Save food, save money, save energy

Every time we go shopping there is another rise in the price of food. According to the World Bank food prices have risen 75% globally. And Gordon Brown has launched a campaign to stop us wasting food. A national report says that we throw away over 4 million tonnes of food every year, costing each household at least £420 (and £610 for households with children).

 

The figures are staggering.

Nearly one quarter of the food waste is thrown away whole, untouched or unopened. Of this, at least 340,000 tonnes is still in date when thrown away. A further 1.2 million tonnes is simply left on our plates. Every day we throw away:

  • 5.1 million whole potatoes
  • 4.4 million whole apples
  • 2.8 million whole tomatoes
  • 7 million whole slices of bread
  • 1.3 million unopened yoghurts and yoghurt drink
  • 1.2 million sausages
  • 1 million slices of ham
  • 0.7 million whole eggs
  • 0.7 million whole bars of chocolate and unwrapped sweets
  • 0.3 million unopened meat-based ready meals or takeaway
  • 0.3 million unopened packets of crisps

Financially this is appalling. Not only does it cost us personally to throw away food we have spent money to buy. It also costs the country another billion pounds to collect the waste and dispose of it – mostly to landfill. But we are not just wasting food and money. We are wasting energy too. Everything we eat has had some energy used to produce it. Farmers use tractors to spread fertilisers and pesticides – all energy users. Fuel is used in transporting it, often by air. Much of it is processed before we buy it, using still more energy. And more is refrigerated during storage. Then we store it and cook it. If it is then thrown away, all this energy is wasted, amounting to the equivalent of 18 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year – that’s the same as the CO2 emitted by one in every five cars on UK roads.

This is all bad news for the environment. When we know that we have to reduce our carbon footprint – the amount of carbon we emit – to avoid disastrous climate change, it is shocking that we waste so much. And it’s a moral issue too. When millions of people in the world don’t have enough to eat, how can we justify being so wasteful about our own food?

Of course, food is also wasted before it reaches us. Supermarkets reject up to 60 per cent of fresh produce because they do not fit their shape and quality standards and remove from the shelves food that is near its sell by date – still perfectly edible.

There are some things we can do. We can buy local food instead of food that has travelled miles to get here. We can buy less processed food. We can be smart about only buying what we need. And we can be imaginative about using what’s in the fridge or the store cupboard. All skills that will be essential in a climate changing world.

Save Food, Save Energy, Save Money

Every time we go shopping there is another rise in the price of food. According to the World Bank food prices have risen 75% globally. And Gordon Brown has launched a campaign to stop us wasting food. A national report says that we throw away over 4 million tonnes of food every year, costing each household at least 420 (and 610 for households with children).

The figures are staggering.

Nearly one quarter of the food waste is thrown away whole, untouched or unopened. Of this, at least 340,000 tonnes is still in date when thrown away. A further 1.2 million tonnes is simply left on our plates. Every day we throw away:

5.1 million whole potatoes
4.4 million whole apples
2.8 million whole tomatoes
7 million whole slices of bread
1.3 million unopened yoghurts and yoghurt drink
1.2 million sausages
1 million slices of ham
0.7 million whole eggs
0.7 million whole bars of chocolate and unwrapped sweets
0.3 million unopened meat-based ready meals or takeaway
0.3 million unopened packets of crisps

Financially this is appalling. Not only does it cost us personally to throw away food we have spent money to buy. It also costs the country another billion pounds to collect the waste and dispose of it – mostly to landfill. But we are not just wasting food and money. We are wasting energy too. Everything we eat has had some energy used to produce it. Farmers use tractors to spread fertilisers and pesticides – all energy users. Fuel is used in transporting it, often by air. Much of it is processed before we buy it, using still more energy. And more is refrigerated during storage. Then we store it and cook it. If it is then thrown away, all this energy is wasted, amounting to the equivalent of 18 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year, that’s the same as the CO2 emitted by one in every five cars on UK roads.

This is all bad news for the environment. When we know that we have to reduce our carbon footprint – the amount of carbon we emit – to avoid disastrous climate change, it is shocking that we waste so much. And it’s a moral issue too. When millions of people in the world don’t have enough to eat, how can we justify being so wasteful about our own food?

Of course, food is also wasted before it reaches us. Supermarkets reject up to 60 per cent of fresh produce because they do not fit their shape and quality standards and remove from the shelves food that is near its sell by date – still perfectly edible.

