Cutting down food waste at Christmas

As the third part of our series of posts helping you to reduce your “Christmas footprint” we’ve got some ideas and suggestions for cutting down on food waste over the festive period. Christmas is traditionally a time when families tend to buy more food than normal, and items that they might not buy at other times of the year. Unfortunately as a country we then waste quite a lot of this – food waste can increase by up to 80% over the holidays!

  • Firstly: don’t panic! These days shops are only shut for one or two days over Christmas, so there’s no need to buy a month’s supplies for an entire army. Reducing “impulse purchases” before Christmas means they don’t have to turn into waste after Christmas. It also means that you might be able to score some bargains on 27th December when the shops are open, so saving money at what can already be an expensive season.
  • Draw up a shopping list before you go to the shops, and stick to it. Shopping online can also help as you may be less tempted by in store offers and advertising, plus you’ll reduce the carbon footprint for travelling to/from the shops. The delivery van will still have a carbon footprint but these often have carefully planned routes intended optimise the journeys around the town and your Christmas provisions will be sharing that fuel use with lots of other people’s orders.
  • If you do go to the shops, try to walk, cycle or take the bus. This nor only directly reduces your carbon footprint but also reduces town centre air quality problems and discourages you from buying unnecessary food items as you have to carry them home yourself!
  • Check on the “use by” dates of items you buy to make sure that they’ll last through the Xmas period. If you have got some things with particularly short shelf lives plan in advance to have those in meals on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or Boxing Day.
  • Planning meals can also help you budget and buy just what you need.  The Love Food Hate Waste folk have a handy online portion planner so you can check how much you need in advance.
  • Ask your family/guests what they’d really like for Christmas dinner. It might surprise you! It’s much easier and cheaper to plan for a Christmas Day lunch of homemade pizza than it is a full roast dinner. And probably would result in considerably less waste and less energy use too.
  • Remember that whilst rich food is a great treat once in a while, it can soon get too much after a few solid days of digestive indulgence. Plan to have a few simple “store cupboard” meals as well which can make use of items you already have with long shelf lives.
  • Large gatherings with big meals almost inevitably result in “left overs”. Plan in advance for this happening – for example if you’re cooking brussel sprouts or cabbage for Christmas Day lunch, why not have bubble-and-squeak planned on Boxing Day lunch (which is quick and easy so you can also go for family walks or shopping trips)?
  • As well as using leftovers immediately, consider if any can be frozen for use in meals in January. It can also be good to refill empty space in the freezer resulting from using up Christmas food, which makes the freezer more efficient (you’re not trying to chill empty space).
  • When bringing your shopping into the house, make sure you store things correctly. Follow the instructions on packets and labels, and also check that your fridge is cold enough to keep food refrigerated safely.
  • If you do have uncooked fruit and vegetables that have spoiled, you can compost them in a back garden compost bin, along with any peelings that you generate whilst cooking and eating others. Cardboard food packaging can also be torn up and composted. Don’t put fats, meat or cooked food into the compost bin though as that can attract vermin.

We hope these tips will help you have a happy, joyful and peaceful Christmas. Eat, drink and be merry!

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Eco friendly Christmas decoration ideas

With Christmas fast approaching, many household will be adding decorations around their homes for the festive season.  As with many aspects of Christmas, decorations may result in waste in January, so we’ve put together some ideas which you may find helpful to reduce your “Christmas footprint”.

