Wednesday, 7 December 2016

My tips for a sustainable Christmas holiday

I've been thinking about seasonal sustainable tips for a flyer for our Lush charity pot party (on the 18th of this month). These are the tips I used, with a bit more detail than fits on the leaflet. I am sure you can suggest more.

Lovely Leftovers
Leftovers make ideal convenience food. They are already cooked and need very little processing to turn them into a quick meal such as curry, hash, risotto, wraps, soups. Roast vegetables, in particular, are extra tasty and it would be an appalling waste to throw them away. They can be used over the next few days or put in the freezer for later.  (Cambridge Sustainable Food has some recipes here.)

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Organic Cycles

Paul Robinson of Fen End Farm has written a blog post for Cam Cycle on why he is so pleased about using Outspoken Delivery for delivering their organic veg around  Cambridge. He also talks about the Cambridge Cropshare gang coming to the farm by bike and returning at the end of the day with 'haversacks and panniers bulging with fruit and vegetables harvested that day'.  Finally there is the possibility of using bikes on the farm and incorporating bits of bicycles into new farm machinery. It's a nice story - do take a look.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

What is it like to drive an electric car? - our experiences

By coincidence, two Energy Group members acquired an electric car in January: Ian and James. However they have very different experiences: they have different cars; Ian bought his while James has a rental agreement; Ian mainly charges his at home from his PV panels while James’ car is mainly charged at work. They both agree that driving an electric car requires some planning and adaptation but they love to drive their new vehicles and have no regrets.

Hanna, Ian’s niece, demonstrates how to charge Ian’s electric BMW.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Route Vegetables - a cycling tour of Growing Spaces

Cycling around Cambridge on a warm Saturday afternoon (11th June) on the Route Vegetables tour I was amazed by the sheer variety of vegetable and herb plots we have created through the Growing Spaces project. Some of them I had passed by many times without realising they were ours. Thanks to Marie for organising this tour of enlightenment and thanks to Toni for telling us about the different plots. Each one is tended by a different person or team of people but Toni somehow manages to keep track.

Marie inspecting Mizuna leaves at ARU

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Sustainable Drainage – and why you need drought tolerant plants in a rain garden

On Saturday 28th May, Simon Bunn from Cambridge City Council took us on a tour of sustainable drainage features on the new housing estates around Trumpington. It may have been a Saturday morning but this was definitely worth getting up for. Thanks to Dawn and the Staying Dry project for organising this! There is nothing like getting out into the field to understand how things work at a landscape scale. Here are some photos to show you what we saw.

Simon describing the swale
This is Simon telling us about the first feature, which is a swale. But first, you need to know what is the point of sustainable drainage.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Funding Transition Cambridge

A guest post from Jacky.

In these ever more austere times of cutbacks and shrinking public resources, I often wonder how we in Transition Cambridge seem to be so active and busy as a group with not very much cash to hand.

Our income streams are small and mostly operate in the background: a donations bowl at shows and events, a Local Giving page, and the occasional random windfall cheque - from a grateful individual who benefited in some way from our activities! Some Transition groups have successfully applied for grants and funding and a small contribution from successful grant applications made under the TC name goes to help fund our running costs. There are a surprising number of grant opportunities around, ranging from a few hundred to several thousand pounds. Check out the Resources page on our website where there's a link to a handy page of local money pots. If you know of any others, do let us know or post details on our Facebook page. Occasionally a bigger; windfall comes along: the Sharing Feast of Liberated Food and Song in March raised over £500 to share between Transition Cambridge and Food Cycle.

Over the last few years we've been able to buy important resources (see pictures) but mostly our funds are spent on things with a relatively short life: beautiful posters and leaflets, often designed on a shoestring budget or by generous donations of time and expertise. Also we have expenses for essentials that keep the whole Transition Cambridge machine running such as website hosting, MeetUp membership fees and the odd stamp and envelope.

This super-large marquee is great for events that might need rain protection.

Our beautiful eye-catching Transition Cambridge display banner – light and portable, it gets several outings per year

Cropshare uses hoes purchased with a Sustainable City grant from Cambridge City Council

It's good to know that we can make things can happen without much  cash – but also good to remember  that none of it would happen without  the  energy,  passion and  community spirit of Transitioners!   

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Transitioning to a circular economy

At the last energy group meeting the topic was the circular economy and how we can help to make it happen. Just as it is a challenge to achieve economic growth without using more energy, it is a challenge to do so without using more materials. However, given that we only have one finite planet we cannot sustainably use more and more materials.

I volunteered to research the subject ahead of the meeting and you can read my full report, including points made during the discussion, on my website here. Here are some interesting facts and some of the advice about helping the circular economy happen.

Fact 1: EU regulations require car manufacturers to recycle 85% of the materials in cars that have come to the end of their life. In the UK we usually do this by bashing the car into small pieces and sorting the bits. In Poland they employ people to take the cars apart by hand.

Fact 2:  In Canada there is a company called The Beer Store that reuses all its bottles and packaging.  They run a deposit scheme to encourage people to bring back the packaging back. Bottles are reused 12-15 times and 97.7% of their bottles are returned. Many other countries also have a deposit scheme but the returned bottles are recycled rather than reused. The main aim is to reduce litter.

Fact 3: Composite stuff is much harder to recycle than stuff made of one material. For example disposable coffee cups are often made of cardboard with a plastic liner. There is one company in the UK called SimplyCups that can take these apart and recycle the bits.

Fact 4: In the linear economy manufacturers get money by selling us stuff and they have little to gain by making it last a long time. From their point of view, the sooner it breaks the sooner we need a new one. Also it doesn't benefit the manufacturers if stuff is easy to repair. However, if we were to rent stuff then the supply company gets lots of benefit from making stuff last a long time and being easy to repair. Renting changes the whole business model in a way that encourages less material use.

Here are some things we can do to encourage the circular economy to become more mainstream.

  • When buying stuff, consider buying second hand. 
  •  When you have stuff you do not need, consider selling it or giving it to a charity shop. 
  • If your stuff needs mending, consider taking it to a professional repair service. 
  • If you are a designer consider ease of recycling as part of your design 
  • Campaign for returnable bottles with deposits, like in Denmark, Germany and Canada 
  • The next time you need to replace an appliance, consider renting instead.
CCF has some advice about this as well - and a challenge for you - on their Circular Cambridge campaign website.

Our next meeting will be about the energy used to make things - embodied energy. It is easy enough to find out how much energy you use when you operate your car, computer, house, kettle or whatever - but how much energy was used to make them?