In the UK it is estimated that we drink around 70 million cups of coffee per day and 2/3 of us tend to buy from coffee shops rather than make our own at home. It is estimated that if you placed all the paper cup used in the UK in one year end-to-end, they would go around the world 5 and ½ times! While this trend is good for our highstreets, in 2012 the estimated turnover for coffee shops was £5.8 billion, there is a growing environmental issue. Less than 1% of paper cups are being recycled, with most ending up in landfill.

 

One of the main issues is with the composition of the cups themselves. As they are made from a combination of paper and plastic, they have to undergo special treatment in order to separate the paper for recycling. At the moment there are only 2 facilities in the UK that can do this process, and while they are hoping to expand in the next few years, they are currently struggling to meet the demand.

 

This composition also makes the cups difficult to sort when recycling. Due to the plastic liner they cannot be placed in paper recycling and they aren’t always filtered correctly when mixed recycling is sorted. There is also an issue with contamination, as items often need to be clean and dry before they are recycled. This sometimes means that even if the cups are put in the correct recycling bin, they still end up in landfill.

 

There have been calls from campaigners for a tax on disposable cups, similar to the one introduced on plastic bags in October, as a way of encouraging the use of reusable cups. However the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has released a statement that there are currently no plans for a tax.

 

One of the easiest ways to tackle this issue is to use a reusable cup when ordering take-away coffee. Starbucks has even introduced a 25p discount on drinks if you bring your own cup (and it doesn’t have to be Starbucks branded!). There are many types of reusable cups available to buy in high street and online stores, which many people claim even help improve the flavour of the coffee!

 

Sources:

BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-35840916

British Coffee Association: http://www.britishcoffeeassociation.org/about_coffee/coffee_facts/

Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/mar/15/coffee-cup-britons-3-billion-so-few-recylced

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/mar/16/takeaway-coffee-cups-recycle-environment-waste

Simply Cups: http://www.simplycups.co.uk/

Starbucks: http://www.starbucks.co.uk/customer-service/faqs/coffeehouse

Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/food-and-drink/drinks/disposable-coffee-cups-tax-whats-the-solution-to-all-this-waste/

The UK government is aiming to have all schools classed as ‘sustainable schools’ by 2020, meaning that through lessons and day-to-day school life pupils are engaged with the environment and sustainability. Individual schools are responsible for the ways in which they achieve this, but help from local councils or other organisations is sometimes available.

 

Several London councils, including Croydon, Richmond and Sutton, are encouraging schools to join the Eco-Schools programme, which is an international award programme that helps schools embed sustainability into many aspects of school life. They provide resources and advice on how a school can become more sustainable and recognise improvements through a series of awards. Many councils also offer free recycling collection, helping schools to increase their recycling rates and engage pupils with recycling.

 

Beyond the economic and environmental benefits of becoming more sustainable, studies conducted by Ofsted have even shown a link between schools promoting sustainability and pupils getting better marks and becoming more engaged across many lessons.

 

The UK government has written a list of tips to make schools more sustainable, which is available here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/187037/DFE-32056-2012.pdf

 

Sources:

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2013/jun/17/energy-efficiency-sustainability

Eco-Schools: http://www.eco-schools.org.uk/aboutecoschools

Carbon Trust: https://www.carbontrust.com/resources/guides/sector-based-advice/schools/

 

landfill

An article published by The Guardian last year highlights how the use of landfills for waste treatment has decreased across the UK in recent years, from treating around 90% of all waste in 2009 to around 50% in 2015. This is forecast to represent only around 10% in 2020.

This has happened for a combination of reasons. Since the 1990s, many landfills in the UK have closed down, as they have gradually become full and haven’t been replaced with new ones. Although landfills in the UK are well managed, they take up a very large amount of space and are considered unpleasant for local residents. A landfill tax has further made it more expensive to operate landfills in the UK. Businesses and municipalities that bring their waste to landfill now have to pay £82.60 per tonne of waste brought to landfill.

Although recycling is prioritized in the first instance as a method of waste treatment, government policy now favors incineration for final disposal, which allows energy to be generated by burning waste at very high temperatures.

In 2015, the European Commission finalized an ambitious Action Plan for waste management, setting targets which included:

  • A common EU target for recycling 65% of municipal waste by 2030
  • A binding landfill target to reduce landfill to maximum of 10% of all waste by 2030

Rates of recycling for household waste in the UK were at 40.4% in 2014.


