Stories of environmental disaster are rarely out of the news these days, and it’s difficult not to see the future of our planet as a bleak one. Food waste is a huge contributor to this. In 2015, we threw away 7.3 million tonnes of perfectly edible food. This is the equivalent in carbon emissions terms of 1 in 4 cars on UK roads.
One in four. Just let that sink in for a minute.
And yet progress on cutting food waste remains painfully slow. Countries such as France have outlawed food waste but few have followed their example. Like we said, it can be difficult to remain optimistic especially when, week after week, we’re collecting bags and bags of fruit and veg – some of which has clocked up a frightening number of food miles.
That’s why events such as the recent Earth Optimism Day are so necessary.
Our local event, organised by the Cambridge Conservation Initiative, was packed full of hopeful stories and talks from inspiring figures such as Jane Goodall and David Attenborough.
We were delighted to be asked to take part in the Solutions Fair, a key part of the day that highlighted the practical steps people are taking to minimise the effects of climate change. The fair was organised around four themes; buying smart, going wild, bright ideas and eating well. A perfect opportunity for us to showcase the work of FoodCycle hubs across the country! And we were in great company with Hotel Chocolat, Cambridge Sustainable Food, Hodmedods, the Sustainable Fish Campaign and Cambridge Carbon Footprint.
The David Attenborough Building was busy from the minute the doors opened at 11 until the fair shut at 4. Our volunteers had an absolute blast talking to so many people about food waste, its environmental impact and how projects like ours, that try and work towards a more sustainable food system, can make a real difference. We handed out plate after plate of food waste tasters, including Cajun spiced kale chips, crostini with roasted peppers, walnuts and goats cheese, and kiwi fruit salsa.
The highlight of the day had to be when the day’s main speaker stopped by our stall, grimacing as he asked for something to take away the taste of the 100% cocoa chocolate he’d just eaten.
Once we’d recovered the power of speech, we had a great chat with Sir David about where all the fruit we were offering visitors had come from; bananas from Colombia, a Jamaican papaya – even the apples weren’t local. As he stood there, casually eating our grapes, he was outraged to hear that everything on our trays had been destined for the supermarket’s bins just one day earlier – especially when it had come from so far afield.
A truly amazing day, and one we won’t forget for a long time. Not only did we meet an all time hero, we saw and spoke to hundreds of engaged, motivated people (especially children) who are ready for change.
Reason to be optimistic indeed.