The never ending journey
Achieving circular economy is a journey, an idyllic economic system which seems so far beyond our reach. Perhaps it needs to be, in order for us to continually strive, to be challenged and avoid complacency.
So what is a circular economy and is it really achievable?
“A framework for an economy that is restorative and regenerative by design” The Ellen Macarthur Foundation
Basically it is a system which by it’s own design eliminates waste and pollution. It re-uses resources and materials and uses natural sources of energy to create a cyclical process. Click the button below for a thorough definition on The Ellen Macarthur Foundation website.
Is it achieveable?
This question is up for debate, will we ever facilitate enough positive change to allow a circular economy? Is it too late? Are we too set in our ways? As there are many eco-systems and variables to consider it is much easier to focus on what we can achieve in our own lives, our own mini economies if you will. People are starting to feel ‘eco anxiety’, an overwhelming sense of the world in a bad place, falling off a cliff almost and a common conception is “I can’t do enough to make a difference” or “what’s the point if no one else does anything?” It is easy to understand this feeling and yes we have been heading in the wrong direction for some time now. Even though the likes of David Attenborough have been talking about climate change for 30+ years it seems the rest of us are only just catching up. In February this year Sir David Attenborough attended the UN security council and told it’s 15 members: “There is no going back – no matter what we do now, it’s too late to avoid climate change and the poorest, the most vulnerable, those with the least security, are now certain to suffer.”
So what is the point? It seems that the most vulnerable countries of the world are lightyears behind us so why should we bother if they don’t? As mentioned already climate change is happening, it has happened and we are too late to change it, but runaway climate change is perhaps still within our reach to stop. This way we can slow things down and recover some of the damage. “By helping vulnerable countries adapt to climate change and cutting global emissions to net zero, we will protect not only the bountiful biodiversity of our planet, but its prosperity and security”. said Boris Johnson at the same UN security council which he chaired in February this year. And we must lead by example as well as doing what is within our power to do. Focus on what we can change and what areas we can have the most impact in.
There is a social pressure now which says you must be plastic free, vegan, zero waste, drive an electric car and live a net zero lifestyle. But of course aside from a few exceptions that is unrealistic for us. We (society) can’t afford a lot of it financially, the information and changes needed are overwhelming, we don’t even know where to start.
If your garage is on fire do you add some fuel and watch your house burn or try to limit the damage and protect your future?
At Eat Street we are not perfect, we certainly do some things or have systems in place in our home and business lives which are less than ideal, but we are aware, proactive to be better and empowered to change for a better future. We are looking to improve and find better and more eco friendly ways of doing things. In the meantime we do our best and if we can all do that it will have an impact.
So we decided to empower you to make a few changes for the better, even if it is a small change so that it is all a little less overwhelming. We are not here to preach but we do love to share, so take from this guide what you will. We have included a few ideas and have shared some of our practices and would really appreciate you sharing these with others as well as your own with us.
Use this hashtag to share with us on Instagram #EatStreetCE Eat Street Circular Economy
Food waste - at home and for small businesses
This is something that we have a bit of experience in! The Eat Street model is designed to be virtually food waste free and we can say with some confidence, that it is. Some rules that we follow to ensure this, are below
- Pre orders – this may be new and even annoying for some but this is why we insist on pre-ordering of all food. Everything is prepared on the day of collection based on our orders and we don’t make or carry any spares. This gives an added pressure to remember everything but we are proud to say we don’t throw any food away. We only cook what we need.
- Freezing of proteins and wet dishes in small batches – As all of our meat is cooked for two days we obviously can’t cook that to order for you, (plus it wouldn’t be very energy conscious to do this) but we do freeze in small batches of 4 portions. This means in a worst case scenario that we don’t sell any more portions within it’s shelf life after defrosting, we only have to eat 3 portions to avoid waste! We eat from our menu most days in some form so this is easy for us to manage. Plus it means that we can give you the freshest food possible. Imagine a restaurant taking out 100 portions at a time, the pressure of losing that money could mean the shelf life is extended a little…..
- Compost – Of course we have vegetable trimmings that we don’t cook with but they are all composted either on our heap in the garden or via our bokashi system which also gives us a plant feed as a bi-product. The beauty of the compost is that although it can sometimes feel like it’s still being wasted it is far from it – you are providing a habitat for many micro-organisms as well as worms, insects, slow worms etc. We also save up trimmings of cucumber, tomato, radishes, lettuce and add them to fruit and juice to make delicious smoothies full of nutrients. With enough banana any smoothie can taste great!
