What will you give up for Lent?
Some years ago I gave up chocolate for Lent. It was hard but I managed it. Finally Easter arrived and I could indulge my addiction again – but horror of horrors I found I no longer much cared for the taste. It took me some weeks of determined application before I could truly call myself a chocoholic again! Many people give up food or drink for Lent but here are some alternative actions we could take instead which would benefit not just ourselves but the planet.
1 We could give up wasting food.
In the UK in 2015 7.3 million tonnes of edible food (worth £13 billion) were thrown away. It was estimated that the average person could save £200 a year by shopping and planning their food consumption better. In addition most food waste goes into landfill where it produces methane gas and adds to the problem of global warming.
One reason for so much waste is misunderstanding of food labelling. Only two labels are really important - ‘use by’ and ‘best before’.
‘Use by’ dates apply to perishable foods e.g. fresh meat, fish. The date given is the cut-off date after which it is considered unsafe to eat the product. It is important therefore to look at these dates when buying food and also to keep an eye on them in the fridge. If you are not going to be able to eat it by the ‘use by’ date then you can freeze or cook/freeze the item to use later.
‘Best before’ dates refer to the quality of the product. It will still be safe to eat after the ‘best before’ date but may not taste quite as good although you could remedy that by using some extra herbs or spices or adding a little wine or cream.
Labels such as ‘sell by’ and ‘display until’ are just instructions to the retailer to help their stock control. The labels do not refer to the safety or quality of the food.
Many foods remain edible even beyond the ‘use by’ date e.g. foods with lots of fat such as hard cheese, sugary foods like jams or biscuits, salty items like pickles or crisps, dried pasta, rice, pulses and tinned goods. If it looks OK and smells OK it more than likely is OK. A useful website which provides advice about how long food lasts is www.eatby.com
2. We could give up buying too much food
I shop weekly and now try to buy for 6 days rather than 7 as I often find I have more than I need. If I do miscalculate, I either buy on the day, treat myself to a takeaway or fall back on something from the store cupboard. The experts say that when people plan their meals and make a shopping list they are much less likely to overbuy.
3. We could give up throwing away our leftovers
You can make delicious soup from chicken bones, or leftover vegetables and potatoes. Try stretching small amounts of meat with lots of vegetables, make bread and butter pudding (both savoury and sweet), add leftovers to stir-frys or pasta sauces
If you exhaust all the possibilities for yourself, don’t forget the birds or the compost heap. Mix leftover fat with scraps of meat, breadcrumbs, peanuts, oats and a few raisins to make a delicious pudding for the birds. (This also saves disposing of the fat elsewhere and helps avoid ‘fatbergs’ in our sewers.) Anything which goes on the compost heap is not completely wasted.
4. We could give up driving so much.
I know it’s not possible for lots of people, but the rest of us could make the effort to walk a bit more. Even one car journey saved a week would help.
5. We could give up sitting in our cars with the engine running.
I live near Sutton Girls School and see people doing this every day. It is a major cause of pollution and is particularly harmful to babies and young children.
6. We could give up using the tumble drier so much.
Instead we could hang washing outside when the weather is fine and use the heat from radiators when it’s not.
These are just some of the topics we have discussed recently at Eco-Maney and we would be very glad to have more suggestions from people at St Peter’s.
Notes from Eco Maney for Parish Magazine (January/February 2017)
Plastic Bag recycling
If you have plastic bags you wish to recycle, some supermarkets provide bins for their customers. Currently we have noticed that Sainsbury’s and Waitrose at Mere Green provide this service. Tesco’s at New Oscott have stopped this recycling service. Eco Maney has written to the company urging them to start it again.
Paper for your printer
St Peter’s has moved to using recycled paper in the office. This is bought at a reasonable price because we subscribe to the C of E Parish Buying scheme. We have arranged that the paper will be available on the monthly Traidcraft stall at the cost price of £3 per ream/packet. This is another small way that we can preserve the resources of the Earth.
Garden Recycling Bins
The City’s service for collecting your garden rubbish in the brown-top bins starts again on March 6th (or the next week, depending on which week your blue-top bin is collected).
Traidcraft Stall Results for 2016
We have managed a big jump in takings at the stall. The figures for 2016 from our supplier at Wylde Green URC show that we sold some £800 worth of goods more than last year.
Eco Maney Notes
You may have wondered why our Eco Church status has not led us to set up a car-sharing scheme. This is an obvious way of reducing our carbon footprint without too much trouble.
Eco Maney discussed the idea at a recent meeting and discovered that if St Peter’s officially ran such a scheme, then the church would have to incur the expense of insurance cover for organising the project. So although it’s a fine ‘green’ idea, we won’t be going down that road (ouch).