Sources

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/feb/27/waste-rubbish-industry-landfill-recycling-dumps-incineration

The BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-28128774

EU Circular Economy directive: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/circular-economy/index_en.htm

UK Statistics on Waste: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/487916/UK_Statistics_on_Waste_statistical_notice_15_12_2015_update_f2.pdf

UK Landfill Tax rates: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/rates-and-allowances-landfill-tax/landfill-tax-rates-from-1-april-2013

 

Technology to drive sustainability in 2016

It is a commonly known fact that New Year’s resolutions are notoriously difficult to keep. In fact, one study conducted at the University of Scranton suggested that only 8% of resolutions are completely achieved. Researchers cite unrealistic expectations, vague goals and a lack of accountability as common reasons.

But those of you who made the resolution to be more sustainable, do not despair. People who start with small steps and monitor their progress have a much higher chance of succeeding. And a bit of fun in the process never hurts!

Here are some links to help you go green this New Year, whether your chosen target is saving energy at home, recycling more consistently or making better choices with food.

 

Top 5 apps for sustainable behaviors

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eve-turow/5-apps-to-help-you-live-a_b_5849740.html

Games

https://www.treedom.net/en/

And our own free game with ACE: http://sustainablecommunitiesproject.com/

 


Sources:

http://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201412/why-people-cant-keep-their-new-years-resolutions

This week, a workshop was held with SAMAFAL- a Haringey Somalian women’s group to discuss how to reduce food waste at home. Reducing food waste has been set as a priority by the UK government, as people in the UK waste a staggering 7 tonnes of food each year in their own homes, either by not eating food before it has gone off, or by cooking too much and throwing away the leftovers.The workshop covered tips on how to avoid food waste by planning meals, proper storage and checking food labels properly, and how to re-use cooked food to make a variety of different recipes.
The women from SAMAFAL were no strangers to correct food storage and cooking with leftovers, being avid cook themselves, but they were surprised by some of the questions in the workshop. Can you guess the answers?

1.    Which of these 10 foods gets binned the most in the UK?
Milk, poultry meat, ready meals, carbonated soft drinks, bread, fresh potatoes, processed potatoes, fruit drinks and smoothies, pork meat or cakes?
2.    How much is the right portion of rice for 1 person?


 

SAMAFAL workshop photo

 

If you are part of a community group and would like to sign up for workshops with ACE, email info@ace.org.uk

Sources: Love Food Hate Waste

Answers:

Question 1: The most commonly wasted food is bread, followed by fresh potatoes, milk, ready meals and carbonated soft drinks.

Question 2: 75g

COP 21, also known as ‘The 21st Conference of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’ is now in full swing. 195 countries are holding discussions with the hope of reaching a legally binding agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, limiting the extent of global warming to 2°C by 2020.

If this sounds like a familiar story, that’s because it is! Global negotiations on climate change have been going on for over 20 years, since the ‘United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’ was signed in 1992. So what makes this conference different? Here are some useful links and videos on the topic.

The background of the Climate talks

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jun/02/everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-paris-climate-summit-and-un-talks

Why 2°C as target?

Why should we care? What are different nations hoping to achieve from the conference?

With the Paris Climate Talks coming up next week, it is easy to think that action for sustainability is something that happens between politicians in meeting rooms. But sustainability starts at home too. That being said, doubts and uncertainties can lead to inaction. People may wonder: What is the point of all this? Where do I begin? How will these actions have an impact?

With this in mind, SAMAFAL, a community group in North London, working through the Selby Trust, has signed up for a series of workshops with Action for Community and Environment (ACE) designed to give practical advice and answer frequently asked questions on how to be more environmentally-conscious.

 

Workshops will be spaced out over a period of 12 weeks and include:

Introductions and welcomes                                                      1 session

An introduction to recycling                                                        1 session

Saving energy                                                                              2 sessions

Reducing food waste                                                                   1 session

Evaluation/celebration                                                                 1 session

 

Over the coming weeks, ACE will cover discussions from the different workshops. Follow this blog to find out more.

If you are part of a community group and would like to sign up for workshops with ACE, email info@ace.org.uk

 

Sustainable communities logoSelby trust Samafal

This December around 190 nations will be gathering in Paris to set a new agreement on greenhouse carbon emissions targets from 2020 onwards. It will be the 21st Conference of the Parts or COP 21 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) forged as a result of Rio 1992 Conference on Environment and Development.

