce and fajita wraps

Optional extras - kidney beans or use chicken instead of prawns.

Atha shows us his prowess in the vegetarian kitchen with Spinach and Chickpeas.

Ingredients: a tin of chickpeas, 200g spinach, 3 tomatoes (depulped and sliced), 3-4 cloves of garlic, 1 red chilli (remove seeds and slice), 1/2 teaspoon cumin, seasoning (salt, pepper and oregano), olive oil.

  1. sautee garlic and chilli in oil
  2. once oil is hot and garlic has just softened, add cumin (for 10 seconds)
  3. add the tin of drained chickpeas, stir to ensure that they are coated with the flavoured oil
  4. after a couple of minutes add the tomatoes and stir, cook for a couple of minutes
  5. add the spinach, once it is all wilted add some of the juice from the tinned chickpeas
  6. add seasoning
  7. stir and allow to reduce by a third

We hope that you enjoy trying out their recipes.

a sustainable diet - simon talks savings

Simon works in our finance team and for 4 years was responsible for buying all the fruit that goes in our smoothies – he knows some stuff about buying food (albeit that on his buying trips he sported some questionable headwear – he’s on the left).

P1000587
Growing your own fruit & vegetables

You don’t need lots of space to grow your own food. It’s amazing what you can get out of a plant pot and things seem to grow even in fairly poor soil. We only have a small yard. At the end of April we planted: 10 tomato plants, 2 courgette plants and half a dozen different herbs. Next year we aim to increase the range once I’ve put in a new vegetable bed.

The courgettes have been phenomenal – between the 2 plants for the last eight weeks we have had a good sized courgette every other day. We had our first tomato last week. The plants are dripping in fruit. We staggered when we planted so I think we will get 8-10 weeks without having to buy a single tomato from the shops. We use fresh herbs daily and they really lift dishes.

The total plant cost was around ~£25. I predict if I bought this fruit, it might cost upwards of £50.

Pick your own fruit & veg

Living in London with such easy access to food, we have lost sight of picking our own produce – it seems to be a hazy memory of our childhood. We took our 16 month old daughter to a PYO Farm. We bought: raspberries, blackcurrants, gooseberries, strawberries, beetroot, carrots, parsley, courgettes, cauliflower, cabbage, potatoes, broad beans.


We ate the vegetables and strawberries fresh (NB broad beans once blanched freeze well). Raspberries, blackcurrants, gooseberries freeze really well. (NB Best thing is to freeze them on metal trays first and then transfer them to bags so they hold their shape). Everything was amazingly fresh. We picked 4 BIG supermarket recycle bags full of produce. Total cost was £62. I estimate that from the supermarket this would have been £200+

Using class 2 fruit

As consumers we have all come to expect total uniformity in the produce we buy. This drive for perfectionism means there is often unnecessary waste at the farm level. Almost all ‘second grade’ fruit or veg is fresh - it’s just a bit misshapen – does this matter? When you get your fruit and veg at the market you will need to check the quality a little more carefully than the supermarket but typically >80% of it is great.

There are big big savings here. I predict market fruit and veg is possible 50% cheaper than the supermarket. It’s also great having an interaction with other shoppers and stall holders. There are some amazing characters at markets and you can pick up some good recipe ideas from them

Cooking from scratch

We’re all busy and there could be a view that cooking from scratch is too time consuming. But in line with Jamie Oliver’s 30 minute cooking, it needn’t be. For example making fresh bread – once you’ve made your own bread it will be hard for you to ever go back to ready-made. And it’s a myth that you need lots of equipment, a bread maker or a special oven. My recommendation is to get into sourdough bread for the fantastic depth of flavour, brilliant rising capabilities and amazing texture. Use any excess starter/dough to make pizza. It makes such good pizza that your guests will think you have trained in Naples.

Simon - italian chef
You also know you are not eating any nasties because you are controlling what goes in and it’s definitely cheaper. I reckon a batch of 6 loaves costs me £2. The equivalent quality pre-made would be £9. NB spare loaves freeze well.

“I usually add enough salt to grit a road in 2 ft of snow. I have cut it altogether and don't miss that either”

Simon - salt
Put all these thoughts together and cooking/eating becomes much more interesting, more sustainable and definitely cheaper. Brekkie is usually home baked bread, lunch is a Tupperware salad box and supper some sort of carbohydrate/vegetable base with a little meat a few days a week. Maybe we have a proper piece of meat once every few weeks.

a sustainable diet - girl and boy

Jojo is one our people’s champions – the really nice people who answer the banana phone and have a chat with you. Jojo did the diet with her boyfriend Chris.

