Organise a Playing Out scheme or a street party now and bring sustainability to your street!

Street parties are fabulous aren’t they? Bunting, tables of people in the middle of the road, food and entertainment, laughter and music. As for Playing Out schemes, sessions might have less of a fanfare but, short and regular, they can be easier to organise and a sturdy foundation for the community on your road. They get children out in the fresh air and neighbours out onto the street to meet each other – while passing round a packet of custard creams.

With the Big Lunch in early June every year and the Great Get Together later in the same month, street parties are still a big thing and not just for royal occasions. More and more parties are being held simply so neighbours can enjoy each other’s company. This year there is even the big VE Day celebration which is a perfect excuse for a party. 

street party st albans

Meanwhile, Sustainable St Albans and St Albans District Council have now made it possible for residents to apply to close their road more regularly than just a one-off party – up to 8 times per year for the purposes of play and community building through the new Playing Out Scheme introduced this January.

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Free information sessions

Sustainable St Albans’ Playing Out project and volunteer group, Our Street Party, are organising a whole series of information sessions this March. Free to attend and no need to book, they are the perfect chance to find out all about how to organise a one-off street party or a regular Playing Out road closure scheme in your road. More details at the bottom of this article.

How do road closures bring sustainability to a street?

You might be wondering how street parties and Playing Out sessions are relevant to sustainability. Surely they are just about people sitting in the (fingers-crossed!) sunshine, enjoying a cup of tea or a barbecue? Yet it’s true – by organising a road closure on your street, you could actually be doing your bit for sustainability! One look at the Bioregional One Planet Living list of the ten areas of sustainability (below) and you start to realise that these types of community events tick an awful lot of boxes. 

Health & happiness as well as Culture & Community are the obvious ones. It’s not hard to see how pulling residents together on the street outside creates a community – one where cultures mingle, isolation is reduced and all the positives of a good neighbourhood can be strengthened. All those children running around in the fresh air has got to be healthy too!

Yet there are more. Getting to know your neighbours equates to becoming a part of the community. And doing that makes people care about where they live. People have more interest in Equity and local economy when they find out their neighbour runs a local business or charitable organisation. They resolve to shop locally when they hear another business is shutting on the high street. They organise a meal out in a local restaurant with new people they have met.

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And how about Local and Sustainable Food? We all love to talk about our gardens!  We can swap tips with neighbours about growing tomatoes, inspiring each other (or commiserating!). Encouraging one another to grow our own, hearing about local growing projects such as Food Smiles and Incredible Edibles, sharing our knowledge about local food sources – all this is natural conversation between neighbours on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

As for Land Use and Wildlife, there is so much to enjoy in your immediate neighbourhood. From discussions about sightings of garden birds, to plans for Hedgehog Highways (see Wilderhood Watch St Albans), it’s incredible what can come out of such community building events. Residents spend more time in their neighbourhood and see it in a different light – and suddenly there is a proposal to turn a patch of wasteland into a community orchard. 

Of course, Sustainable Transport has to be on the list. From an environmental point of view, children playing on the street immediately outside their house is better than driving to the park. Children learn to ride their bikes right outside their own front door. Before you know it, the parents get bikes and a whole family uses bikes instead of cars for local journeys. 

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From neighbours organising a litter pick (Zero Waste) to sharing information about solar panels (Zero Carbon), there is just no arguing that community building is an important foundation for getting people to care about the environment in the first place.

Organise an event on your street this Summer!

So if you want to do your bit for sustainability but don’t know where to start, why not start with your own neighbours? Get them out onto the street to meet each other and build a community. Who knows what small changes in sustainability your street party might make to your neighbours’ lives – and the ripple effect those might have.

Find out more

To find out more about Playing Out, visit our Playing Out St Albans District webpage.

Watch our new video:

To find out more about Street Parties, visit www.ourstreetparty.org.

Free information sessions March 2020

2020 Twitter Playing Out Information Session copy

Street Parties*: Mon 2 March, 7.00pm The Beech House, St Albans.
Playing Out: Mon 2 March, 8.00pm The Beech House, St Albans.

Street Parties*: Friday 6 March, 10am. The Harpenden Arms, Harpenden.
Playing Out: Friday 6 March, 11am. The Harpenden Arms, Harpenden.

Playing Out: Mon 9 March, 10.30am at The Enchanted Tea Rooms, 71 High St, Redbourn, AL3 7LW.

