What can we do about food waste?

 Not very long ago the notion of wasting food was unheard of.

My grandmother was born in 1901. The poverty of her life was evident in the form of rickets – the result of malnutrition. My mother, a war baby, also grew up in poverty and was no stranger to hunger. Lack of money meant making meals out of anything and wasting nothing.

Fast forward to my childhood in the 60s and 70s, which, thankfully, never featured hunger. Meals were simple homemade British dishes that women (never men) had learnt in the home as children. These dishes didn’t involve recipe books or ingredients you might struggle to buy, such as liquid glucose or star anise.  Stews and pies were staples, with little red meat. Egg and chips were a perfectly acceptable meal.

 Somehow over the last 50 years many of us lost touch with the kind of resourceful home cooking that had been handed down over generations. What happened?

Perhaps under the influence of TV (and advertising) we started to feel that shepherd’s pie wasn’t good enough and we should be serving something more sophisticated and aspirational, something that mum and gran had never cooked?

 At some stage it seems we all bought into the idea that foreign was better. Now, I love Indian and Italian food as much as the next person but that does not mean that stew and dumplings are inferior.  I remember my auntie, in her eighties, telling me there was something she had always wanted to try. Her tone suggested something daring, and I was mentally preparing a risk assessment to take her white water rafting or bungee jumping, until she said shyly, ‘Pasta’. She was one of the best cooks I’ve ever known, but somehow she felt this Italian substance was exotic and out of her league.

My mother always loved cooking and learnt from her own mother to use every scrap of food and stretch every penny. Today we would think these women were great role models; they’d be designing food waste reduction apps for multi-national companies.

If I’d had any sense, I would have learned a lot from her. Unfortunately, I was a bolshy know-all teenager (is there any other kind?) taken in by the educational rebranding of cookery in the 70s and 80s as Domestic Science. As a science it was something you could get wrong and fail. I thought my mum couldn’t possibly know as much as the teachers. Sure, what my mum made tasted good, but it was just basic low-level cooking that kept people alive, whereas this was an O-level.

 Part of our task in Domestic Science was to balance colour and texture. You would be given a scenario to cook a menu for and you’d be marked down if there was too much of one colour or texture.

My mum took a keen interest and would make her own menu suggestions, and I would roll my eyes and inform her that, No, obviously you couldn’t have apple pie as a dessert because you’d already had pastry in chicken pie for the main. Obviously you couldn’t have two lots of pastry – it’s the same colour and texture.

My mother would argue that it made sense to use up the pastry remains from the chicken pie as a topping for the dessert and to also cook it at the same time while you’d got the oven on. That would mean no waste and less expense.  And I would retort, Fine and if I do that I’ll fail!  And my mother would shake her head in disbelief as if the world had gone to hell in a handcart.

(At this point I would like to add that in 20 years of child-rearing, at no time did any child ever complain that a meal was too brown or contained too much crumbly texture.)

 My mother was a working mother, but in those days there was no school run (children walked with other children) no after-school activities and no parents’ evenings/school meetings to erode parents’ time.  The pace of life now means we don’t plan meals, even though just 10 minutes a week doing this would save time and money in the long run.

Take time to plan

But how to choose what to make? For decades we’ve been overwhelmed by thousands of recipes from celebrity chefs using ingredients you had to buy in specially. In many cases this leads to one-attempt meals, leaving ingredients never to be used again.

 Somewhere along the way we became so comfortable with wasting food that one third of all food that is produced for human consumption globally is lost or wasted, contributing as much as 10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition:

  • 70 per cent of food waste in the UK happens at home.
  • 85 per cent of people say their food bills have increased yet they are still wasting food.
  • According to recent research, 48 per cent of people in the UK said they threw away the same amount of food or more per week than at the same time the previous year.   One in three people said they threw away the equivalent of one shopping bag of food per week – at an average cost of £780 per year. Twenty per cent said they struggled to know where to start with finding a recipe for their leftovers.

 Why do we waste so much?

One problem is lack of knowledge of the damage that food waste does to the environment. Research shows that only 30 per cent of people understand the harm caused to the planet. First there is the cost in terms of production and transport, then there is the cost in terms of waste.

 Food waste has typically been incinerated or buried in landfill along with residual waste and left to rot anaerobically, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. Food waste is still disposed of this way in almost 50 per cent of councils in England who have yet to implement separate food waste collections. This means that currently in the UK, millions of tonnes of food waste still go into landfill. For every tonne of that, there are over 600kg of carbon equivalent emissions, such as methane and nitrous oxide. The home composting of organic waste avoids this fate, of course, which is why so many people choose to do it.