There are some things we can do. We can buy local food instead of food that has travelled miles to get here. We can buy less processed food. We can be smart about only buying what we need. And we can be imaginative about using what’s in the fridge or the store cupboard. All skills that will be essential in a climate changing world.

Renewable energy is all around us. Let’s use it.

Forum 21 is charged with supporting a raft of sustainable activities in West Somerset. It has reported before on many of the support groups who are contributing to various initiative, including campaigns on bio fuels, energy efficiency, plastic bags, waste, deep ecology, food, transport, communications and others. A group of interested parties from Porlock, including several engineers and a district councillor took on the Renewable Energy section.

‘Porlock Power’ has recently formed from a group of individuals already committed to some sustainable activity with wider interests than just the brief of renewable energy. Their aim is to build a bank of know-how on a wide range of matters of sustainability and eventually offering it on a voluntary basis to local people interested in doing their own thing but wondering where to start. That work is ongoing and a number of studies have been carried out relating to projects in public and community buildings in and around Porlock, which it is hoped will lead to an exemplar project in due course.
As far as renewable energy is concerned, it was the realisation of the sheer volume of water tumbling down our steep coastal drops that led to the formation of ‘Porlock Power’. A large part of electrical power for Porlock used to be generated by the water mill up Hawkcombe and one near the High Street, so what is stopping us learning from history and gaining self-sufficiency and security of power supply for at least a significant part of our need? If we could achieve this, we could be insulated from some of the enormous price rises and power cuts that could be commonplace when the oil shortage becomes more acute. Not to mention the benefits to the local and global economy if others replicated the idea.
At a recent seminar on micro-hydro generation at the Somerset County Cricket Ground, run by the three counties, Somerset, Dorset and Devon, many local mill owners as well as council officers, suppliers and consultants to the industry and social bankers exchanged views and experiences. Some of the points arising are worth noting here.

The Somerset County target set in 2006 for electricity from renewable sources is 75MW, mostly from wind. The hydro target within this was only 0.2MW, which has already been exceeded by enthusiastic mill owners. So where are the incentives?

It seems essential for site owners to form groups in order to obtain significant grant funding support. South Somerset Micro-Hydro Group have been quite successful in this and Exmoor Renewable Energy Group and others are working with promise of success currently.

Micro-hydro is hardly rated as a carbon saver, yet it is the greenest and most efficient potential source of electricity as well as being the most available and reliable one. Electricity accounts for one third of all energy consumed in the UK, and as a nation we have managed to install just 1.5% renewable generation against the EU requirement of 15% by 2020, with only Luxemburg and Malta faring worse than us.
Major regulatory barriers have to be overcome, with planning and the Environment Authority among them. In a place like Porlock, where several large land owners are involved, extra permissions and bureaucracy are involved, so it is only the very most persistent, committed and hardy individuals who get anywhere. It is clear that, though there are some such people, the ‘bottom up’ pressure will never be enough to make a major impact and it depends on government to follow lip service with positive action and real support if this most eco-friendly and generous source of energy is to be tapped.
Finally, it is worth reflecting that wind power relies infinitesimally on refurbished windmills. So why not think also ‘outside the box’ on hydro-power and in addition to converted water mills, look at all the water spill from reservoirs all over the country or developing a modular set of standard low impact generator stations for suitable river locations not yet exploited?

For more information contact Tony Pinnington, Porlock Power, on 01643 862 002 or tony@pinnington.org.uk. You can contact Forum 21 on 01984 634 242 or mail@forum21.org.uk

Get Local!

Had your 5 a day today? Ate your combination of red, green and yellow fruit and veg? Had a healthy whole grain free range chicken sandwich washed down with some fruit flavoured spring water? Excellent. Recycled all the plastic bags and bottles that all that fruit and veg came in? Fantastic! You’re a winner, a star on the way to a long and healthy life. As you’re munching your way through this healthy lifestyle option, your pepper salad and whole meal pasta, have you thought how easy it would be to buy it all locally? Not locally as in from your local supermarket, or even locally from your local green grocer, but locally as in grown locally in your local area, by people who send their children to the local school and use the same doctor as you? Now that’s a bit of a problem for most of us, isn’t it?