“The SEP (Somebody Else’s Problem) field can be run for over a hundred years on a single torch battery. This is because it relies on people’s natural predisposition not to see anything they don’t want to, weren’t expecting, or can’t explain.”
From Life, the Universe and Everything by Douglas Adams
It took a determined effort over several days for me to break through the SEP field shielding my computer in order to complete a WWF personal carbon footprint audit (http://footprint.wwf.org.uk/). Rather than rewarding my tenacity, the website informed me that my carbon footprint was 124% of my share, over twice the world average. This is equivalent to 12.7 tonnes of carbon, or the emissions of 13 medium haul flights, or the annual emissions of 7 small cars. Charming!
One of the issues discussed at our recent Eco Maney meeting was the impact of our lifestyles on the environment. Some of these effects are all too obvious. The increasing ownership and use of cars has resulted in road congestion and deterioration of our air quality. The over packaging of supermarket food and burgeoning fast food industry has led to increased amounts of waste and litter. Heating our homes draws on the ever dwindling supply of natural energy reserves. However, as a result of climate change it is those living in some of the world’s poorest countries who will bear the most serious consequences of our modern lifestyles. Over the coming decades, it is predicted that weather, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, with become more extreme, with draught and flash flooding contributing to increasingly poor harvests. If our world cannot offer effective humanitarian relief for the awful famines happening today, how will we cope if the situation deteriorates in the future?
In the face of such huge global problems, it is tempting to bury our heads in the sand. But, if we are prepared to take our duty of stewardship for God’s creation seriously, this isn’t an option. Looking critically at our own carbon footprint, using a carbon footprint audit tool or something similar, is a useful way of focusing on the small practical steps we can take. For example, we could think for a moment about whether our journey is really necessary before jumping into the car. Could we benefit from the exercise of walking instead? Or, if we struggle to get around, could we ask our friends or neighbours whether they would like to car-share to church or the supermarket; this may be appreciated for social reasons as much as anything else! And, when changing our cars, we could consider a hybrid or electric vehicle, or at least avoiding a car with a highly polluting diesel engine. When we are shopping it is fairly easy to get into the habit of recycling carrier bags and avoiding over packaged food, although this is more challenging with internet shopping (and when shopping for a baby!). It is also worth looking beyond the “big six” energy providers for domestic energy: many smaller companies offer power from renewable sources (see https://www.bigchurchswitch.org.uk/domestic-switch).
Our individual actions alone will not stop climate change. But perhaps we can at least turn off our Somebody Else’s Problem fields, acknowledge the problem and our part in it, and think about how we might change our lifestyles for the better.
Eco Church – the next step
Being a practising Christian is not all lovely services and meeting nice people, sometimes it is hard and responsible work, as the Care Team, Cleaning Team & others know . And being an Eco Church is no exception. No sooner did we get our Bronze Award than the Bishop asked us to take the lead for the whole diocese by being ready to encourage other parishes who are wondering what to do.
And the Eco Church scheme expects us all as individuals to keep an eye on our lifestyle and to aim to be as green as our personal circumstances allow.
At the beginning of May, Owen introduced us to one way that we can all get a rough idea about our own carbon footprint. He pointed us to the ‘tool’ provided by the World Wildlife Fund (http:/footprint.wwf.org.uk/). Some of us in Eco Maney used our computers to do this check. We thought we would have ‘good’ scores, but that wasn’t the case.
During September we want to encourage St Peter’s members to try this lifestyle audit. We will then make a count of how many people joined in. We won’t want your results, just whether you did the exercise. The point is that we need to show that this is a congregation supported project.
And for those who are a bit uncertain about computers, we will have a session in coffee-time with laptops and personal guidance on how to use the ‘tool’. Please join in and help us to move towards a Silver Award in Eco Church.
And as for the reason why we at St Peter’s are taking our carbon footprint seriously, we have recently seen a pamphlet from USPG which contains the following ‘reverse mission message’ from Canon Samitiana Jhonson in Madagascar: “The church has also started to think more about how we can protect the land, manage our water and support communities hit by disasters.....Globally we know that we are facing different degrees of climate change and that some parts of the world are more exposed than others. But the impact of climate change cannot be denied: it is visible and real and we need to help each other to understand that. We need to be globally aware and to think deeply on behalf of communities where climate change is life-destroying. We need to listen to each other as one community and learn from each other’s strengths and weaknesses so that we may rebuild lives and face climate change together. As Christians, Creation – and re-creation – must be part of our liturgy and teaching.”
Maney in Bloom
At this time of year the cold days and long evenings can make memories of summer feel very distant. It seems strange that only a few months ago I could take Felicity (my one year old daughter) into the garden without first having to wrap her up in jumper, coat, hat and gloves! Now that the garden is in the middle of a deep sleep, I find myself looking forward to its unfolding over the coming year.
