According to a recent UN study, an estimated 8.4 million people in the UK may be food insecure and shocking figures from a recent End Hunger UK survey have highlighted the scale of hidden hunger in the UK. Cambridge was named the most
unequal city in the UK and there are pockets of high deprivation in Abbey, Arbury, King’s Hedges and East Chesterton. Many people are in a situation where they have to choose between paying the rent, fuel or food. A number of initiatives run in the city to support people; Cambridge City Food Bank gave 3-day emergency food supplies to 6,458 people in 2017, an increase of around 27 % from 2016. FoodCycle Cambridge operates community meals in three different locations around the city serving around 6000 meals last year.
A number of food businesses in Cambridge have pledged to make their practices more sustainable and environmentally conscious. These business have met criteria set out by Cambridge Sustainable Food based on 7 key points…
Our news has been full of announcements about new laws to reduce single-use plastics and non-recyclables. Some news agencies have attributed the rise in public interest to the shocking images of plastic on David Attenborough’s Blue Planet. The public is also seeing the plastic pollution for themselves, especially on beaches around the UK, and the government here and abroad are beginning to see a need for policies to discourage plastics. Companies are also feeling the pressure from consumers to stop using single-use plastics.
This blog will go through the main stories surrounding plastic this month.
The UK Government
The Labour and Green Parties are calling for the Conservatives to bring in measures forcing supermarkets to release statistics on how much plastic they use, and the Green Party states that supermarkets should pay more of the cost of dealing with these plastics. Defra has said that it plans to reform the producer responsibility system so that producers have an incentive to take greater responsibility for the environmental impact of their products.
Theresa May announced a pledge to stop all avoidable plastic waste by 2042. This included announcing that the 5p plastic bag charge would be rolled out to small shops in England. WRAP, the government’s waste action body, will explore whether supermarkets can open plastic-free aisles were all food is loose. It is important to note that there was no mention of a charge for disposable cups or a bottle collection scheme. These have both been discussed by the government and the latter has been shown to be effective: in Germany, with their bottle deposit scheme, 90% of bottles are returned and recycled or reused.
The government are also facing the ban on imported plastic waste to China. Two-thirds of the UK’s total plastic waste exports have been shipped to China so the UK recycling industry will be significantly impacted. It may mean an end to the collection of certain types of plastic, plastic being incinerated or put into landfill. This offers the UK an opportunity to develop its infrastructure and create a circular economy in plastics. However, there is no plan in place to achieve this, or to cope with the impacts of the Chinese ban, as Michael Gove, environment secretary, admitted.
A surge of companies have come out with various pledges to reduce their use of plastic;
Costa has announced they will replace all plastic straws with non-plastic alternatives by the end of the year. They have already removed straws from their condiments unit.
Waitrose announced it would stop the selling of packs of disposable straws from September 2018 and switch all its own brand meat, fish, fruit and veg from black plastic trays to more sustainable alternatives by the end of the year.
Wagamama has announced that from 22nd April (Earth Day) they will switch to paper alternative straws which will be available on request. In the meantime, they have stopped automatically giving out straws when unnecessary.
Iceland announced it will phase out all plastic packaging from its own brand products by 2023.
Find out more about what supermarkets are doing here.
Jenny Derry launched Anything But Plastic after becoming frustrated with the difficulty in maintaining a plastic-free lifestyle. Her website sells a variety of products to help you reduce your plastic use.
Buying your own bamboo, glass, paper or stainless-steel straws (which Anything But Plastic sells) helps reduce your consumption of a short shelf-life plastic product, one of
the more insidious polluters in the sea.
Find a local wholefoods supplier such as Arjuna on Mill Road to buy products with more sustainable, or zero packaging, or, if supermarkets are unavoidable, opt for the package-free fruit and veg, use brown paper bags rather than plastic or take your own bags.
BeeBee Wraps sells a beautiful, reusable, biodegradable alternative to Clingfilm and foil. From humble beginnings in Kath Austin’s kitchen, after hearing that people have used cotton coated in beeswax for centuries she set out to bring this old fashion back to solve our 21st Centaury problems.
Not using single-use plastics will contribute to a change in consumers’ attitudes, too. It is a move that is praised by most and needed if we are to tackle the huge plastic pollution we have across the globe, which is so far-reaching it is found in the stomachs of creatures who live in the deepest parts of the ocean. Each step taken by individuals, organisations or the government will contribute to a move towards a sustainable society.