I know that I’ve not been organised enough in the past. Now that I know better, I can’t bear to throw any scrap of food away, even though all our food waste is composted in the Green Johanna or Compost Tumbler. The internet is a treasure trove of tips and I’m learning masses from eco-influencers such as Nancy Birtwhistle and Jen Gale. If you saw Jen on The One Show recently (along with her Green Johanna compost bin), like me you may have been impressed on seeing that her fridge contains little notes telling the family which items need using up first.  

Easy wins to waste less are:

  • Plan menus for the week
  • Save leftovers and use apps for flexible recipes
  • Batch cook and freeze some for later.

See the Love Food Hate Waste website for more ideas Love Food Hate Waste | Food Waste prevention

  And yes, before you ask, I am finally listening to my mum.

Julie

Resolutions to do better this year

Putting the decorations away after Christmas is a good time to think about what can be done better next time around.      

No, I’m not recommending that you hit the sales for presents and stash them at the top of the wardrobe. We can’t all be like my mother-in-law.  

 I’m thinking more about making resolutions to do better waste-wise so that the festive fails of Christmas Just Past will be this year’s gains in reducing the family seasonal carbon footprint.

 Every year I try to make little improvements and write my ideas down while they’re fresh in my mind. Then I put this list on top of the decorations box for the new me to find in December. Those of a certain age might remember the advert that coined the phrase Vorsprung Durch Technik (Progress Through Technology). I like to think of my New Year’s resolutions as Vorsprung Durch List-making.

 You may make resolutions now but, believe me, you will forget if you don’t write them down.

Top tips from my list:

  • Write a memo to self – If you’re the sort of person who buys presents early, remind yourself where they’re stored and who they’re for. If not, you may not remember where you put Auntie Ethel’s present and who you bought the novelty gorilla slippers for, apart from the fact that it wasn’t Auntie Ethel. They’re not her size.
  • Ditch the selections – Don’t buy selections of food items if your family won’t eat everything in them. For us, in the dips selection, it’s thousand island dressing; in the cheese selection, it’s anything smoked; in the cheese biscuit selection, it’s the plain crackers. So only buy the cheese, crackers, dips etc that your family love. This leads me into a great idea from my sister-in-law.
  • DIY hampers – Get a box, add a bit of straw, then fill with items you know the person loves – drinks, preserves, pickles, biscuits, tea bags, chocolates etc. You can buy a box, as my sister-in-law did, but you could also just use a shoe box, or any box and decorate it. This would be a great idea for children to make for relatives and it could be as cheap or expensive as you like. It would also work for birthdays or Mother’s Day gifts.