In my greengrocer’s today (and I know I’m lucky to have a greengrocer in my town), I could buy Spanish onions, Italian squashes, Polish tomatoes, Kenyan beans and Egyptian potatoes. I could not buy West Somerset beans, carrots, onions or tomatoes. I couldn’t even find Somerset grown vegetables. The nice girl I asked said that it’s all sourced locally: “We get it from the supplier in Taunton . . .” and I wanted to cry. I wanted to cry because it’s such a waste. Not having locally grown produce in our shops wastes time, money and fuel bringing food in from other areas. It leaves us at risk of rising prices and food shortages. Imagine how irritating it would be if all the shops had problems sourcing food because there was a fuel shortage or worse, a food shortage.

As December 25th approaches, there are lots of opportunities to buy our Christmas fare locally. Look for suppliers of local meat, poultry, puddings and cakes instead of heading for the supermarket. As well as supporting local producers we will be eating healthier, less processed food that hasn’t travelled half way across the world.

West Somerset should be able to produce a huge quantity of our own food. We have good soil, good climate, and lots of agricultural land and machinery. We also have a rural and agricultural skills base, with the West Somerset Community College farm and just slightly out of our area the old Cannington college and Brymore school, should we find that we need more specialist horticultural skills. Small growers need customers right through the year to maintain their income and keep on their staff, even when all they can grow is boring old cabbages. So find your local suppliers, join a veg box scheme which allows the grower to plan what he produces, encourage farmers to diversify into horticultural crops, insist on British in the grocers, and explain why you want to eat local food. Because one day through climate change, rising prices or fuel shortages we will need to be able to produce more of our own food, and if we can’t do it now when it’s easy, we will really struggle when times are more difficult.

Get local!

Had your 5 a day today?  Ate your combination of red, green and yellow fruit and veg? Had a healthy whole grain free range chicken sandwich washed down with some fruit flavoured spring water?  Excellent.  Recycled all the plastic bags and bottles that all that fruit and veg came in?  Fantastic! You’re a winner, a star on the way to a long and healthy life.  As you’re munching your way through this healthy lifestyle option, your pepper salad and whole meal pasta, have you thought how easy it would be to buy it all locally?  Not locally as in from your local supermarket, or even locally from your local green grocer, but locally as in grown locally in your local area, by people who send their children to the local school and use the same doctor as you? Now that’s a bit of a problem for most of us, isn’t it?

In my greengrocer’s today (and I know I’m lucky to have a greengrocer in my town), I could buy Spanish onions, Italian squashes, Polish tomatoes,  Kenyan beans and Egyptian potatoes.  I could not buy West Somerset beans, carrots, onions or tomatoes.  I couldn’t even find Somerset grown vegetables.  The nice girl I asked said that it’s all sourced locally: “We get it from the supplier in Taunton…” and I wanted to cry.  I wanted to cry because it’s such a waste.  Not having locally grown produce in our shops wastes time, money and fuel bringing food in from other areas.  It leaves us at risk of rising prices and food shortages. Imagine how irritating it would be if all the shops had problems sourcing food because there was a fuel shortage or worse, a food shortage.

As December 25th approaches, there are lots of opportunities to buy our Christmas fare locally. Look for suppliers of local meat, poultry, puddings and cakes instead of heading for the supermarket.  As well as supporting local producers we will be eating healthier, less processed food that hasn’t travelled half way across the world.

West Somerset should be able to produce a huge quantity of our own food. We have good soil, good climate, and lots of agricultural land and machinery. We also have a rural and agricultural skills base, with the West Somerset Community College farm and just slightly out of our area the old Cannington college and Brymore school, should we find that we need more specialist horticultural skills. Small growers need customers right through the year to maintain their income and keep on their staff, even when all they can grow is boring old cabbages.  So find your local suppliers, join a veg box scheme which allows the grower to plan what he produces, encourage farmers to diversify into horticultural crops, insist on British in the grocers, and explain why you want to eat local food. Because one day through climate change, rising prices or fuel shortages we will need to be able to produce more of our own food, and if we can’t do it now when it’s easy, we will really struggle when times are more difficult.

 

Climate Change, Biodiversity and Landscape

Climate change is altering the landscape of West Somerset

In recent months Forum 21 has been keeping you up to date on climate change and how it will alter the way we do things in West Somerset. In this issue we are concentrating on how climate change will make a difference to the landscape and biodiversity in our area.