Across the 20th century and the beginning of this 21st century, our economic activities and daily lives have been basing on petrol and its derivatives, whereas carbon and petrol being our main fuels, or plastics and petrol-based products being present in almost all the elements we use. Our economies have been very highly carbon-dependent ones.

2014-11-25-climate_change_blackboard

In particular, the energy sector accounts for almost a fourth of the total greenhouse carbon emissions since our energy matrixes still highly depend on non-renewable sources. In the case of the UK, the energy supply sector was responsible for 33% of the country´s greenhouse gas emissions in 2013, being the main source the use of coal and natural gas in electricity generation from power stations*.

Although the COP is a political meeting a bit far from us, common citizens, we can also help at our personal and community levels with our everyday behaviours. The change of the climatic system is a phenomenon that knows of no boundaries and will be affecting all of us so what better than to start working together incorporating more sustainable actions into our daily lives and communities, and help to look after our common home?

What about starting at our houses and…?

  • always turning off lights not being used,
  • using energy-efficient lights as halogen incandescents, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), and light emitting diodes (LEDs),
  • choosing electrical appliances with a higher energy efficiency (the graph in colors with the labels A, B, C, D or E!),
  • unplugging mobile/pc chargers once fully charged,
  • keeping room thermostats at 20°C,
  • checking your homes´insulation and covering any draft points. You can even make your own recycled draft excluder by using old pieces of cloth and wool!!,
  • using your washing machine at 30°C and only when full,
  • opting for a rack or washing line,

…and in addition reduce our energy bills!!

Tweet us how you are incorporating more sustainable actions into your daily life or check our website to keep updated with more tips on how to make your communities more sustainable!

* Dpt. of Energy & Climate Change. 2013 UK Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Final Figures (www.gov.uk/government/publications/final-uk-emissions-estimates)

google_eyed_ghost_icon_green

When you think of Halloween, you probably envision candy, scary movies, and trick-or-treating, but what about sustainability? From costumes to decorations, Halloween actually provides a great opportunity to put sustainable practices into action.

Here at ACE we have come some ideas you can do to be “green” this Halloween;

  • Instead of purchasing a costume, make one from used clothing (search your closet or visit a thrift store) or recycled materials.
  • If you decorate with lights, use LED or solar lights.
  • Use recycled materials or natural items, such as gourds and pumpkins, to decorate the home.
  • Instead of shopping at a large grocery store, buy your pumpkins, squash, and other Halloween-inspired vegetables locally.
  • Collect your treats with a reusable bag.
  • Use the innards from your pumpkin to make a pumpkin pie, and roast the seeds for snacking.
  • Reuse or donate costumes and decorations next year.
  • Send out party invitations electronically rather than in the mail.
  • Consider throwing a “zero” waste party—everything is either used or recycled.

Remember all it takes is a little creativity to incorporate sustainable practices into holiday festivities!

Got any fun sustainable Halloween ideas? Tweet us @ACEnvironment or send us an email at info@ACE.org.uk.

Households are responsible for around 7 million tonnes of food per year and over half of that food has never even made it to a plate! While much has been made of the economic costs of food waste the environmental impact is often overlooked. Landfill sites are the third largest source of methane in the US and decaying food is thought to be the single largest source of materials in landfills that creates methane. While methane pollution is less prevalent than carbon dioxide it is 21 times more effective as a greenhouse gas and therefore poses a far greater risk when it comes to climate change.

This has made us at ACE think about what we as communities can be doing to reduce the amount of food waste we are producing.

There are 5 simple steps you can take towards reducing your food waste:

  • Plan – Before you go shopping plan your weeks meals and buy accordingly
  • Buy only what you need – buy the appropriate quantities for your meals. Also always check the use by dates of the food you are buying
  • Store all of your items appropriately – fruit and most vegetables last much longer when stored in the fridge.
  • Get you portion sizes right – most packets of rice or pasta give you information on how much you need per person.
  • Store your leftovers – Leftovers from dinner can make the perfect lunch the next day.

There are many fantastic resources around to help households and communities reduce the amount of waste we are producing.  Check out the Love Food Hate Waste website for recipe and food waste saving ideas.

ACE are going to be delivering food waste reduction training as a part of our Sustainable Communities Project, and are looking forward to getting the first training sessions underway with the good people of Haringey. If you would like to get involved with or think you wold like some training on waste minimalisation then please get in touch at info@ace.org.uk.