  • The centrepiece of most home decorations is the Christmas Tree.  Many buy a cut down real conifer tree, which has the advantage over an artificial tree that it has been growing and absorbing carbon dioxide. Try to buy a locally and sustainably grown tree – these are grown as crops in the UK and help provide farmers with extra income on marginal land that can’t be used for other crops. After Christmas many councils will collect real trees for composting, or you can cut it up yourself and use it as a mulch in the garden (pine needles are slightly acidic, so great spread round acid loving plants like blueberries, rhododendrons and azaleas).
  • Many shops now sell rooted, potted real trees, that you can plant outside in the New Year.  Ideally you shouldn’t keep these indoors more than 12 days as they don’t like the warm, dry conditions in most modern homes, so they aren’t so useful if you tend to put your tree up well before Christmas Eve and want to keep the tree in place until 6th January. They do best in cool rooms away from radiators, so might be suitable for a porch or entrance hall for example. Some people just grow a tree in their garden and decorate that.
  • Rent a potted tree: if you don’t have a garden or space to plant or display a potted real tree for 11 months of the year, you can now find some companies that will rent you a potted tree for the holiday period and then collect it to grow on for next year at their base.
  • Artificial trees make heavy use of plastics, and the Carbon Trust have calculated that you’d need to use a single artificial tree for over 10 years to give it a lower carbon footprint than real trees. If you do want an artificial tree that you can reuse for many years look for good quality ones, or considering reusing someone else’s artificial tree by looking on second hand and rehoming websites. Buying second hand, even if you are getting plastic, artificial items, is better than buying new as you’re keeping these decorations in use and out of the waste stream and not consuming “virgin” material.
  • Keep your tree decorations safely boxed and reuse them year after year. Many people still have decorations going back to their childhood, so there’s no need to go for the latest “Xmas fashion” each year. If this is your first year decorating your own tree, ask friends and family if they have old decorations they no longer want.
  • If you are buying new decorations, avoid plastic or fragile ones.  Decorations made of wood are a carbon sink and can last for decades… and they’re less likely to break than glass baubles!
  • When buying fairy lights, opt for LED lights as these will consume less power, and don’t go over the top (or the roof!) if hanging lights up outside.
  • Put lights on timers so they aren’t lit 24 hours a day.  They won’t be particularly visible in the middle of the day, and very few people will be awake to see them at 3am! 4pm to midnight might be a good range for example.
  • Involve your children in making their own Christmas decorations. For example instead of buying plastic tinsel, get them to make colourful paper chains. You can buy packs of paper ready to make the chains, or make them our of colourful magazine pages. After Christmas the paper chains can be composted or recycled.
  • Make your own wreaths for your front door from evergreen prunings from your garden or hedges. Freshly cut willow sticks can easily be bent round into the circular hoop that supports the wreath and then twigs, branches, leaves and berries tied on with black cotton.  Avoid spraying it with glitter or “frosting” – the wreaths look better natural anyway and in January you’ll be able to compost the wreath material. If you do want a bit of sparkle in a wreath, you can get small strings of twinkling LED lights that can be powered from rechargeable batteries and used for many years.

However you decorate your home this Christmas just remember to have fun and enjoy doing it!

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Hints for reducing waste in the run up to Christmas

We’re well into December now, so many peoples’ minds are turning to Christmas.  This year, more than most, many people are looking to Christmas as a joyful break from the hard realities around us. However Christmas celebrations do often come with an increased footprint with more consumption and waste than other times of the year. So to help you reduce any “green guilt” this year, here’s some hints to reduce your Christmas impact!

  • Try to pick paper wrapping and avoid shiny, plastic coated paper that can’t be recycled.  A quick test to tell the difference is to scrunch some up – if it stays scrunched its probably paper and so recyclable, if it tries to jump back into shape it may be plasticised “gift wrap” and should be avoided. Another test is how easily it tears – real paper tears easily (too easily sometimes!) whereas gift wrap is very difficult to rip. Also be wary of paper wrapping that has gold or silver printing on it – that metallic printing might may well make the paper unrecyclable.
  • Don’t add plasticy ribbons, bows or non-recyclable string round your presents, unless you’re able to ensure that they are all collected and reused. If given to other people they may get mixed up with otherwise recyclable wrapping paper and spoil whole loads of recycled paper.
  • Do not use glitter. Even “eco friendly” biodegradable glitter has been found to have bad effects on the environment. And let’s face it – glitter gets everywhere and is a pain to clear up so lets not inflict it on people we like!
  • Instead of buying new wrapping paper you could reuse other materials for wrapping presents.  For example decorate paper bags or cardboard boxes, old but colourful cloth, old maps, or reused wrapping paper you saved from last year.
  • If people are asking what to buy for you and you don’t really want/need anything, suggest they either donate to a charity you support or buy a charity “sponsorship” gift to help others (for example sponsoring tree plantings, well digging, improved sanitation, animal sanctuary, child health, etc).
  • For larger gifts that might not fit/be quite right for the recipient, include the receipt with a note to say that you’re happy if they want to take it back/exchange it/etc.
  • If you’re buying more than one gift for the same person, try to wrap multiple objects together so that the amount of wrapping is reduced.
  • To reduce the need for physical items that will eventually end up in waste streams, consider “experience” gifts such as theatre tickets or subscriptions to organisations.
  • Some people will be happy to receive “reused” gifts, especially if it has sentimental value.
  • Look for “ethical gifts”. For example items made from recycled material, made by local crafts people, made to support people in need, or that can help reduce the recipients’ carbon footprints.