Next year – make a DIY hamper

  • Stop roasting the same old chestnuts – Ah Christmas…it must provide enough material to keep therapists busy all year. It means different things to different people; the pull of obscure childhood memories leads us into bizarre behaviour. We can see everybody else’s craziness, of course, just not our own. What, I wonder, drives my mother every year to make me batches of mince pies, Christmas pudding and Christmas cake when I hate them, and have always hated them? I’m not going to start eating them just because she keeps making them. Either I disappoint her with the truth (again) or end up with a lot of waste if I can’t palm them off onto someone else. She seems to need to fill her kitchen with the smell of all those Christmas spices. Is it a subliminal desire to become Mrs Cratchit and feed up Tiny Tim? Who knows, but next year I will get in early and find some other grateful mouths for her to feed.
  • Make a request – None of us want to become the kind of person that people cross the street to avoid for fear of getting an eco-lecture, but surely we can ask those closest to us to buy eco-friendly Christmas cards for us and to wrap our present in recyclable paper, even if it’s as simple as avoiding glitter, foil, plastic etc?
  • Do advance research – Check out toy rental companies, such as Whirli, and companies that rent Christmas trees. If you leave it too late you’ll probably forget your good intentions.
  • Avoid Oops, I Did it Again syndrome – Don’t overcook. I read an article that said no one needs more than two side dishes, three if you must.  Regular readers (Happy New Year to you both!) might remember my plan to hold a family vote to limit my Christmas Day veg dishes to three. I texted my three sons to ask for their choices. Was the ensuing chaos an attempt by various parties to derail the democratic process to ensure they got mushy peas? I have 11 months to sort this out for next Christmas. Don’t ask how many dishes there were on the big day, it’s embarrassing.
  • Have a Christmas Dinner debrief (with yourself, you don’t want this to get weird) – I resolve next year not to simply plough ahead thinking of my guests as a faceless group but to see them as individuals, i.e.  how many vegetarians, how many 90-year-olds with tiny appetites, how many dietary requirements etc. I also resolve to believe my guests, even those I gave birth to, when they say they hate something. Broccoli was the biggest waste item – two of my sons say they hate it, and have always hated it, and will not start eating it just because I keep cooking it. (Uh-oh, this sounds familiar…)
  • Keep successful leftover recipes – we had great success withCheesy Sprout Bake, Boxing Day Burritos, Sprout Leaf Bhajis and Leftover Veg Fritters – the fritters went down especially well but are still not an excuse to cook too much broccoli.
  • Make the break – If you’d like to suggest that perhaps you could stop buying a present for your 35-year-old nephew who’s an investment banker, now is the time. If he really wants a Lynx gift set, he can surely buy it himself.
  • Unwanted gifts – If you don’t have an arrangement with everybody to keep receipts, put these gifts to one side so they can be kept pristine to be donated to the next fundraiser or a charity shop. If you plan to regift, attach a note saying who gave them to you to avoid embarrassment. Excess gifts of chocolates and biscuits can go to the foodbank. Don’t save them; you’ll forget where you put them until they’re out of date.  
  • Follow the recipe – I made the best-ever chocolate log thanks to Nancy Birtwhistle’s recipe – fruit puree filling in the Swiss roll adds the perfect necessary tartness. But next time I will follow the recipe faithfully. If Nancy says 200g of chocolate, she means 200g of chocolate. Don’t think you know better and that sounds a bit stingy so bang in another 100g.  Turns out there is such a thing as too much chocolate. Always remember, Nancy knows best – and not just at Christmas.  

Best-ever chocolate log – well, the remains of it after dinner.

Julie

Season’s eatings with waste-free recipes

We had a little too much post-Christmas bubble and squeak last year, so I’ve been on the look-out for waste-free recipes to have at the ready.

  Boxing Day Burritos (Abel and Cole – www.abelandcole.co.uk).

Wrap up your Christmas dinner leftovers in a flour tortilla – just add a gravy dip.

 Ingredients

Large flour tortillas.

A few handfuls of cooked veg, such as braised red cabbage, Brussels sprouts, boiled carrots

1 tbsp butter

A few handfuls of leftover turkey

150 ml leftover gravy, plus extra to serve.

A few handfuls of leftover roast potatoes and parsnips

2-3 Yorkshire puddings

2-3 tbsp leftover stuffing

2-3 tbsp leftover bread sauce

4 tbsp cranberry sauce

Method

1. Heat your oven to 100°C/Fan 80°C. Unpack the tortillas and place them in a large square of foil. Lay the tortillas in the foil and wrap it around them to make a loose parcel. Place on the bottom shelf of the oven to gently warm.

2.If you’re using any chunky veg, like carrot batons or whole Brussels sprouts, roughly chop them so all the veg are roughly the same size. Place a medium-sized pan on a medium heat and add 1 tbsp butter. Add the veg and gently fry, stirring often, for 4-5 mins till the veg have warmed through. Scoop the veg into a heatproof dish, cover with foil and place in the oven to keep warm.

3.Roughly chop the turkey. Scoop it into the pan you reheated the veg in and add around 150ml gravy – enough to just cover the turkey. Set on a medium heat and reheat for 4-5 mins, stirring occasionally, till the turkey is piping hot all the way through and the gravy has reduced to coat the turkey. Scoop into a heatproof dish, cover with foil and pop in the oven to keep warm.

4.Roughly chop the roast potatoes and/or parsnips to make small chunks around ½cm across. Wipe the pan clean and place it back on a medium heat. Add 1-2 tbsp oil and, when it’s hot, add the chopped roasties and fry, stirring, for 3-4 mins, till they’re warmed through and a little crisp. Scoop into a heatproof bowl and place in the oven to keep warm.

5.If you have leftover Yorkshire puddings, slice them into thin strips. If you have any cooked stuffing, chop it into small chunks (unless it’s soft and can be easily spooned into the burrito). Pour around 400-500ml gravy into the pan and set on a medium-low heat to slowly warm while you’re assembling the burritos. You want it to come to the boil, then turn the heat down so it stays steaming hot.

