Follow the Blue Dot trail

From May 11th ’til June 1st join in with Plastic Free St Albans Blue Dot Art Trail #SustFest19 event. Spot the dots and discover a variety of creative perspectives on the topic of single-use plastic through the lens of local artists.

• Over 30 incredible pieces of art created by local artists
• Covering a multitude of media from oil painting, photography to mixed media
• Being exhibited in many venues in and around St Albans incl Courtyard Cafe, Inn On the Park, St Albans Museum, Raft, The Refill Pantry, Headcase barbers, Fade to Black and many more…
• Can be experienced as a full trail or in separate visits, let’s see how many dots you can spot to protect our precious planet, the earth, our blue dot.
• Find the digital map @ https://plasticfreestalbans.org.uk/sustfest19-art-trail/

Don’t forget to share your thoughts and ideas about the trail and what we can do to reduce single-use plastic on our plastic free St Albans FB page, Instagram or twitter! Include #bluedotarttrail

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.

2017 working together2

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..

beetroot

..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!

flower peas

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.

leaves

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.

beansand carrots

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

onions leeks

Going Plastic Free

There’s more to going plastic free than refusing straws in cocktails – and taking a look at your use of single use plastic can get to the heart of where things in your life are coming from and what you are consuming.


In January, groups can register their events for St Albans Sustainability Festival…so we thought we would help you get in the mood with this fabulous guest blog on Going Plastic Free – from Amanda Yorwerth, presenter of Radio Verulam’s Environment Matters, and campaigner at St Albans Friends of the Earth and Plastic Free St Albans….


 

stringbagBe prepared

Plastic lined coffee cups, plastic carrier bags and water bottles have been the items that have hit the headlines, and the key to avoiding disposable plastic items outside the house is going like a scout and being prepared.

We’ve all got plenty of cotton carrier bags sitting at home – it’s remembering to take them to the shops that’s the tricky bit. Perhaps a Post It on the front door or always having a bag tightly folded in your handbag might help.

RefillA Spork tucked into your handbag, or even jacket pocket, will take the place of any plastic cutlery or drinks stirrer and a Stojo collapsible coffee cup will be there whenever you fancy a cuppa on the go. Now that so many local companies are signed up to Refill https://refill.org.uk/  the scheme that allows you to fill up your own water bottle when you’re out, there’s no reason to buy plastic bottles of water. Oh, and in case you were thinking that bottled water is better for you, take a look at this https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-11193/7-reasons-to-never-drink-bottled-water-again.html

Free your vegetables

vegSo often, our fruit and veg arrives encased in plastic. But increasingly you can choose loose veg and take your own bag. Even market traders are increasingly happy to use your proffered cotton bag. Better still, grow your veg and make sure all that fruit on your trees finds a home. But do remember also that food waste is an even bigger problem than plastic pollution and that plastic packaging can help reduce food waste.

 

Clean up the bathroom

Wipes for your face, your bum or indeed anything else, are plastic based and cause havoc in the aquatic habitat, so stick to tissue paper or use one of the many reuseable bamboo wipes now available. Plastic free cotton buds are widely available and The Refill Pantry https://www.therefillpantry.co.uk/ or Eat Wholefoods https://www.eatwholefoods.co.uk/ will refill your shampoo, conditioner and moisturiser bottles. Girls, every month those disposable sanitary items are causing plastic pollution (yes – they are made of plastic – take a look) so try enduring products like period pants from local company WUKA https://wuka.co.uk/ or a Moon Cup https://www.mooncup.co.uk – widely available.

Plastic free store cupboard

refill shop.pngWith a wide range of pasta, rice, nuts, seeds, dried fruit and snacks, The Refill Pantry allows you to fill up your own containers and Patrick from Eat Wholefoods will do the same if you visit their warehouse on Hatfield Road.

Don’t forget the laundry

Woefully, many of our favourite items of clothing contain plastic fibres that escape into the environment when they are washed. Obviously selecting natural fibres when we buy clothes will help, but in the meantime wash synthetic items only when they really need it, wash on a shorter, cooler wash and catch escaping fibres in a Guppy Bag http://guppyfriend.com/en/

Editor note: see more about microbeads at  #Whatsinmywash campaign

whatsinmywash

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Gold Sponsor Spotlight: @Lussmanns

Sustainable St Albans Week 2018 couldn’t operate without the support of so many local organisations.  We thought we’d take this opportunity to focus on each of our sponsors, in the run up to the week.