Fortunately we can all look forward to especially vibrant public spring and summer flower displays this year after Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council announced their entry into the Heart of England regional heats of Britain in Bloom. The council have already funded the planting of 40,000 early flowering bulbs and are supporting environmental projects in schools through the Mayor’s Eco Challenge.
As part of this effort Eco Maney will be co-ordinating local ‘Maney in Bloom’ working parties. We plan to collect litter from some of the surrounding streets and to continue to maintain improve the church grounds, particularly Tower Walk. We will be reaching out to the local community to lend a hand. This will be an opportunity to demonstrate the church’s commitment to the welfare of the wider parish and also to build relationships that may draw new people into the church. If you have any other ideas for Maney in Bloom please get in contact with one of the Eco Maney team – we would love to hear your thoughts. In the meantime, we can all look forward to a very colourful 2018!
Know Your Plastics
A great deal has been written and talked about plastic since David Attenborough’s Blue Planet 2 showed the terrible damage being done to our oceans and marine life. Numerous articles about going plastic free or giving up one-use plastics are circulating. Now we are surely fooling ourselves if we think we can give up plastics altogether. Plastic contributes greatly to our daily lives and has many beneficial uses e.g. solar panels are largely made from plastics as are parts of wind turbines; plastics have made cars and aircraft much lighter and therefore more energy efficient; although there is too much of it, plastic packaging helps eliminate food waste.
Below is a brief explanation of the most common plastics we deal with.
Food trays and roasting bags
Boil in the bag pouches
Fibre for clothes and carpets
Most widely recycled plastic in the world.
May absorb odours from food or drink stored in it. Better not to re-use for food and not after heating
High Density Polyethylene
Bottles for cleaning products
Food boxes Toys
Garden furniture, Wheelie and compost bins
No known health concerns
Credit cards Shower curtains
Pipes, guttering, window and door frames
Contains harmful phthalates.
Not for food use. Old plastic containers may have been made with PVC so avoid using for food.
Low Density Polyethylene
Cling film, food bags
No known health concerns but better to avoid using cling film with fatty foods such as cheese and do not use in the microwave
Most bottle tops
Yogurt and margarine pots
Crisp bags Drinking straws
Fabrics and carpets
Small amounts of plastic may be transferred to food when microwaved. Safer to use glass or ceramic
Egg boxes Vending cups
Takeaway containers Disposable cutlery
Various health concerns. Styrene is possibly a carcinogen
Polycarbonate is used in bottles , compact discs and medicine containers
Depends on type of plastic but generally difficult to recycle
Polycarbonate is derived from BPA which has been found to be a hormone disruptor.
Only buy BPA free plastics
- Some steps we can take to reduce our plastic use:
- Buy as little one-use plastic as possible
- Avoid plastic water bottles,one-use coffee cups, plastic cutlery
- Refuse plastic straws
- Take your own bag to the shops
- Buy loose fruit and veg and put it unwrapped into your bag
- Use greaseproof paper or tinfoil to wrap food instead of cling film
- Use glass, ceramic or stainless steel for food storage and microwaving
- Use a bar of soap rather than liquid; a safety razor not disposables
- Avoid wet wipes – use a flannel or cotton pads/wool
- Choose clothing made with natural fibres
- Look for recyclable sweet and chocolate wrappers or buy Pick and Mix
- Give up chewing gum (it’s actually made of plastic!)
2. Take care how we dispose of plastics:
- Check out what can be recycled in wheelie bins and at the tip www.birmingham.gov.uk
- Recycle plastic bags plus the plastic film from magazines/catalogues at supermarkets
- Before throwing anything out check if there is a reuse or recycling option available e.g. companies who sell consumer goods must take away your old appliance for recycling – this covers kettles and toasters as well as big items; if you are not buying new, electrical items can be recycled at the local tip;most charity shops will take unwearable clothes/bedding for rags; if you are having work done on your house check what is going to happen to the old materials – there is even a scheme for recycling vinyl flooring.
3. Lobby supermarkets, manufacturers, shopkeepers, utility companies, MPs. Talk to friends and neighbours about the problems and what we can do to improve things.
- Bio-degradable plastics exist – we need more investment in developing them
- Over-packagingcan be reduced – Iceland are setting a target which the other supermarkets will have to follow
- Washing machine manufacturers and water authorities can develop better filtering systems to stop micro fibres from getting into the seas and water supply
4. Don’t worry about being different.If people see you putting fruit and vegetables in your trolley without plastic bags it will raise their awareness and encourage them to follow your example.Staff at the checkout are quite used to it.