6.Take the flour tortillas, veg, turkey and roasties out of the oven, but leave the oven on. Place 1 tortilla on your work surface. Spread 1 tbsp bread sauce (if using), then 1 tbsp cranberry sauce down the middle of the tortilla. Top with a handful of the roasties, then the veg and then the turkey, making sure it forms a strip down the middle of the tortilla, leaving a gap at the sides. Top with a few strips of Yorkshire pudding and some stuffing.

7.Using both hands, fold the sides in over the filling, then use your thumbs to pull the bottom of the tortilla up and over the filling to create a pouch. Fold the top corners of the tortilla over the filling, so you have something that looks quite square. Roll the burrito to enclose the filling. Transfer to a heatproof plate, seam-side-down, and place on the bottom shelf of the oven to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining tortillas and fillings.

8.To serve, pour the hot gravy into small serving bowls and halve the burritos. Serve them with the gravy for dunking.

Yeo Valley’s Sweetcorn and Turkey Chowder (www.soilassociation.org)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 3 sticks of celery, diced
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 400g potatoes cut into cubes
  • 5 litres of chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 350g sweetcorn, tinned or frozen
  • 400g leftover turkey cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 200g crème fraiche
  • Small bunch of parsley, chopped

    Method:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, then add the celery and onion. Cover and sweat over a medium heat for 5 mins.

Pour the stock into the pan along with the potatoes and bay leaves and simmer for 10 mins until the potatoes start to become tender.

Add the turkey, sweetcorn and a good grind of black pepper. Cook for another 5 mins. Check the vegetables are cooked and adjust the seasoning.

Stir in the crème fraîche then divide between 4 bowls and top with the parsley.

Cheesy Sprout Bake (Becketts Farm – www.beckettsfarm.co.uk)

Serves: 6-8

Ingredients:

5 slices back bacon, diced

3 tbsp butter

1 small onion

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1kg Brussels sprouts, halved

½ tsp cayenne pepper

½ tsp smoked paprika

Salt and pepper

300ml double cream

50g Cheddar, grated

50g gruyere, grated

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 190°. In a large, shallow frying pan or oven-safe dish, melt the butter and fry the bacon until crispy, over a medium heat.
  • Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon keeping as much of the cooking fats in the pan. Fry the onion, garlic and sprouts together, stirring well to combine. Add in the dry seasoning and spices then stir. Cook all together over a medium heat until tender and gently browning (approx. 10 minutes).
  • Remove from the heat and pour over the cream. Top with both cheeses and the crisped bacon.
  • Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes until the cheese is bubbling.

Sprout Leaves Pesto

(Conor Spacey, Wasted)

Place outer sprout leaves in boiling water for 30 seconds, then refresh under cold water.

Squeeze dry and add equal quantities of the leaves with basil to a blender.

Add toasted nuts and Parmesan cheese and blend, slowly adding rapeseed oil and salt and pepper until it becomes a paste.

 Merry Mince Pie Tiffin (Abel and Cole – www.abelandcole.co.uk)

A great way to use up any last mince pies that have gone a bit stale by turning them into an easy fridge cake.

Ingredients

  • 150g milk or dark chocolate
  • 125g butter
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 100g agave syrup
  • 2 clementines
  • 50g flaked almonds
  • 50g dried cranberries
  • 300g mince pies
  • 30g white chocolate
  • Method:
  • 1. Line the base and sides of a 20cm square cake tin with baking paper. Roughly chop the chocolate and dice the butter. Scoop them into a heatproof bowl. Add the agave syrup[ and cocoa powder. Finely grate in the zest from 2 clementines. Squeeze in the juice.
  • 2. Melt the chocolate in your preferred way – bain-marie or at a low setting in the microwave.
  • 3. Toast the flaked almonds in a frying pan over medium heat, stirring often for 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Add them and the dried cranberries to the melted chocolate. Crumble in the mince pies, breaking them into small chunks. Stir in until everything is coated and combined.
  • 4. Spoon them into the baking dish and chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours till set.
  • To decorate – roughly chop the white chocolate and melt it. Using a fork or spoon drizzle the melted white chocolate over the tiffin. Return to the fridge for 1 hour.
  • 6. To serve – lift the tiffin out of the dish and peel off the paper. Slice into squares.