- Planning ahead and freezing in time to prolong life – Don’t keep something in the fridge or freezer ‘just in case’. You won’t use it and it just means you will end up with clutter. Make a plan of how you will use something and stick to it. Freeze bones to make stock, freeze sauces in manageable portions that you will actually use them, collect trimmings for the end of the week and routinely do something with them! We dice and freeze veg that is turning before it goes off and use in curries and stews, we grate cheese and freeze it as it arrives instead of waiting for it to go mouldy first. Be prepared!
https://www.facebook.com/groups/209814736953545Some further tips you can utilise at home –
- Some food with high fat or sugar content will not fully freeze meaning you can store it in the freezer without it going hard but the food poisoning bacteria will not be able to grow at this temperature. We keep harissa paste in the freezer and take out a spoonful at a time to flavour our yoghurt. Before we discovered this technique the paste would start to go moldy before we could use it all and we were wasting some of every jar. It’s not cheap either!
- Cooking meat and other products can lengthen the shelflife. If you are on the last day of a best before on chicken for example and you don’t plan to eat it, just cook it and refridgerate, extending the life by up to three days
- At Eat Street we also love to pickle things. We have a kombucha vinegar which pickles our vegetables and preserves them indefinately. If you don’t have a use for that extra carrot or beetroot etc just pickle it and jar it up for a rainy day.
- In a similar way jams and chutneys are a great way to preserve fruit and veg that might not get eaten before spoilage. Chutneys are great as they can take most ingredients and a recipe is not required! Equal quantities of sugar and vinegar added to a fruit/veg base and cooked until thick and dark will preserve in a sterilised jar.
- If you don’t have a compost bin and don’t have the space to get one, why not donate your food waste to others? Perhaps using channels such as G.I.V.E (green island veg economy) or contacting a neighbour or local allotment who could take it.
- Replant root vegetables. Did you know you can re-plant veg such as spring onions, radishes and beetroot by cutting off the root and burying it in fresh compost? It will regrow fully and you can keep it on a cycle all year long! That means you only have to buy them once. It still blows our minds!
- If all of these steps are still overwhelming or you don’t think you can realistically manage them, buy your products from someone who is food waste conscious. Supporting the right people and businesses will also have an impact and help do your bit. Also remember you don’t need to do everything. Doing something is helpful, no matter how small.
There are a few options for selling off or giving away surplus food that would otherwise be waste. Check out Too Good to Go and Olio
Packaging and plastic or other waste
There are some really obvious things that we can all do with regards to packaging and the best option is to simply not use packaging at all! Buy in an old fashioned way and carry with your hands, in a re-useable bag, even a jar or bowl. The trouble we find is that most people have the best intentions but there just aren’t the options yet. Certain products only come in plastic, others have another option which is unaffordable. It is also really confusing to know what you can recycle or compost and what you can’t. We spent a lot of time sourcing our compostable packaging for Eat Street and we had lots of samples sent to us which were apparently suitable. Many said they were compostable and biodegradable and it would be easy to tick a box and use them but what is not clear after further research is that these are only commercially compostable! This means they require a regulated humidity and temperature etc in order to degrade. Not the same thing! We only use materials that will de-compose in your home compost bin.
Here is a handy guide to help you know what is the best option for your own packaging –
Refuse - what are my options?
There are some great reusable products out there now and many of which we stock in our Eco Street shop. Select the highlighted options to go straight to the product.
- Reuseable coffee cups. Say no to plastic and paper options and carry your own. Most coffee shops now offer an incentive such as money off for having your own cup!
- Stainless steel straws. These are a great option as a reusable straw. They can come with a carry case and cleaning brush to get inside the straw.
- Reusable tea and coffee bags. Some tea bags contain glue which is not compostable or recyclable. Best option is to use your own and fill with your favourite loose leaf tea and ground coffee. You will save money too!
- Reusable baking mats. Made of silicone these are non stick and really easy to use. You don’t need to use any greaseproof paper. You can also get silicone cake tins, muffin trays and many more options.
- Reusable cotton bags for fruit and veg and bread/produce are a great way to say no to single use plastic or paper bags. Carry them in your car, rucksack or handbag and always be prepared.
- Clip top jars, glass bottles and plastic containers/Tupperware make great storage instead of plastic alternatives and you can use them for picnics, packed lunches, larder storage and many others
Reduce - where do I start?
Simply try to reduce the ratio of waste to non waste within what you purchase.
- Sometimes buying in bulk may reduce the packaging weight and may give you more options to re-use. For example buy larger tin of food which reduces the weight of waste. You can also reuse some larger tins as herb planters or even bread and cake tins.
- Think outside the box! Buy things like cereals from zero waste stores and fill your own jar rather than purchasing in pre-packaged formats.
- Just be mindful of what you need and if you don’t need something but it creates waste, maybe just leave it behind?
- We stock some great packaging free products in our shops and we will give you £1 back for every jar you return to us! We also have a range of commercial cleaning products which are plastic free and take up the smallest amount of space! Click here for more information.
Reuse - How?