Playing Out: Tuesday 10th March, 8pm in the St Stephen Suite (upstairs), St Stephen Parish Centre, Station Road, Bricket Wood, St Albans, AL2 3PJ.

Playing Out: Mon 16 March, 10.30am, at Caledon Community Centre, Caledon Road, London Colney, AL2 1PU.

*Street Parties information sessions are run by Our Street Party.

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Lets get growing – in our local – Sopwell – community

‘Grow Community – Sopwell’ is a group of volunteers in Sopwell ward, St Albans who want to encourage and enable local residents  to grow their own food at home and in community spaces, to reduce food waste and to share surplus food in the community and with local charity groups. See the delicious Pumpkin soup recipe at the end!

They also aim to promote local wildlife conservation and restoration projects, connect ongoing initiatives and bring the community together through these activities.


In this week’s blog we talk to Kate Swindells, a Sopwell resident who has started this new local growing project – Grow Community – Sopwell – which is supported by Sustainable St Albans and the growing project FoodSmiles.


Why have you started Grow Community Sopwell?

Having set up an eco Facebook group for mums in St Albans (SAMs eco team)  I can see so many people wanting to do better with plastic-free and low carbon emissions living.

“Growing your own fruit and veg is a great step to being ‘greener’ and is pretty easy once you’ve got started.”

Knowing our local community pretty well and being into gardening myself, it made sense to start off a community growing group in the area where I live. Luckily for us a similar group  Foodsmiles have already set up the Incredible Edible community gardens in the city centre, and we are gaining advice and support from them about how to set it up!

Are there any local groups who want to get involved?

We’ve got the support of our local councillors, churches, and some of the local youth groups already. The local primary schools are also very happy to be supported in what they are already doing and we have strong links with the local allotment society. In the wider St Albans community, we have support from Sustainable St Albans and Foodsmiles which we’re really pleased about.

Do you grow food in your garden at home?

I love to grow food at home, it’s my escape! This year we’ve grown potatoes, loads of leafy vegetables, beans, peas, tomatoes, leeks and pumpkins, and we’ve just bought a miniature apple tree. A lot of the veg is grown in our old recycling boxes! They’re a good size, deep, and have drainage holes already.


Find out more about Grow Community – Sopwell

There will be refreshments, kid’s activities and a pumpkin soup demo as part of Hubbub’s #PumpkinRescue food waste campaign.

How to grow food in a small garden

Come along – be inspired and visit one of our lovely unique FREE Open Food Gardens on Sunday 23 June.

The annual programme is run by local residents – across St Albans, Harpenden and the villages – who are passionate about growing food.

It has been running for over nine years – with hundreds of people coming along to visit the gardens, and being inspired to grow their own food. New for this year – each garden has identified a theme which runs through the garden.

Seedlings are sometimes on offer.  Now included are local allotments, and FoodSmiles community food growing spaces and gardens in Harpenden and St Albans. If you are lucky, you may even get a cuppa and cake.

These events are friendly, informal events. Wander around for  20 minutes, stay an hour and chat to the gardener, talk to the flowers, share ideas with other visitors – its up to you!


Sun June 23rd 3 – 5pm. Theme: raised beds

23 Gresford Close, St Albans AL4 OUB

This is a small garden, found in St Albans, near to Oaklands College. It has been excellently organised to make incredible use of the 10 square metres . This Open Food Garden event will certainly give you ideas about how to pack in the most food growing in small spaces – while maintaining a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere to enjoy the outdoors.

Food is grown in both the back and front gardens. In the south facing front garden there is a mixture of fruit, vegetables and herbs, growbags for tomatoes. The multi-purpose back garden, which also incorporates shaded seating areas, planting to attract wildlife and a small pond, is about 10 metres square. It includes three raised beds where vegetables, minarette fruit trees, soft fruit trained on fences and herbs are grown.

There are several water butts and compost bin. The house has solar panels.IMG_5353


Friendly, fun and informal -you are invited to have a look round, even get a cup of tea and cake if you are lucky! You are welcome to talk to the plants, chat to the gardener or other visitors. Come on your own or bring a neighbour! See what fruit and vegetables can be grown at home! Get tips and advice on designing your vegetable plot and how to deal with critters!

The events are free but we do welcome a suggested £2 donation to Sustainable St Albans charity to help cover the costs.  Volunteers are always needed for the programme especially to help on the day showing visitors in. If you are interested in helping by volunteering on the day, please get in touch and email us click here

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ECOED Challenge and Green Living

We are ECOED LIFE and our mission is to make sustainable living accessible. We believe that no matter how small your actions may seem, they and you are making a big difference.