.And other tips:

  • Portion-wise 200g of cooked turkey is enough for most people. Factor in 250g of potatoes per person and 80g of other vegetables, such as sprouts, carrots, cabbage and parsnips.
  • Most items from the dinner can be frozen afterwards, including turkey, cranberry sauce and cooked vegetables, as well as cake and chocolates.
  • Turn veggie peels and ragged sprout leaves into crisps. Scrub and peel your veg, then fry in oil, toss with salt and rosemary and serve.
  • Scoop up leftover veg and whizz in the blender with veg stock for instant soup.
  • Create meat stock from your turkey carcass. Add it to a pan of cold water, simmer with onions and bay, then strain after 3 hours.

Christmas eco gifts give back to the planet

Christmas Green Johanna

‘Tis the month before Christmas when all through the house not a single thing’s stirring except Rachel’s mouse…

Still on her laptop at midnight, Rachel’s searching for gifts for the family that won’t cost the earth but also won’t cost the Earth.

She’s hit on a solution for her husband Paul’s parents, Dick and Liddy, who are so tricky to buy for. They say they don’t want any more presents because they already have everything they need. And Dick says he doesn’t need any more gloves because he’s not an octopus. Ditto socks.

They’re already keen recyclers and want to do their bit for the environment in an easy way for people in their eighties.

So how about a Green Cone food waste digester? It takes all food waste, even bones, and no stirring or turning is required. It doesn’t produce compost, but that’s OK; Dick and Liddy will be perfectly happy with the nutritious soil conditioner that will seep from the underground waste basket into their flower beds once worms and microbes have broken down the food scraps.

Dick will like the fact that they’re in control of their own food waste, turning something that harms the planet in landfill to something that heals it by nourishing the soil. Liddy will love the idea that, in their own small way, they’re doing something to save the planet for their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

The little we can do is a lot – that’s Liddy’s motto.

Composting for a busy brother

For her brother Stephen, who is officially the busiest man on the planet (which he would love to save if he could only get the staff), Rachel plans to get a Green Johanna hot composter. He’s seen Paul and Rachel’s Johanna at work in their garden and has even been known to make himself useful by emptying the kitchen caddy into it. The idea of having a ready supply of his own free compost would definitely appeal too.

Green Johanna Winter Jacket

Worm-farming for children

Stephen’s wife Jill would also like to save the earth; she just doesn’t want it being traipsed through the house on the children’s muddy boots. So Rachel thought a great present for their children, Billie and Ben, would be a wormery. She managed to sell the idea to Stephen by saying it would get the kids interested in eco-science (anything educational always gets his vote), and Jill agreed when she knew the Maze Worm Farm could be kept in the shed. Rachel knows the kids will be fascinated by the process, and if through harvesting their own vermicompost they gain a passion for gardening, well…that’s the very definition of a gift that keeps on giving.

Rachel suspects it might become her job to teach her niece and nephew how to harvest the compost, but it will be more than worth it to see them giggle when she tells them that this nutritious soil food is essentially the worms’ poo. If you’re under 10 it doesn’t get much funnier than that.

Gifts for the eco-conscious young

What could be better for Rachel and Paul’s son, George, than a Compost Tumbler for the back yard of his student house? The compost it produces will come in handy for all their potted plants and vegetable raised beds, as well as at the  community garden where they help out.  

And a useful stocking filler would be a kitchen cooking oil container. George has taken on the job of storing his household’s used oil in various containers to take to the local recycling centre where it’s collected to be turned into electricity. But this purpose-built 3 litre container with its secure lid will make it so much easier to store and transport the oil.

George has had to stop his housemates pouring their used oil down the sink, which they thought was the right thing to do. In fact, what happens is the oil binds with other objects that should never have been flushed away, creating huge fatbergs that block sewers. Everybody thinks their own little bit of oil can’t do any harm but try telling that to the engineers who get the lovely job of breaking down these monster blockages so that the rest of us can flush the toilet confident the waste will just disappear. Sewage backflow anyone?

Every millilitre adds up. Isn’t this at the heart of recycling? Grandma Liddy says: The little we can do is a lot. And she’s right; there are no small acts.

A present for the planet

For Millie, George’s girlfriend, Rachel will get a bokashi bin. Millie showed great interest in Paul and Rachel’s Maze Bokashi Bin when she saw it on their kitchen worktop and was fascinated when Rachel explained the anaerobic process which ferments all food waste, turning it into pre-compost. Well, not every girl wants scented candles…

14 litre Maze Bokashi Bin

Millie will be able to feed her houseplants with the diluted bokashi ‘tea’ fertiliser that drains from the contents of the bokashi bin. The tea can also be used concentrated as organic drain cleaner. Another freebie – what’s not to like? When the food waste has fermented to become pre-compost pulp, she will add it as an accelerator to the Compost Tumbler to break down into compost.