We’ll have some more hints to help you green your Yuletide in the weeks to come!

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Potato Day orders close today

Today, 4th December 2020, is the very last day you can get a Potato Day 2021 order placed and be sure of getting it accepted.  If you’ve been putting it off, you need to go to our Potato Day 2021 page right now and place the order with our friends from Transition Chesterfield – don’t leave it until “later” and miss out.

Also please remember that once you’ve made an order you need to email the Chesterfield team to let them know that you’d like your order delivered to Loughborough for distribution, otherwise your order will end up in Chesterfield at the end of January.  We’ll be contacting people ordering for delivery to Loughborough in the New Year with details out how we’ll organise the distribution. Please note that we are NOT planning to have a stall on Loughborough Market this year due to effect of pandemic restrictions, and so there will NOT be the usual sale of seed potatoes on the day.

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Notes on Zoom “Catch Up Meeting” 30th November 2020

Present: Caroline, Jason, Emily, Jon, Martha, Sue, Suella, Ken, Janet, Meg

Chairing: Jason

Jon read quickly through notes from last meeting and everyone said they were happy with them.

Sue said her Quaker sustainability group were planning on lobbying local MPs about COP26 UN climate talks and climate change. They wanted to know if people in Transition Loughborough would be interested in joining in. It is intended to be positive, helpful and not party political. Sue said she realised that that forming a group opinion in Transition Loughborough about such things could be difficult and Jon said we’d typically not done lobbying as a group so as to not disengage different political groups. Caroline ask if the Quaker group have considered lobbying on the Climate and Ecological Emergency (CEE) private members bill, which also needs backing from as many cross party MPs as possible.

ACTION: Individuals to contact Sue if they’d like to get involved with this lobbying.

ACTION: Caroline to provide Sue with some information on CEE bill.

Jason read out a report on finances from Steve. We currently have £2432.11 and the old Transition Town Loughborough account has been closed down (so we only have one account). Caroline still needs to pay in a cheque for the Carbon Literacy course, which she’ll try to pay in to the building society soon (and then she will bill for the work done on the courses to date). Jason said he was happy to take on the finance role from Steve, who wants to pass it on before February. There was talk about moving from the Loughborough Building Society to a new provider – Caroline suggested Triodos as an option.

ACTION: Jason to liaise with Steve about taking over the financial role.

Martha had sent in a detailed allotment report to the mailing list. Martha thought the composting workshop went well, although she wondered if some had thought it hadn’t. 12 people had come to the workshop (which took place before the new lockdown restrictions). Martha had also put up pictures of flowers and crops on Facebook to reach a different audience and said that the allotment had helped everyone who could go down there this year during the pandemic restrictions. Steve had taken on an area around the tool shed and made great raised beds and paths. Martha would like to maintain the flower beds. Ron McKeating helped identify a firm that could supply a new polytunnel cover for less than we had planned, though we’re not ordering the cover until we can have a workshop when people can help (as it will take 4-5 people to do). Martha is holding £340 in cash from donations which Caroline suggested she pay in to the building society and Meg offered to hold in the Fearon Hall safe if paying in to the building society is a problem. Steve had said he would like others involved in the allotment to have an input into the report even though he wasn’t with us today, so Jason asked other people at the meeting who had been involved in the allotment this year for their views on the allotment. Jason and Ken had both attended the allotment this year but neither had anything to add to Martha’s report. Sue said the work on the allotment over the years has been absolutely amazing. Martha encouraged people to go to the allotment over the next few weeks to see the layout and spaces available. Jason reminded us that it would be good to have a “jobs board” on the allotment so that people know what needs to be done and where.