Here’s Jojo looking fabulous as usual.

Jojo

“the diet was fine with me but much trickier for Chris as he just didn't understand not putting as much meat in things as he's used to. I tend to be a bit stingier with these things which comes from my mam who went very easy on meat when I was growing up to save money”

Jojo - save money

“I did struggle a bit with the oil rationing as I cook with lots of olive oil but we used a spray for the week. Think I'll still have gone over my quota though. I also found it a bit tricky to turn down burger lunches at the Regent but my waistline was very grateful. To be honest I quite liked being able to say that I was following the diet as I saved a bit of money and had a really healthy week.”

“Even though I exercise a lot I thought the amount of food was very generous and didn't really eat any of the snacks. Think Chris might have eaten my share though...”

a sustainable diet - emma plans ahead

Emma works in our marketing team and apparently has not planned her week in full since 1998. You could say she likes to live life by the seat of her pants..

Emma

Day 1

Went to the supermarket. Dawning realisation that the sum total of dinner recipes within my repertoire without meat equals 2 and mild panic ensues. Decide to freestyle it with the shopping list to tackle this diet in little steps. Did my weekly shop, then realised that the last time I actually did a weekly shop was in about 1998, which was quite a telling realisation in itself. Shop came to a sum of £33.50, which, given that I normally do my dinner shops on the hoof on my way home and spend about £10 a time, struck me as very good value. Left the supermarket feeling very excited, and embarked on my diet with a king's feast of beans on toast. Think I can do this. Had chilli con carne for dinner. That's the beef quota for the week gone then.

Day 2

Big breakfast of fibrous goodness. No signs of hunger showing yet. Lunch was falafel, in an effort to eat more green stuff. Think I might just have blown my weekly oil quota in one meal. Ate leftovers for dinner and admired my special shelf of weekly food in the fridge. Felt good.

Emma - falafel
Day 3

More fibre for breakfast. Easy. Massive plate of salad for lunch with loads of greens and goodness. Really struggling with this oil quota though, not a massive fan of dry salad so think I might need to break some rules on this. Dinner- rice, ratatouille and chicken. Delicious. Rapidly running out of meat for the week. Mild panic ensues, then I fall asleep. Not hungry yet.

Day 4

Eat toast for breakfast in an effort to get through what feels like a massive bread quota for the week. Have cheese toasties for lunch, and spend 20 minutes trying to work out what to have for dinner. Decide on risotto with butternut squash and onion. Not quite sure how parmesan fits in, but it's a meat free meal and it's relatively unprocessed so I think it sort of passes. Eat vegetarian risotto. Boyfriend, who'd been disgusted at the prospect of dinner without meat, is very pleasantly surprised and says it's actually quite nice. Result.

Emma - cheese toastie
Day 5

Fruit and Fibre is my friend this week. Not bored of it yet. Salad for lunch- again, oil is the issue here. Feel like I'm eating a lot more healthily than I do normally.

Day 6

Toast for breakfast. Am hungry by mid morning. More green stuff for lunch. Not finding this bit a struggle at all. Dinner is the challenge - thought I was due to have a quiet week, but ended up going out 3 evenings in the week, and am worrying about the food still in my fridge that I need to eat fairly quickly. Decide I'm going to make spag bol and put it in the freezer to use up the veg.

Day 7

Nothing exciting to report on the brekkie front. At lunch I was faced with an array of meat options, but instead went for haloumi and salad and it was bloody delicious. Dinner is crusted cod with homemade mushy peas and potatoes and broccoli mashed in a la Jamie Oliver 30 min meals. It's amazing, takes me a lot longer than 30 mins to make, but I bought sustainably caught fish, which seemed to make for a much better quality piece of fish.

“The diet made me think really hard about how to avoid waste- even if I couldn't eat my week's shop within the week (because of being out and about) I started to think about making food and freezing it or taking it in to work so that other people could eat it if I couldn't. I started to share a lot more, which I liked.”

“I am out and about a lot week by week and never really know when I'm going to be in - this makes for quite a lot of waste because I always buy food on the hoof and never know what's in my fridge. I am going to work really hard to improve this, but it's definitely a challenge.”