This week’s blog is from the ECOED LIFE team – why not join in the ECOED challenge for #SustFest19 – download the app before Thursday 9th May


Join the ECOED Challenge during SustFest in StAlbans!

ecoednewgame  With our quiz game app ECOED (that works on most mobile phones and tablets that have iOS or android), you can challenge your family and friends to find out who knows the most about sustainable living.

The game app also gives you tips on actions that you can take at home or in your workplace or school to make a positive difference; like how to create a rain garden, how to reduce food waste or reducing your use of single-use plastics.


Imagine that you decide to cycle to work rather than taking the car. That means one less car on the roads, reducing air pollution and emission of greenhouse gases. Now imagine that not just you decide to leave the car at home, but also your neighbour, your best friend and the new guy who just moved in at the end of the road – that is four cars off the road resulting in even better air quality and less emissions (which are a cause for bigger impact on us and our planet through climate change) – and less congestion. Extend that to their best friends, cousins, aunts…. and so on – you get the picture!


Step-by-step through small changes in your daily habits you can make a difference towards a healthier lifestyle, reduce your environmental footprint and be kinder to our planet and everyone upon it.

So – join the ECOED Challenge which takes place between 11 – 18 May. All you have to do ecoedfamilyis download the free ECOED game app (available on Google Play or App Store) AND start playing – by registering on this link: http://eepurl.com/gpTZ9z

Getting a question right or completing an action will give you points and coins – and three winners will be receiving eco-prizes.

Learn more about Green Living

The winners of the ECOED gaming challenge will be presented with their prizes at the Green Living with ECOED event on 1 June.

At this event we will also have short talks about what it means to live a more sustainable lifestyle, discussions, tips and ideas on actions you can take to make a difference and activities suitable for the whole family.ecoedsmall

You can book the Green Living event on our Facebook page – it is FREE, so bring your family and friends!

Book here: https://www.facebook.com/events/607223626370890/

Looking forward to seeing you on 1 June!

Reci, Turby, Wavi, Halt and the ECOED LIFE Team

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Do you eat food? Then you can change the world.

“We take our groceries for granted, but they’re a big part of every day for us all and it’s easy to forget that what we eat impacts the world in countless ways.”



We are delighted to introduce this fascinating guest blog this week from Naomi Distill, the inspiration behind Incredible Edible St Albans, a project of Food Smiles St Albans – and the winners of  Environmental Champions in the St Albans Mayor’s Pride Awards 2019.


In our modern, global world our food systems play into almost every big issue on earth;

air and water pollution, soil depletion and loss, hunger and poverty, climate change, economy, habitat loss and species extinction, animal cruelty and human slavery, rubbish and landfill, public health and antibiotic resistance.

But as author and activist Michael Pollan famously says:

“The wonderful thing about food is you get three votes a day. Every one of them has the potential to change the world.”

The food with the smallest environmental impact is that which grows easily on the land where you live. That way your food has grown in harmony with its environment without the need for extra inputs, it supports local people and economy, and it doesn’t need to travel, nor be wrapped, gassed and refrigerated for travel. And there’s no better way to reduce those food miles and to know that your food is naturally grown than to grow some of it yourself.

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FoodSmiles St Albans growing site

Healthy food without chemicals and food for the soul

Growing even a little of your own food has countless benefits. Not only do you get healthy food grown without chemicals, without a big carbon footprint and without a plastic wrapper. It is more nutritious and often more delicious, because it’s perfectly fresh and because the soils in biodiverse home gardens and allotments tend to be much more nutrient-rich than tired farm soils bearing monocultures. It’s cheap, easy to do and extemely rewarding.

You get to reconnect with natural cycles and processes that are all but forgotten in modern life..

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..and you get to spend time outdoors, in contact with the earth, hearing the sounds and witnessing the intricacies of nature and breathing fresh air.

You get a little exercise too, and it’s a perfect way to connect with other like-minded people if you decide to take on an allotment or join a community growing scheme.

