We have held a number of talks across the the past few months starting with our fringe event as part of the PECT Green Festival, a discussion titled ‘Consumerism: What we buy and the alternatives’. It was a very healthy turnout and a very healthy discussion, with lots of input from the attendees and lots to take away and think about. We covered the topic from the angle of the individual consumer, looking at buying habits when it comes to food. Do we shop locally in the market and the butchers or do we go to the supermarket? Do we buy organic? Do we buy in season? We also looked briefly at the fashion industry, both in terms of clothing and in terms of buying for the home. Is it really a taboo to buy second-hand? In the second half we changed tactics, and looked at consumerism as a societal model. Are we just pawns on a chess board? Do we really have a voice? Sadly we had to bring it to an end for the day, but as the enthusiasm and passion was clear, we have decided to run other discussions like this in the future; looking at specific situations like consumerism of the new parent, and revisiting topics which we just scratched the surface of like social structures. If you have any ideas on topics you would like to discuss, please get in touch and we can add them into the mix.

In September 2016, as part of the International Picnic held at The Green Backyard, we held a discussion on Food and Globalisation. Again, it was a very healthy turnout with a really active discussion. We looked at what different cultures across the world would typically eat and how much it would cost. Generally the west were eating the processed packaged diet with the highest price tags and the developing countries eating food in much more natural states, with fresh fruit and vegetables, pulses and grains, which were also the cheaper options, although we did discuss if this was due to choices and availability. Those in attendance mostly commented that they have a fairly natural diet, however were aware they had processed and packaged food too, and aware on their privilege to have this. We also touched on the topic of where our food was coming from, local independent stores or supermarkets, whether to buy organic or not and so much more.

In October, we partnered with Metal for the Lucy + Jorge Orta: Food exhibition for the Waste Not Want Not discussion. This saw people from inspiring grassroot movements from across the country give presentations of their projects and raise awareness about the amount of food that is wasted and what we can do about it. From asking our supermarkets to only bake the bread they know they can sell, to being more accepting of oddly shaped fruit and vegetables. In addition, they spoke about the differences between best before and use by dates and the fact that what is most important is to use our senses to be our own judge about what we eat.

We do plan on holding some more discussions in future, and if you would like to hold a discussion, you do not need to be an expert, just an interest in talking about an issue, please do get in touch.

Carbon Conversations Group

Carbon Conversations offers a supportive group experience that helps people reduce their personal carbon footprint. Their sessions engage with the difficulties of change by connecting to values, emotions and identity. The groups are based on a psychological understanding of how people change.

The group will meet every second Friday evening, from 6.30 – 8.30pm, in Peterborough Environment City Trust (4-6 Cowgate, Peterborough, PE1 1NA) on the following dates:
Friday 17 April
Friday 1 May
Friday 15 May
Friday 29 May
Friday 12 June
Friday 26 June

The six meetings create a non-judgmental atmosphere where people are encouraged to make serious lifestyle changes. The groups offer:

  • space for people to explore what climate change means for themselves, their families and their aspirations
  • permission to share their hopes, doubts and anxieties
  • time to work through the conflicts between intention, social pressure and identity
  • reliable, well-researched information and practical guidance on what will make a difference
  • support in creating a personal plan for change

The meetings use professionally designed, reliable materials to cover climate change basics, ideas for a low-carbon future and the four key areas of the footprint – home energy, travel, food and other consumption. Discussions of practicalities are woven together with discussions of how people feel and what these changes mean personally. Carbon reductions of 1 tonne CO2 are typically made by each member during the course, with plans developed to halve individual footprints over a 4-5 year period.

The cost of joining the group is £15 to cover the handbook and materials. There are two facilitators, who are not paid, and there is no cost for the venue.

There is only space for 10 people in the group. So to confirm a place, please get in touch early.

If you are interested please contact Rich Hill (rich_hill44@yahoo.com) and cc Ben Cuddon (bencuddon@gmail.com)

Local food forum

On Dec 12th PECT organised a public forum in the John Clare theatre on the subject of local food. The meeting was quite well attended, with PECT, the Green Backyard, and Peterborough in Transition all represented. As well as all these usual suspects there was a sizeable (and vocal) contingent from the Newborough Young Farmers club, as well as several other people involved in farming and other agricultural businesses. The meeting began with an outline of various ideas and targets from Ben Middleton, designed to increase the availability and consumption of locally grown food in Peterborough, with the long term goal of having the majority of Peterborough’s food locally grown by 2030. Ben also mentioned the idea of one planet living, pointing out that if everyone in the world lived like the average European we would need three planets, and noted that the world’s ever growing population would pose difficult challenges for farmers. Ben’s opening presentation was followed by a very lively discussion, with most of the audience having something to say. The YFC contingent emphasised how the loss of 900 acres of prime agricultural land to the proposed energy farm was hardly consistent with the goal of growing more of Peterborough’s food locally.

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One of the attendees runs a local food website called BigBarn, which is a social enterprise aiming to help put producers and buyers of local food in touch with each other. The website has a local food map allowing users to find local food producers and retailers in their area. You can try it using the form on the right.

There was also discussion on what the council could do to help small independent food shops compete with supermarkets. One speaker pointed out that business rates for supermarkets were generally much lower (on a per square foot basis), then the rates paid by small shops, and that far more of our food was grown locally thirty or forty years ago than is now. I suggested that one possibility might be to charge lower rates to businesses based in Peterborough. A representative of the NFU stressed the need to set achievable short term goals, such as persuading schools and hospitals to use more locally grown fresh produce. The same speaker questioned whether a “local food mark” (analogous to FairTrade, Organic or Red Tractor logos) would be a good idea, pointing out that the work involved in satisfying the criteria for farm assurance schemes was often difficult for smaller farms. There was also a discussion about “Food Deserts”, and I questioned Ben’s claim that Peterborough had few such areas. Melanie pointed out that many poorer people lacked access to cars, and that most existing farm shops were inaccessible to many people. Someone expressed the wish to see a “local food hub” somewhere in Queensgate. Another topic was food waste, and how supermarket requirements for visually perfect fruit and vegetables meant that much of what farmers grow is difficult to sell.

At the end of the meeting Rich and I spoke to some of the Newborough YFC contingent, and invited them to send a representative to our February meeting. At least one of the YFC members is also planning to visit the Green Backyard in the near future, so useful links were made. Possibly the YFC had expected us to be keen supporters of the Energy Farm proposals, but I said that I did not think this was the case at all, and that we wanted to see things like solar panels sited in appropriate locations, not on land that is currently used to grow food.