Lussmanns St Albans is situated on Waxhouse Gate overlooking the Vintry Gardens and they were delighted to get involved as Gold Sponsors.

“Once again, I am proud to support Sustainable St Albans Week, which goes from strength to strength every year. At Lussmanns we strive to deliver consistently great food, service and value, while making sustainable dining accessible to everyone.  I hope that our participation helps to demonstrate that it’s possible to be ethical and profitable, and that there are many like-minded businesses working to achieve this goal.”  Andrei Lussmann

Paul Winch-Furness / Photographer

Paul Winch-Furness / Photographer

The restaurant was born from Andrei Lussmann’s vision of a locals-driven restaurant that consistently delivers great food, service and value, while making sustainable dining accessible to everyone.  Andrei has now set up four Hertfordshire restaurants: St Albans, Harpenden, Hertford, Tring, Hitchin.

They are founder members of the Sustainable Restaurant Association, SRA 3-star champions and two-time winners of Sustainable Small Restaurant Group of the Year. They aim to be..in the words of the Independent on Sunday… ‘ethical, delicious and preach-free’.  See more about the restaurant’s commitment to sustainable food here.

We are thrilled to have Lussmanns on board. Both last year and this year they have beautifully hosted our end of week Thank-you party for all our sponsors and key funders.    More information about Lussmanns can be found on their website www.lussmanns.com

 

lussmanns_logo

Sustainable St Albans Week runs from 21- 29 April 2018 with 100+ events. We would not happen without the support and enthusiasm of our wonderful sponsors.

This year we especially want to thank our Community Sponsors  who are   BRE Trust Just Energy Solutions  and Rothamsted Research.

We want to give a huge thank-you to all of our Gold Sponsors including AECOM engineering firm, Allsopp estate agents, Godfrey’s Green Energy, Independent Locker Solutions Ltd, JPA Furniture, Lussmanns, Lyndhurst Financial Management,  and Veolia environmental services.

Dreaming of a Green Christmas?

How to make the most of Christmas, whilst also being kinder to our community and environment.

1. TREES

A real Christmas tree seems an obvious choice. However, almost 8 million trees are purchased in December in the UK alone, resulting in intensive production and potentially a lot of waste. When purchasing a real tree, to ensure the tree has been grown sustainably, look out for the FSC- certification logo. After Christmas, see if you can get your tree recycled. If you have an artificial tree, keep using it, make it last for as long as possible. Sites such as freecycle can help you source a pre-loved one.

2. GIFTS

This is where you can be really creative. Homemade crafts and foods make for great gifts. If you are looking to save money, why not offer to do something nice for someone instead by issuing free “Christmas Gift Cheques”? You can find these online, where you can download and print as many as you need. When shopping for presents, consider buying from local shops and market traders.

3. FOOD

You can make a considerable difference to a more sustainable Christmas by considering your food habits over the festive period. Going vegetarian for part of the holidays can reduce your environmental impact. When it comes to meat, try to source organic meat and consider ways to make your festive roasts last longer. Reducing food waste is also very important – be creative with leftovers, think about what you can freeze, or maybe plate up some leftovers for an elderly neighbour, food bank or soup kitchen?

4. DECORATIONS

Most of us love festive decorations, elaborate wrapping paper and receiving Christmas cards. However, it is estimated that paper waste over Christmas produces the equivalent of several million litres of biofuel. Recycling and making your own decorations is a great way to be more sustainable and getting the kids involved can be lots of fun. When it comes to cards, e-cards are far kinder on the environment by reducing your carbon footprint, saving trees and saving money! If you prefer to send real cards, consider buying them locally and choosing cards that support a good cause.

5. CHRISTMAS ACTIVITIES

Could you live without the TV, tablet or games console at all over Christmas? Switching off these devices is kinder to the environment. Why not dig out an old board game or two, they are great ways of keeping friends and families entertained and it is just possible that this could be a brand-new experience for youngsters. If looking to venture outdoors, consider going for a walk around our beautiful city, or maybe a cycle ride?