We already know that the distribution pattern of many plants and animals in West Somerset has changed in recent years. The Dartford Warbler continues to increase and we are seeing more and more sitings of Cattle Egrets as they spread north due to climate change. On the down side the Wheatear, Whinchat and Curlew are in decline in this region. At the landscape level bluebell woodlands and beech woodlands are also on the decline.

We need to understand what aspects of the climate are changing. Firstly summer temperatures are increasing which will lead to drought and a greater risk of fire. Species at the southern edge of their distribution limit will become extinct, while others at the northern limits will increase.

Summer rainfall is decreasing (but not this year!) which may mean the end of wet heath and bog on Exmoor. Winter temperatures are on the increase, which has been a major factor in rendering the Red Grouse extinct on Exmoor. Winter rainfall is increasing; such a change in regional precipitation could change the crop regime from autumn to spring sowing which would have knock-on effects for wildlife.

Other major changes are going to include a longer growing season and a reduction in the number of frosts. We are likely to see an increase in the incidence of flooding and the increased potential for more storms and stronger winds. And of course we all know that sea levels will rise.

The most important thing to remember about climate change is that we cannot do anything to prevent it in the short term, we can only adapt to it. Our adaptation strategy must include taking advantage of the opportunities, for example taking advantage of the extended growing season. Such an opportunity can hold benefits for farmers and growers and could also extend the tourist season in West Somerset.

Climate change is caused by the burning of fossil fuels. In order to reduce fossil combustion landowners may be encouraged to develop wind farms or plant bio fuels instead of the more conventional food crops. Foresters may also be encouraged to change their planting regimes to include bio fuels as well. With summer water in short supply we may be asked to allow some valleys to be flooded for reservoir construction. All such land use changes will need careful consideration by the community of West Somerset.

Forum 21 is working with a large number of organisations to mitigate climate change and adapt to it. Together with West Somerset Council, Somerset Wildlife Trust and Somerset Environmental Records Centre, Exmoor National Park and the long term records from the Exmoor Natural History Society, a Biodiversity Action Plan for West Somerset has been produced. West Somerset Council is fully committed to the actions in the plan to protect the wildlife and landscape of West Somerset.

The forthcoming Climate Change Strategy being produced by West Somerset Council and Forum 21 will consider the actions necessary to manage the impacts on biodiversity and landscape so that all aspects of mitigation and adaptation are considered.

Transport and climate change

How are we to go about our normal lives in West Somerset while using only a tenth of the fossil fuels? If climate chaos is to be avoided we will need to reduce our carbon emissions from transport by four per cent every year from now through to 2030.

Most carbon emissions from transport come from cars and planes.

For cars, electric or biofuels look to be the most promising technologies for reducing emissions. Battery technology for electric cars is improving and there is likely to be an affordable model with a reasonable range available within a few years. While pollution from the exhaust disappears the issue then becomes how the electricity is produced in the first place – if by fossil fuels then carbon emissions are just as high. Electricity from renewable sources would be the solution, but we have problems at present producing enough of that for other electricity needs. Perhaps in the 2020s electric cars will be a big part of the answer.

Biodiesel from processed vegetable oil after catering use is already available and can make a useful contribution. Bioethanol is more of a problem, because growing crops to produce it is already driving up food costs and causing loss of rainforests.

The most effective solution must therefore be to reduce the use of cars. Forum 21 believes one of the best ways to reduce car miles is to set up Car Clubs. These will allow people to use a car when they really need one without actually owning one. The local community club owns, taxes, insures and maintains the car – members drive it. The environmental benefit is that members tend to use alternatives much more often than car owners.

The really sustainable transport options are buses, trains, coaches, walking and cycling. The Minehead–Taunton service has increased to half hourly recently, and more passengers would allow higher frequency. The new Slinky Bus – a pre-booked bus-taxi hybrid that calls at your door in rural areas – is an interesting innovation. We encourage drivers to give buses a try – they could be pleasantly surprised.

Apart from our wonderful steam heritage railway, train travel for local people means the national network. The long awaited Taunton link from Minehead deserves support following its revival this summer. A full trial, hopefully leading to a commuter service into Taunton within a few years, could do much to reduce traffic on the A39.

