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Thoughts from category: sustainability

How to use your fridge

We’re all guilty of wasting the odd bit of food here and there. Whether it’s forgetting we bought that cheese and finding it brown and funny smelling at the bottom of the fridge, or never using that unpronounceable herb we bought for that recipe that time, some things do slip under our anti-food- waste radar from time to time.

Even though it often feels like small titbits here and there, according to this article in the Telegraph, a massive 7.2 million tons of food and drink are wasted each year in Britain (which actually costs the average household a pretty massive £480). That is better news than it was a couple of years ago, but we still reckon we could all do a bit better.

One pretty simple way of cutting down your food waste is to start using your fridge properly. It may sound a bit silly (and obvious) but where you store certain products can make a big difference to how long they last.

Here’s a handy little diagram (that we found here) which shows the dream food in fridge scenario, if you will:

 

So, the next time you’re unpacking your shopping and stuffing food into your fridge higgledy piggeldy, try organising it on to its designated shelf. Your carbon footprint, and wallet, will thank you.

 

a visit to our mango farms

Our Sustainability Advisor Charlotte went to India recently to visit some of our mango farmers and see for herself the results of a project we're running which is helping our farmers to protect their yields from the effects of climate change. Here's the story of her trip:

Hubli Charvran is a calm, meditative farmer who has been farming his 25-acre mango orchard on the western coast of India for over 15 years. Hubli is one of our mango suppliers; we use his mangoes in our smoothies and juices. I went out to visit and to see first-hand what Hubli is doing to make sure his farm is as sustainable and productive as possible, and to make a little film about it.

Hubli, one of our mango farmers

A few years ago, we’d visited our mango farmers and found that they were struggling with lower mango yields due to the combined effects of climate change and poor farming practices. Climate change is causing higher temperatures and more erratic monsoons. When we saw how it was directly affecting our farmers, we started a project in partnership with the University of Konkan to improve things. We wanted to find sustainable ways to make the trees as strong and resilient as possible, so that they can still produce high mango yields despite the changing climate. The project was called the 5 Point Agriculture Project, because there are 5 stages involved in strengthening the trees, and Hubli joined the project a few years ago.

As well as making the film, I also went to India to meet up with some organisations who may be able to help us with the next phase of the project, and to conduct routine assessments of some of our mango farms against our innocent sustainable agriculture standards.

After a 15-hour journey I arrived at Goa airport at 6am local time, where it was already a sweltering 35 degrees. The roads were already packed with chaotic traffic, the hoots of car horns echoing around everywhere. At the airport I met Budhwant, my guide. Budhwant was hilarious. Mad about mangoes (he eats mangoes all the time, from morning until night, and even has mango-flavoured car sweets), he was an avid font of knowledge about all different types of trees, pointing out all the different species we passed during our 5-hour car journey, and stopping regularly to pick up fruits from the side of the road so I could taste them. Unfortunately Budhwant’s driving wasn’t as impressive as his tree knowledge. Let’s just say it was an interesting 5 hours… That afternoon I had a good meeting with one of our mango suppliers, followed by two of the most delicious curries I’ve ever tasted. 

On my second morning in India I headed straight out to the farms. The farmers and their families were incredibly warm and welcoming, and were happy to show me everything and answer all of my questions. They plied me with fresh coconut juice and freshly picked mangoes still warm from the sun. It was an unforgettable day. The farmers were all really excited about the results of the project: the trees that had been cared for using the 5 point plan regime had started to produce 25% more mangoes and higher quality fruit, compared to trees that had been managed in the traditional way. Since the mangoes had only just ripened, I was lucky enough to see the difference for myself – I was surprised how obvious it was which trees had been involved in our project: they looked much healthier, and had many more mangoes.

At the end of Day 2 I was joined by Jim and Kev, who’d be helping me to make the film. There was a bit of panic when they turned up without their camera equipment, which had gone AWOL in transit, but miraculously it all turned up 6 hours later.

We spent two days making the film, which may seem a bit excessive seeing as it’s only one minute long, but there was simply so much to say and so much beauty and interest to try and capture that we hardly stopped at all. We spent both days at the farms involved in the 5 point project, starting at dawn and finishing after sunset in order to make the most of the best light. I’m not a film-maker and I’d never heard of the ‘golden hour’, or appreciated the benefits of filming in this soft evening light, when the golden sunshine dapples through the trees and the shadows disperse. But Jim and Kev were fanatical about it, insisting that Budhwant drove us around to find the best spot. They even clambered up a half-constructed five storey building via bamboo ladders to get a good view of the sunset from the top (don’t try this at home). The madness paid off, though, because the sunsets on the west coast of India are truly breathtaking, and we got some incredible footage.

an Indian sunset

Hubli is now an ambassador for the 5 point agriculture project. He was so impressed with the results on his own farm that he’s now an advocate for the importance of farming in harmony with nature, working with natural forces rather than against them. His knowledge about how to create the best organic compost, natural pest control measures and clay pot irrigation kept me captivated all day long. And his words of wisdom about the importance of slowing down the pace of life, following your hopes and dreams, and adopting Buddhist philosophies affected Jim, Kev and I very profoundly. (As did the copious amounts of fresh coconut water.)