ACTION: allotment gardening group to discuss how they want to layout and run the allotment over the winter.

Fearon Hall Events

Meg said she really valued Transition’s interactions with Fearon Hall this year, especially things like the plant sales. The Hall now has an events coordinator and Meg would like to develop a series of events with Transition in the coming year. Jason said we’d like to restart the Repair Cafes as soon as we can and the work done by Martha, Steve and Janet has been invaluable. Meg would like Transition’s help with the gardens around the Hall as their current community gardener is having to step back for health reasons. Jason asked how the Crop Club were doing at the Hall – Meg said that Rose has had to concentrate on raising an income during the Covid pandemic this year so hasn’t had as much time as before. The one apple pressing event we held there was a success as well and Meg said many people had commented on it. Meg said she’d like to have one email contact rather than try to follow the TL mailing list threads – Jon volunteered. There is a funding bid in for the town regeneration that includes a redesign of the rear of Fearon Hall, including our garage space which Meg said she views as our space so we’ll be involved in any developments.

ACTION: Jon will act as Meg’s email contact

ACTION: Meg to send details of potential events Fearon Hall would like to partner with Transition on.

Potato Day

Janet said Potato Day ordering is going well, with only a few more days left (closes this coming Friday). We have a few more orders than last year, but we’ve only been able to mostly advertise online and there is a reduced selection of varieties this year. We definitely don’t have a market stall this year and Meg had offered us the use of Fearon Hall. Janet asked Meg what could be done at the Hall in Tier 2 or 3? Meg said in Tier 3 Fearon Hall can’t do anything. In Tier 2 they could do something similar the Harvest Festival event. Meg said it is more likely to be controlled pick up of orders rather than an “event”. Caroline asked if we should do a press release to the local paper, but its probably a bit late for that now.

ACTION: People promote Potato Day in the next couple of days

Carbon Literacy Course

Caroline said we’d run three courses, all online, with 27 people over all three. We’re funded by Charnwood Borough Council to run four courses, so the last one we said we’d wait to do face to face. CBC are OK with this. Jon said he thought they’d gone well. People attending the courses make “pledges” of things they’d like to do (such as set up car clubs, promote less meat eating, etc). Caroline said she’d asked the council if we could use some of the event hosting money we’ve not had to spend to run a “celebration” event to let course members meet each other and look at how they are doing with their pledges. One person who came to the last course (Donna Worship) works for Leicestershire County Council and she pointed us at grant funding for running more Carbon Literacy course across Leicestershire. Jon and Caroline both happy to do this.

ACTION: Caroline & Jon to carry on running Carbon Literacy project(s)!


Jason said the national Transition Towns movement have been doing a “bounce forward” set of presentations and workshops. Individuals can attend and/or watch the recorded sessions.

Emily said there is an organisation who distribute food parcels who would be happy to take on distribution of vegetable seeds if we have an excess.

Next meeting:

Aim for another Zoom session in January 2021. Jason will ask on the mailing list to get the best time/date for the most people and then Caroline will set up the Zoom meeting with her account again.

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Less that two weeks left to order for Potato Day 2021

The days left in November are slipping away, which means that there is now less than a fortnight until Potato Day 2021 orders close on 4th December 2020.  This means that if you want to put an order in for your seed potatoes, beans, peas, onions, garlic and shallots, you’ll need to head over to our Potato Day 2021 page to find out more as soon as possible!

Once the calendar flips round to 5th December you’ll be too late – we can’t accept late orders because Transition Chesterfield who we partner with for this scheme will be collating and sending the bulk orders off to the suppliers immediately to make sure they are in place before Christmas.

Don’t forget and miss out!