On Saturday March 24th the Diocesan Synod met. There was good news for us about the environment at that meeting. Firstly we heard that General Synod in July will be debating a motion on how we can improve our care of The Earth. Secondly the diocese adopted its Environment Policy, which we will put onto the parish website. While introducing the policy Rev Patrick Gerard explained that 20 parishes have applied to become Eco Churches; and 7 have already received their Bronze Awards. In doing this he paid tribute to Beryl Moppett and BACA (Birmingham Anglicans for Climate Action), who help him to explain Eco Church to parishes and deaneries. St Peter’s have 3 members of BACA.
On Friday May 11th (10.10 am in the Diocesan Offices) BACA are holding an open meeting for everyone who is interested in Eco Church. This is an opportunity for all at St Peter’s to come and meet people from all the other Bronze Award congregations; and to share ideas on how we can all encourage more take-up of this scheme, so that we can achieve an Eco Diocese Bronze Award. Please see if you can come – the meeting is timed for the pensioner train pass on the 9.30 train; and from New Street the new tram service takes you close to Colmore Row where the diocese is based.
Before Christmas BACA met with Bishop Anne to make arrangements for a joint event with the Midlands Quakers on the need to maintain momentum about sticking to the carbon reduction targets set by the Paris Agreement in 2015. This seminar, called “A Future for All...” will be held on Saturday July 14th and an interesting and inspiring programme is being devised. As it is being held in the city centre, do think about coming and more importantly please encourage your friends from other churches to come too. This is an ecumenical and Midlands-wide event. By making these regional links, we hope to bolster the Christian determination to preserve God’s Earth.
Maney in Bloom Update
Earlier this year I wrote about our Maney in Bloom project to improve the local environment around the church, tying in with the Town Council’s Sutton in Bloom plans. I am pleased to report on our progress.
In April we collected a significant amount of litter from the local streets including Maney Hill Rd, Moss Drive, Birmingham Road, Beeches Walk, Pilkington Avenue, Holland Road and the carpark behind Iceland Foods. We are grateful for the enthusiastic support given by church members, particularly the Cubs and Scouts, and to the Town Council for providing the litter picking equipment. It was a great opportunity to show the church’s commitment to the community in a practical way, and it was gratifying to hear that several volunteers were congratulated on their efforts by local residents.
We have also successfully bid for a grant from the Town Council to go towards the purchase of four planters for the front of the church. These are currently on order and are due to be delivered and installed in the next month or so. We envisage these planters will provide year round interest with evergreens and shrubs, between which colourful bedding can be planted. In order to make these displays as full and vibrant as possible we are launching an appeal for funds to purchase the plants. All donations (and vouchers for local garden centres) gratefully received in the box at the back of church!
In other news, we are looking forward to the ‘A Future for All …?’ conference on Saturday 14 July at the Priory Rooms in Bull Street. This will be a great opportunity to meet and learn from Christians throughout Birmingham who are working towards a greener future. Do come along if you can. We also look forward to welcoming Rich Bee, Engagement Director at A Rocha UK and one of the speakers at the conference, to talk at our Sunday morning service the day after the conference.
Eco Maney – Money Matters
This year has seen unusually warm temperatures. Whilst this has been a fantastic opportunity for us to get out and about (and save some time on the lawnmowing), the heatwave has hit people in other parts of the world hard: melting tarmac on Australian roads, wildfires in Europe, and the worst drought in fifty years in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia. There is no doubt that if we are to avoid catastrophic and irreversible climate change then global temperatures must not rise more than 2oC above pre-industrial levels. This is reflected in the long-term goal of the Paris Agreement on climate change.
With this in mind it is perhaps uncomfortable to learn that the Church of England currently has around £123 million invested in oil and gas companies (although since 2015 not in coal or tar sands companies). At Eco Maney we have been following the General Synod debate on the future of these investments. We were pleased to see the near unanimous agreement to sell all shares from fossil fuel companies not aligned with the Paris Agreement by 2023. We had supported a motion from Oxford diocese to bring this deadline forward to 2020, however Synod felt that this would be too short a time frame to allow meaningful shareholder engagement. As a major shareholder the Church of England now has an opportunity to hold fossil fuel companies to account on climate change and to invest in companies developing renewable sources of energy.
Reflecting on this situation also led us to consider the ethics of our own finances. Transferring some of our personal savings to a local credit union (such as Advance Credit Union, based in Erdington) means that our money is kept within the community, allowing people to borrow ethically and responsibly, rather than being invested in fossil fuel companies by the big banks. Switching to a green energy supplier is another way we can use or money to promote the green agenda. This can provide households with 100% renewable electricity, sustainable green gas and the option of offsetting carbon emissions, and it is not any more expensive than the conventional suppliers. So there is plenty of food for thought as we approach Creationtide.