Our guide Budhwant wasn’t particularly interested in these conversations, though. Instead he was busy thinking about where he could buy his next box of fresh mangoes. By the end of our trip, Budhwant had bought 72 mangoes, and there was barely any room left in the car for our filming equipment.

You can watch the film we made here, I hope you like it:

this is probably how the chicken crossed the road

 

Crossing roads can sometimes be a bit of a challenge, even for the most well-seasoned and experienced road crosser amongst us. It’s easy to forget your green cross code when you’re in a bit of a rush (stop, look, listen and all that). Can we cross just before the green man comes on? Can we cross just after he disappears? Do bikes have to stop at zebra crossings? These are all questions we’ve asked ourselves before stepping off that curb into the dangerous unknown.

Animals are even less well-equipped to deal with the dangerous world of traffic and, too often, when they decide to give crossing a go, it doesn’t end too well.

To help solve this problem, a habitat conservation practice has developed which involves building wildlife crossings to allow animals to cross human-made barriers (such as roads) safely. Structures which have been made for this project include underpass tunnels, viaducts, overpasses (for large or herd-like animals), amphibian tunnels, fish ladders, tunnels and culverts (for small animals such as hedgehogs, otters and badgers) and green rooves (for butterflies and birds).

As well as protecting the animals while they’re crossing, wildlife bridges offer rich potential for learning about the movements of animals, with infrared cameras often installed at crossing sites to capture and record animals in transit along with web cams which can transmit real-time wildlife movement data. This all helps reconnect us (the busy people in the fast cars who often whiz by the countryside in a bit of a blur) with the natural landscape around us and become more aware of the impact the fragmentation of the landscape has on the animals in our fields and forests.

You can have a look at a nice selection of wildlife crossings from all around the world here

The bees and the butterflies

Now we've entered the fine month of May, we think we can officially say that spring has definitely sprung – the hanging baskets outside the pub are in full bloom and the blossom on the trees is looking particularly lovely (even if it does sometimes drop into our hair on the way to work and cause an awkwardly intimate moment when our desk mate has to fish it out).

But spring wouldn't be such a beautiful time of year without insects like the bees and the butterflies who make it all possible – they put in the hard graft of transferring the pollen and seeds from one flower to another, and fertilising them so they can grow and produce food.

However, these pollinators have been going through a bit of a tough time in recent years. What with global warming, increased pesticide use and habitat loss, they are now under threat like never before. That’s pretty scary, because without them, many much-loved food crops, such as apples and onions, would die off completely.

By planting some bits and bobs in your garden which are bee and butterfly friendly, you can provide them with the sustenance they need to get the job done. This can be as simple as using a wide variety of different flowers in your garden, not keeping it too tidy, leaving wild flowering plants in place (such as ivy, which is a particularly important source of late season winter food for bees) and avoiding using pesticides. If you’re feeling extra specially helpful, you could even take a course in bee-keeping to boost bee numbers, or create a butterfly habitat in your garden by planting milkweed.

If you fancy having your garden a-buzzing with bees and butterflies, then these incredibly useful (and beautiful) illustrations by Hannah Rosengren display a few of the plants which can give them a bit of a helping hand:

 

You can see more of Hannah’s work on her website here , or find her on Twitter here

Feast with Foodcycle

An estimated 400,000 tonnes of surplus food is thrown away by shops every year. That’s the same weight as 4,000 blue whales. And blue whales are huge (their tongues alone are heavier than elephants).

FoodCycle is a great charity that uses the food rejected by supermarkets to feed people at risk of food poverty and social isolation. In 15 locations across England, and with an army of over 1000 volunteers (click here to get stuck in), they cook delicious food for people who really need it, serving up an astonishing 67,000 meals since 2009. 

“In this day and age throwing food away is madness, especially when some don't have enough to eat and we have the means and technology to recycle and put leftovers to good use,” says Giorgio Locatelli, who's been involved with FoodCycle since visiting one of their kitchens early in 2012. 

This month, FoodCycle are throwing a posh Mardi Gras Feast, offering a fancy 7 course meal cooked by Michelin starred chefs, including Signor Locatelli himself, to celebrate what can be done with surplus food destined for the bin. It promises to be an evening of fun, good music, and glorious food, all for a great cause. All funds raised by the feast will help FoodCycle continue to save perfectly good food from the bin and serve delicious meals to vulnerable people. 

The Mardi Gras Feast will be held at Battersea Arts Centre in London, on Thursday 27th February 2014. 

To buy a ticket, contact Kim Jones on 020 7729 2775 or kim@foodcycle.org.uk. 

Find out more

 

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