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Half way through Potato Day ordering period

Just a reminder that now that we’re well into November we’re approaching the halfway point for the Potato Day pre-ordering period.  You need to have taken a look at what is on offer, decided what you’d like and then made and paid for your order by 4th December 2020. After that date any further orders will regretfully have to be turned away, as after then our friends in Transition Chesterfield will be taking all the pre-order requests and making the large bulk orders with the suppliers that allow us to have such reasonably priced potato tubers and seeds.

For more information head over to our Potato Day 2021 web page which has a link to the online ordering site run by Transition Chesterfield. When you’ve made an order there don’t forget to email the Transition Chesterfield team as they explain at the end to tell them you’d like to have your order collected by us for distribution in Loughborough.

We’re heavily encouraging the use of the online ordering system where possible this year as it reduces the need to social contact during this pandemic lock down period.  However if you prefer to make a paper pre-order we have a PDF for a leaflet that you can print out and fill in.  This can be delivered along with cash (no cheques please) for payment to:

Potato Day Order
Purple Pumpkin Patch
102 Ashby Road
Loughborough LE11 3AF

As with online pre-orders, these paper pre-orders must arrive by 4th December 2020.

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Paper orders for Potato Day

Our Potato Day 2021 pre-orders are open on the online Potato Day website under 4th December 2020. However we know some people prefer to make a paper pre-order so we have a PDF for a leaflet that you can print out and fill in.  This can be delivered along with cash (no cheques please) for payment to:

Potato Day Order
Purple Pumpkin Patch
102 Ashby Road
Loughborough LE11 3AF

The shop hours are 10am – 6pm Monday to Saturday. As with online pre-orders, these paper pre-orders must arrive by 4th December 2020.

However if you can order online, please do, as this minimises the social contact and handling of cash required.  If you do order online, please remember to let the Transition Chesterfield group who run the online store know that you’ll want to have your order distributed from Loughborough. We don’t want your potatos and seeds ending up in Chesterfield in January!

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Potato Day 2021 Pre-orders are open!

Potato Day 2021 is coming, and pre-orders are now being taken!

Despite the ongoing Covid-19 situation, Transition Loughborough has partnered once again with our friends in Transition Chesterfield to run Potato Day 2021 in January next year. Our annual Potato Days are a way to give people in the area access to reasonably priced seed potatoes (and onion sets, garlic and bean/pea seeds) which we pre-order before Christmas in bulk.  By combining forces with Transition Chesterfield we can make a larger bulk order to help keep the costs down, as well as run a single “online shop” to take the pre-orders.

The first step in Potato Day is having people who want to take part go to the Potato Day website run by Transition Chesterfield, see what varieties of seed potatoes, garlic, onions, beans and peas are on offer and place pre-orders.  When you make an order, please ensure that you let the Transition Chesterfield team know that you want your order delivered to Loughborough (otherwise it will end up in Chesterfield!).

All pre-orders need to be submitted with payment by Friday 4th December 2020, after which time they will all be combined and a large bulk order submitted to the horticultural suppliers.  In late January this bulk order is then delivered to Chesterfield and we make up the individual pre-orders that people in the two towns have made, ready for distribution.

In previous years distribution has been done in Loughborough at the community market stall in the town centre. Unfortunately it does not look like this will be available next year due to pandemic related changes, and, as we all know, the restrictions we’ll be working under may change at a few days notice.  So this year we’ll be letting people who make pre-orders know in January what the distribution mechanism will be. We’ve several options open to us, but which we can use will only be clear in mid January.

So if you’d like to get growing in 2021, get ordering now on the Potato Day website!



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Reminder: Carbon Literacy course starts this Thursday evening – sign up ASAP

Just a quick reminder that if you want to take part in the Carbon Literacy online course starting this Thursday evening you need to sign up as soon as possible. We have to limit spaces to make the online course manageable but there are currently a few places still available.  For details on the course and sign up, see our EventBrite page. It takes one Thursday evening for about 2-3 hours for three weeks to complete the course. The course costs £15 per person, but we have some bursaries available for no/low wage people that want to attend.

It’s a great way to find out about your carbon footprint, the impact of the organisations you work in/with and how we can all start to make changes that can help tackle climate change.

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