But I don’t know how

A lot of people seem afraid to try growing food because they feel they don’t know how, but there really is nothing simpler than putting a few seeds in some compost, keeping it moist and seeing what happens, and you have little to lose!

seedlings

Plants WANT to grow – they WANT to succeed and fruit and prosper –

..so many will take care of themselves if you just provide for their basic needs, and the back of the seed pack usually has a few useful tips too (ALWAYS to be taken as guidelines, not gospel!) and there are many books and websites available to guide you along the way. As with learning to cook, you won’t get everything right all the time, but you’ll learn as you go along and improve each and every time you try!

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Where to begin

Identify where you’re going to grow..

..choosing an area with as much direct sunshine and natural light as possible.

Next, choose your veg. A great way to do this is to first think of the vegetables you already eat most at home – though if you subsist on aubergines, sweet potatoes and chickpeas some compromise might be a good idea; some crops are easy while others have trickier needs, so it’s a good idea to start with the simplest or else grow a mix!

The absolute easiest crops to grow in our climate are potatoes, French beans, broad beans, Swiss chard, courgettes, tomatoes, beetroots, lettuces and salad leaves.

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Swiss Chard is easy to grow

Short on space

red radishThough you’d get more from a garden patch, many useful crops can be grown in pots on your patio, front drive or even a balcony, and many people grow significant amounts of food this way. Focus on crops that give a continuous harvest for a period, such as tomatoes, beans, and salad greens, and be sure to water (and feed) well as pots often dry out faster than the earth.

Short on time?

Perennial crops save loads of time and last year-round or come back each spring, with no need for digging the soil, sowing, transplanting and so on each year. Fruit bushes, strawberries, rhubarb and woody herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano etc.) are all reliable low-maintenance perennials..

..but also consider searching out perennial greens such as Caucasian vining spinach, perennial kale, sea beet, wild rocket, sorrel and more, as well as reliable self-seeders such as purslane, winter purslane and land cress.

Once planted, your food plot will need little care other than occasional weeding and thinning, and annual pruning of fruit bushes.

Short on sunshine

Leafy crops are a good choice for shady plots; try lettuces, rocket, cabbage, kale, spring onions, spinach and chard.

If your plot gets sunlight for half the day, most root crops will be okay too; potatoes, carrots and beetroots are all well worth a try, and so are peas and broad beans.

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What are you waiting for?

Now is the perfect time to start planning, whether you’d like to rent an allotment, revamp the garden or just start a single pot on your patio. Grow a little something this year and see how rewarding, healthy and delicious it can be!

Or if you’re still not ready to go it alone, consider joining a community growing group such as FoodSmiles St Albans, where members work together to grow food and learn growing skills –

or join us at one of our Incredible Edible gardens where you can see how we do it and grill us with your gardening questions!

Tips for low-carbon growing:

  • Buy only peat-free compost (or make your own, but clean and sterile commercial compost will give you a higher success rate when seed-sowing).
  • Grow from organic seeds or seeds that you (or a friend) have saved. Organic seeds come from strains of plants that haven’t had to rely on chemical fertilisers or pesticides, so their offspring shouldn’t have to rely on them either.
  • Sow at the correct time, when light levels and temperatures are adequate for what you’re trying to grow – this avoids the need for growlights or heated propagators. Often a seed packet will tell you the very earliest time you could possibly get away with sowing a seed, but aim a bit later to give it the best chance. On a similar note, do you best to grow plants which are suitable for your location; plants with less-than-desirable growing conditions often need more input to keep them healthy. Consider growing more of the things you grow well, and swapping some with a friend who succeeds with different crops.
  • Avoid chemical fertilisers and pesticides, which have a high carbon footprint and harm the soil, the insect life and possibly you! Most pest problems on a small scale can be controlled by hand (removal or squishing!), with a mild home-made soap spray, or by using insect-proof mesh to keep insects off.
  • Install a water butt to harvest rainwater for your garden.
  • Don’t be tempted by all the fancy equipment that’s available! Buy only what you need, or share tools with a friend, and buy quality that will last. And try not to buy plastic pots – many gardeners will have a surplus they’re happy to share with you, or you can easily find inspiration online for repurposing other containers for food-growing.

Naomi Distill, FoodSmiles St Albans 2019 (All photos from Naomi Distill).

 

If you are intrigued and want to find out more – FoodSmiles St Albans are taking part in SustFest19 with at least three events during the festival.

Sat 11 May: FoodSmiles Open Day, and site tour – with cake!  Hammonds End Farm site

Sun 12 May: Incredible Edible, Civic Centre St Albans

Sat 25th May: Incredible Edible Russell AVe, St Albans

Also see Open Food Gardens 2019 programme

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