Did you watch Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall‘s latest TV show about how much food we waste in the UK? It sounds like a really dull thing to watch, but it was fascinating and shocking. When we have 0ver 500 food banks in the UK, including four in our local area, the UK is throwing away 15 million tonnes of food every year. How wrong is that?
It is easy to blame the supermarkets for rejecting huge piles of ‘wonky’ veg, but, in fact, most food waste comes from homes. You might be shocked to hear (I was) that the average family throws away over #500 food every year; imagine what you could do with that money.
One group of locals has taken matters into their own hands, and have organised the first Sustainable St Albans Week, with the support of over 100 businesses, schools and groups. I am really impressed by the amount of events they have organised, including a talk by Green Party leader Natalie Bennett (24 Nov, 7.30, Trinity United Reformed Church). The free book swap for children and the fashion workshops should be good too. I want to focus on food, and there is lots going on.
The week starts on Sat 21st November with a Bring and Share vegetarian supper at St Paul’s Church, Hatfield Road, St Albans, that everyone is welcome to, including families. Reserve tickets at www.stalbansfoe.org which includes a glass of local organic apple juice and dessert.
If you live near the Friends Meeting House on Upper Lattimore Road you might like to pop in for coffee and buy home-produced and recycled goods at their sale on Sun 22 Nov (12.30-1.30).
If you haven’t yet discovered FoodSmiles at Hammonds End Farm, Harpenden, they are holding an open day on Sun 22nd Nov(1pm – 4pm). Just drop in to see what they do, and ask your own home-growing questions. Refreshments will be available and it is a lovely location to spend time in. Gardeners might also like to go along to Earthworks, Hixberry Lane on Sat 28th Nov for a free workshop on how to prune your fruit trees (1.30-3). I know lots of people with huge inherited fruit trees in their gardens; why not go along and find out what to do with them?
On Sat 28th Nov the most beautiful cinema in the country (I think that’s official) The Odyssey screens the feature-length film ‘Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret’ at 10.45am, about ‘The most destructive industry facing the planet today’. Buy tickets from the cinema directly. Have you discovered the sub-aqua club on Cottonmill Lane yet? This fab outdoor pool is another St Albans gem, but it is open to members only. You can check it out if you go to the film on 21st November ‘The End of the Line’, about the world fish situation (7.30). Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to book a spot.
Also on Saturday 28th (10-11am) you can trade your homegrown/homemade produce at Trading Post @The Foragers. This friendly food swap group has been running for a couple of years now and it is a fab way to share what you grow with others, and take home goodies in return. Just turn up with your produce and they will talk you through what you need to do. I went last year with lemony olives and returned with corn bread and preserves; I really recommend it for anyone with lots of spare fruit and veggies and keen bakers especially.
If you take your own bag any time during the Sustainability Week to The Beer Shop on London Road, you will get 10% off any bottled beers that you buy – how easy is that?
Charlie’s Coffee & Company has always been a sustainable business and all week you can pop in and ask what she does to make it so. You can also get a discount on reusable cups, which, if you are regular at Charlie’s coffee van or shop, are a great idea. Did you know that coffee grounds are brilliant for the garden? If you throw yours away, why not save a pot full to dig into the garden? Your plants will love you for it. Aylett Nurseries generate a lot of coffee grounds and all week you can collect them to take home for your own garden. While you are there you can hand in your collection of plastic plant pots for reuse.
On Thurs 26th Nov, The Green Kitchen on Hatfield Road is hosting an Autumn-themed bistro evening with delicious plant-based food, using as many organic and UK-sourced ingredients as possible. To book call 01727 753661. (7pm – 10pm) The events here usually sell out so do book ahead.
One of my favourite places to eat locally is The Courtyard Cafe, Hatfield Road. During the Sustainability Week the menu will include home-grown vegetables and homemade jam from Transition St Albans members. Some of the veggies and herbs come from the patch in front of the cafe too; you can’t get more local than that!
For a full list of events visit http://www.sustainablestalbans.org
Here are some ideas we can all try, all year round
* Look out for the ‘value’ ranges in supermarkets – these are the wonky veggies and fruit considered the ‘wrong’ size or appearance. The bowls for a pound at the market can be a good source of these too.
* Ask for a doggy bag in a restaurant; Andrei Lussmann told me that they won’t mind.
* If your favourite takeaway makes the portions too large and you thrown some away; tell them. They are giving you lots of food so you feel you are getting a good deal – wouldn’t it be better if it was slightly cheaper or better quality for the price?
* Move food that needs eating to the front of the fridge/cupboard so that there is no excuse from the teens etc in your home to find it.
* Let your fridge get empty; it is the only way you will eat the random things in the freezer.
* Join your local Transition Streets group, or start one, to share ideas.