Paul suggested that with all this festive recycling going on, perhaps he could give back to Stephen and Jill the flashing-nose Rudolph jumper they gave him last Christmas?

Rachel said no.

Awesome autumn – 7 reasons to compost right now

Autumn is a great time to compost, with all those overgrown bushes, shrubs, plants and wilted flowers providing a rich source of materials for the composter.

If you haven’t taken the composting plunge yet, here are some great reasons to get going right now:

1. Mild weather means it’s easy to get off to a good start. Although you can start composting at any time of year, it’s easier when the external temperature is warmer. You’ll also get into the habit of going out to the composter regularly before the weather gets colder.

2. An abundance of garden clippings will provide you with the woody garden waste necessary for the base layer in the bottom of the Green Johanna when you’re starting out. This layer of 10-20cms of branches and twigs spread evenly across the base provides drainage and structure and helps to keep air in the composter flowing.  

3. You can collect all those fallen leaves and store them near the composter, providing a handy stockpile of carbon sources. For best results when composting you need a balance of materials that are rich in nitrogen and in carbon. Nitrogen is provided in your food waste and fresh green leaves/grass clippings. Carbon can be found in woody garden waste (branches, twigs), dead leaves, paper and cardboard waste. People can struggle for carbon sources in winter so if you have a lot of autumn garden waste it’s a good idea to store it for the months ahead.  Having a covered container of autumn leaves to hand makes it easy to add a caddy full of leaves alongside a caddy full of food waste. For faster breakdown, shred the leaves first by running them over with a mower.

Composting leaves can also save you money if you would otherwise pay your local council to come to collect them.  

4. Starting to compost now means you’ll have compost in the spring when you need it for your garden. It can take 6-8 months to get your first batch of compost from a Green Johanna but after that, depending on conditions, 4-6 months is the norm.  

5. With Halloween coming up what better way to dispose of your pumpkin lantern than chopping it up and composting it? Don’t add to the 15 million pumpkins that will go to landfill or incineration. Just remember to remove any candle wax first.

Stop the Halloween horror – compost pumpkins

6. Start composting now and you’ll be an old hand by Christmas, which is a great time to have your own household waste recycling system right in the back garden or allotment. As well as the increase in food waste in December/January you are also likely to have wrapping paper, Christmas cards and cardboard boxes to dispose of.  (Remember to take tape and stickers off cardboard and don’t compost cards or wrapping paper that contain glitter, foil, cellophane, ribbon etc.)

With a composter, you will no longer have to worry about where to store excess bags of rubbish while you anxiously await the first post-Christmas bin collection. It’s good to feel in control of your own waste. Leftovers aren’t lying around waiting to be collected, they’re rapidly breaking down in your composter.

Avoid the January pile-up with a composter

7. If you suffer from low mood at this time of year, composting makes an interesting project that can grow into a hobby before you know it. Anyone who composts will tell you it feels good to be nutrient cycling your organic waste and doing something beneficial for the environment. It gives you a reason to get outside adding materials to your composter and aerating the contents. You can be as active as you want as you become more interested in what’s happening in your bin.

Psychologists say that low mood can be improved by trying new activities, particularly outdoors. Composting gives you a reason to take your waste out, aerate it, and keep feeding the composting creatures to make sure they have enough air, moisture and a good balance of materials. You also find yourself thinking ahead to the spring when you’ll reap the rewards – the magical transformation of all that waste into black gold for your garden or allotment.

This comment by ecological gardener Poppy Okotcha in an article in the Sunday Times is particularly inspiring: ‘Managing my garden ecologically teaches me so much about how truly sustainable systems work, it has shown me circularity like nothing else, regularly reminds me to slow down, promises me that life will spring up out of the quietness of a seed after the cold darkness of winter and that death and decay provide opportunity for new life (I’m looking at you compost!) and so living in an eternal summer is simply not possible.’

***

TOP TIP: Remember to site your Green Johanna in an easy to reach place – don’t be fooled by fine weather on the day you set it up. One member of our Great Green Systems team assembled his Green Johanna on a dry sunny day and didn’t realise that placing it at the bottom of a small incline would mean slip-sliding down that muddy incline in wet weather. He ended up moving it to a better, flatter position.

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