Real Christmas trees have a lower carbon footprint than artificial trees, especially if disposed of properly. You would need to use a plastic tree for 10 years for its environmental impact to be lower than real trees, so keep reusing! Using local suppliers such as Newnham Christmas Trees and Darwin Nurseries will reduce your environmental impact. After the festive period real trees can be composted or cut up to go in the green bin. Cambridge City Council offer a free Christmas tree recycling service during January at Cherry Hinton Hall car park on Cherry Hinton Road or the Arthur Rank Hospice Charity do a free collection to raise funds for their new hospice, more info here.
If every household in the UK installed just one energy saving light bulb it could save over £80m per year! LED lights, solar or rechargeable batteries and energy saving light bulbs are more environmentally friendly and will help reduce your carbon footprint.
Online shopping can reduce emissions from travel, save time and avoid impulse purchases, all of which will lower your carbon footprint. Reuse wrapping paper where possible, or use newspaper or plain recyclable paper. Jazz it up with some ribbon, which can easily be re-used. Pop into Cambridge’s Scrap Store for creative inspiration and sustainable Christmas craft materials.
Christmas dinner is an important part of the festive period, but there are ways to make it more sustainable. Shop strategically – for example, turkey has a lower carbon foot print than beef and vegetarian options even lower. Vegetarian options are aplenty and improving! Here are some veggie Christmas recipes by BBC Good Food or Jamie Oliver’s vegetarian Christmas recipes. For vegan Christmas inspiration Jamie Oliver and BBC Good Food both have a range of recipes.Check out our Sustainable Food Directory and award winning businesses for sustainability conscious places to eat and shop this Christmas. Shopping at independent, local retailers and farmers markets can reduce your environmental impact and buying seasonal produce can help too. Eat the Seasons tells you what is in season for each month of the year; it’s a great portal for information on seasonal eating.Planning portion sizes and allowing people to serve themselves will reduce your food waste. Save any leftovers for the next day and compost the remainder. Cambridge City Council provide free kitchen caddies to Cambridge residents for food waste that can be composted or put into your green bin. Find out where to get your caddy here.
Sharing Christmas with as many friends as possible is a great way to reduce your footprint, heating one house is better than heating two! Donate your unwanted gifts to charity and check out the OLIO app for a bit of festive food sharing.
The Pumpkin Festival returned for a third time in October 2017!
Three years down the line and the Pumpkin Festival has certainly made a name for itself among Cambridge residents. This year we welcomed over 3000 people into pumpkin inspired events across the city. We run the festival with food waste front and centre, encouraging people to re-think an often wasteful attitude to pumpkin carving at this time of year.
Few issues are more divisive within the environmental world than the genetic modification of organisms (GM). For some, they are a threat to the natural world and to people’s livelihoods; to others, they are the key to a secure and equal future. This article will tackle both sides of the argument, focusing on genetic modification for food production.
What are genetically modified organisms (GMOs)?
Generally, GMOs are defined as organisms that have had their genome modified by humans via genetic engineering techniques. Broadly, GMOs can be split into two categories: cisgenic organisms, which involves the transferral of genetic material between members of the same species; or transgenic organisms, which introduces genetic material from different species. The latter are often more controversial.
Did you know the world produces enough food to feed 9 billion people? Considering there are only 7 billion people on the planet, it seems strange then that there are still 1 billion going hungry… This effect is seen at a national level too: in the UK, the average household bins £470 worth of food yearly, yet 4 million people in the UK are living in food poverty. Those that need food can’t access it, whilst it goes to waste elsewhere.
Cambridge Sustainable Food is, in a very local way, attempting to address this issue, with the launch of our new Community Fridge in September 2017. Funded by Sainsbury’s, this fridge will help to simultaneously reduce food waste whilst also providing a source of food for those who require it – and who knows, maybe it will strengthen the community spirit on the side as well!
How will it work?
Anyone can put good but unwanted food into the fridge, or take it out to take home and eat. The fridge will be monitored to make sure nothing is kept past its use-by date, and to make sure nothing inappropriate gets put in the fridge. Simply weigh the food and record the exchange, and you’re good to go! Tell all your friends – the more people that use it, the more successful it will be.
Alex Collis, known for her invaluable contribution towards FoodCycle Cambridge, has now become FoodCycle’s East of England Regional Manager! After four years’ volunteering in Cambridge (and famed for her banoffee pavlova), she has this to say about her move:
Organic food has been rising in popularity for quite a while now. Objections against applying chemicals to food have been voiced for almost a century, but it is only relatively recently that these have gained commercial traction. These concerns include the effects of conventional farming on health, the environment, or animal welfare. For these reasons and more, organic food has become preferable to many – but not all. Although many feel prohibited by price, there also exist those, even within the environmental movement, who argue that organic food is not the paragon of sustainability that it may claim to be.