Cycling and walking are the zero carbon options that also offer great health benefits. Many people leave their bikes unused through worry about risk from vehicles. Forum 21 sees a solution, at least in the Minehead-Williton coastal strip, as the creation of a network of mostly off-road safe cycle routes. The Cycle West Somerset project should provide an attractive boost for local tourism as well as a great way to help local people to get back on their bikes.

Electric bikes are already here, and, using only a tenth of the energy of cars, can help cyclists get up our hills.

Carbon emissions from flying have been much in the news recently with the climate action camp protests at Heathrow. Planes have the highest emissions per passenger mile of any form of transport, made worse by the altitude of the pollution. The rapid rise in the number of flights each year make plane travel completely in conflict with the need to cut carbon emissions.

Frequent flyers could think about a personal goal of reducing air miles by a proportion each year, and set themselves a target date for stopping flying altogether. The West Somerset economy can only benefit from a shift of habits back to UK holidays.

The future of low carbon transport therefore looks like being a mixture – walking, cycling and bus for short to medium journeys, coach and train mainly for longer journeys. Cars, probably through the community car club and biofuel or electric driven, will only be used where journeys can’t be done in any other way. We believe that, with these solutions, West Somerset would become an even more pleasant place to live. The change will be challenging, but surely better than climate chaos.

 

 

 

 

Transport and Climate Change

How are we to go about our normal lives in West Somerset while using only a tenth of the fossil fuels? If climate chaos is to be avoided we will need to reduce our carbon emissions from transport by four per cent every year from now through to 2030.

Most carbon emissions from transport come from cars and planes.

For cars, electric or biofuels look to be the most promising technologies for reducing emissions. Battery technology for electric cars is improving and there is likely to be an affordable model with a reasonable range available within a few years. While pollution from the exhaust disappears the issue then becomes how the electricity is produced in the first place – if by fossil fuels then carbon emissions are just as high. Electricity from renewable sources would be the solution, but we have problems at present producing enough of that for other electricity needs. Perhaps in the 2020s electric cars will be a big part of the answer.

Biodiesel from processed vegetable oil after catering use is already available and can make a useful contribution. Bioethanol is more of a problem, because growing crops to produce it is already driving up food costs and causing loss of rainforests.

The most effective solution must therefore be to reduce the use of cars. Forum 21 believes one of the best ways to reduce car miles is to set up Car Clubs. These will allow people to use a car when they really need one without actually owning one. The local community club owns, taxes, insures and maintains the car – members drive it. The environmental benefit is that members tend to use alternatives much more often than car owners.

The really sustainable transport options are buses, trains, coaches, walking and cycling. The Minehead-Taunton service has increased to half hourly recently, and more passengers would allow higher frequency. The new Slinky Bus – a pre-booked bus-taxi hybrid that calls at your door in rural areas – is an interesting innovation. We encourage drivers to give buses a try, they could be pleasantly surprised.

Apart from our wonderful steam heritage railway, train travel for local people means the national network. The long awaited Taunton link from Minehead deserves support following its revival this summer. A full trial, hopefully leading to a commuter service into Taunton within a few years, could do much to reduce traffic on the A39.

Cycling and walking are the zero carbon options that also offer great health benefits. Many people leave their bikes unused through worry about risk from vehicles. Forum 21 sees a solution, at least in the Minehead-Williton coastal strip, as the creation of a network of mostly off-road safe cycle routes. The Cycle West Somerset project should provide an attractive boost for local tourism as well as a great way to help local people to get back on their bikes.

Electric bikes are already here, and, using only a tenth of the energy of cars, can help cyclists get up our hills.

Carbon emissions from flying have been much in the news recently with the climate action camp protests at Heathrow. Planes have the highest emissions per passenger mile of any form of transport, made worse by the altitude of the pollution. The rapid rise in the number of flights each year make plane travel completely in conflict with the need to cut carbon emissions.

Frequent flyers could think about a personal goal of reducing air miles by a proportion each year, and set themselves a target date for stopping flying altogether. The West Somerset economy can only benefit from a shift of habits back to UK holidays.

The future of low carbon transport therefore looks like being a mixture – walking, cycling and bus for short to medium journeys, coach and train mainly for longer journeys. Cars, probably through the community car club and biofuel or electric driven, will only be used where journeys can’t be done in any other way. We believe that, with these solutions, West Somerset would become an even more pleasant place to live. The change will be challenging, but surely better than climate chaos.