Some things are more obvious than others – if you buy a ‘bag for life’ actually use it more than once. If you treat it like a single use bag you are wasting more plastic and it costs you more! It does extend beyond packaging though and you should always try to reuse anything you can to keep it out that landfill!
- Reuse empty jam jars and glass bottles to make your own preserves or liquors or just store other items such as spices, ground coffee and other larder products. If you don’t have a use for them, list them online and give them away for free. You would be surprised how quick someone will snap them up!
- Takeaway containers make great storage for the freezer and leftovers in your fridge. You have paid for them once when you buy your meal so why not use them as much as you can?
- Upcycle everything! We are great at doing this and really enjoy it. Our trailer is made of old pallets, shower enclosures, shelving units, toolboxes. We have drawers in our kitchen at home made from wooden wine shipping crates and sheds made from old fences and pallets. We have made tables from cable drums and other furniture from old dining sets, destined for the tip! It saves money, is original and let’s face it it is so much fun. Get creative and save that waste.
- If you can’t find a use for something, give it away. Someone might have the time or inclination to upcycle it and keep it out of landfill!
Some of our upcycling projects - click to make them bigger
Recycle - what can I recycle?
This is the thing that is always really confusing and this is why we prefer to home compost wherever we can. Sometimes a plastic bottle can be recycled, the lid can’t and the label can’t either! It’s not easy to know and some products don’t seem to have the information needed. Below is the guide for the IOW curbside recycling and you can download it here
Further to this there are a few items from the ‘non-recyclable household waste’ section which you can recycle through Terracycle………you can drop them to the drop off point in Ryde or leave them with us! We are now a Terracyle drop off point for Cowes and we take a bin with us when we are in our other locations too so we are mobile as well!
To find out what we will and won’t take, visit our Terracycle facebook page
Rot - Why?
Many creatures such as worms, slow worms, woodlice live in compost heaps. They naturally generate heat and of course are full of food. A slow worm can spend it’s entire life in a compost bin! Many people may compost their food waste and wonder why it seems to go moldy and why it takes a long time to decompose. You need a good mixture of brown and green waste so ensure that you are also adding some paper and other brown waste to keep it running efficiently.
If your compost bin is made up of 100% ‘green’ waste it will not be effective.
Green waste – freshly cut grass, leaves, food waste, basically anything that was living recently!
Brown waste – brown and dry leaves, wood, paper, packaging, things that have undergone some processing
So Why do we use compostable packaging and not recyclable?
The 5 Rs are a great system to follow and in theory it will be the best scenario. Our feeling at Eat Street is that for this model to work perfectly the recyclable items need to be recycled properly and we need to be sure that they will end up in the correct place. If they are not, or they get soiled with other products they will end up in landfill with the rest of the non-recyclable plastic. As it can be complicated and quite frankly a bit of a mine field we like to keep it simple. The model above is also based on most people composting or ‘rotting’ through their council collection and this does have a carbon footprint or cost due to refuse lorries. If you compost at home you can be sure exactly where your waste is going, you can actually see it rot over time and you can also use the finished product in your own circular economy (your garden). Bokashi composting also provides an additional product in the form of the bokashi tea which can be used as a plant fertilizer or natural drain cleaner.
We can tell you all to go and buy an electric car but the truth is we can’t all afford one yet and we are also limited with charging points in this country. At Eat Street we are still tied because we need something that is strong enough to pull the horsebox and there isn’t much out there yet. And it is expensive! But we can still lower our emissions in various ways. At Eat Street we occasionally have a quiet night or we may have 90 minutes in between orders! We make the decision in this case to offer our customers delivery to limit our carbon footprint. We also keep conversations open with our customers and if they are happy to take delivery at similar times as each other this also reduces the number of trips needed. This way we don’t use the generator at all and we are also able to plug in at most of our locations now, reducing the need for the generator. Over time we hope to be battery operated but this takes time and a lot of funding. The best we can do at the moment is limit as much as possible. You can also do this by considering the following points.
- Can I cycle or walk instead? If you can there are obvious benefits to getting around on foot or bike such as fitness and enjoying the view more!
- Car share – not enough people do this and lot’s of cars travel the same way every day. It would reduce the traffic, emissions and you may even make a new friend. You can use this method for travelling further afield with sites such as Blablacar
- Plan ahead – don’t drive out just to get some milk or cat food, try and tie a few trips into one and make the most of it
- Drive at the speed limit. Speeding will use more fuel and create more emissions.
- If you really want to make a radical change there are some great options out there for cargo bikes and suchlike that can replace a car if you don’t need to much range. They are a great option for the IOW! Check out these great new bikes from Raleigh!
Don't be overwhelmed
There is so much information out there but just remember that you don’t have to make all these changes at once. If you can change one tiny thing it will have an impact. Hopefully we have inspired you to try a few new things to work towards a circular economy. We would love for you to share some ideas with us as well. And that is the key to the success – share everything and let’s all work together.