May 2018

Microfibres and Plastic Clothing

Hopefully you have heard in the news recently, about the danger microbeads pose to our marine life, and that they have been banned from cosmetics. However, did you know that microfibres (smaller than 5mm) shed from our synthetic clothing each time we wash them? They cannot all be filtered by our machines because they are so small: some get filtered by water treatment, but the rest absorb toxins when they pass through water treatment facilities, then wash out to sea. Being plastic they do not bio-degrade, and can get ingested by marine life, making their way into the food chain.
So what can we do about it? We could swap our synthetic clothes for natural fibres. Wool in this country should be valued more as it can often be a waste product. Viscose is actually made from wood pulp which will degrade. But no fabric is without its environmental impacts: cotton contributes to up to a fifth of the world's pesticides.
It is unlikely that we will all want to swap our cosy winter fleeces, and disposing of useful clothing is a waste anyway, as the fibres do not degrade in landfill either. Some synthetic clothing is durable and functional. Buying good quality that will last, is always better for the environment. Some clothing brands such as Adidas are now making a range of sports clothes out of recycled plastic. 
If you want to keep washing and wearing your synthetic clothes, you can rest assured you don’t add to the pollution problem by getting a “guppy friend”. Designed by two German scientists, you can put your clothes in this bag, wash as usual, and the fine mesh fabric will catch all the microfibres inside, which you can later remove like drier lint. Problem solved!

April 2018

Monocultures, Polycultures, and why we should eat organic food.

So what is a monoculture? It is the method of arable farming we are all used to; one crop grown in a field, or any plant grown as a single species and variety. The benefits of this are that it is much easier for the farmer to sow, feed and harvest mechanically: if for instance your peas all ripen at the same time, you can use a specially designed machine to pick and process them all at once. However, harvesting a large field all at once increases soil erosion, as it will be some time before new plants establish, leaving the soil bare for a while. Because the height of the plant is all the same, there is sometimes problems with airflow, leading to higher uses of fungicides, such as with wheat. One type of plant leads to an abundant food source for pests to feed on, and less habitat for their predators, leading to more pesticides. They will also compete for the same nutrients in the soil, meaning more fertiliser is needed. So a monoculture makes it very difficult to be organic. 

In contrast, a polyculture; a mixture of two or more species or variety of plant grown together, more closely resembles nature. Different heights of plants allow better use of the available sunlight and allow more airflow. Different depths of roots and nutrient requirements utilise more volume of the soil, and help reduce soil erosion. Some plants even have beneficial relationships, fixing nitrogen for others, or attracting predatory insects for their pests. Polycultures have the potential to give a higher yield per acre, with less chemical input. We must also consider that maximum yield isn’t everything, the stability of the system and ability to provide food in the future is also important. Polycultures make sowing and harvesting the crops on a large scale more difficult, but is this just because we haven’t designed the machinery yet?! 

While research continues on how to utilise polycultures in modern large scale farming, you can support small scale, organic farming right now. Ray’s veg, (to order your veg box call 07791 604329), is an example of an old fashioned market garden, who has turned their back on modern intensive farming, to grow a mixture of many types of vegetables on his 6 acres. Or you can order a veg box from “steepholding”, an organic permaculture farm near Greenham, by visiting ‪

The above are as close to a polyculture as is feasible in a few acres, however we can create our own true polyculture at home, maximising productivity in a small space. The potager style garden, which grows vegetables and flowers together, or the forest garden concept (eg. Martin Crawford’s book “creating a forest garden”) which uses trees, bushes and underplanting, are ways you can provide food for yourself in your garden, in an environmentally friendly way.

February 2018 - by Professor Mike Czerniak and Helen Gillingham


Why is it environmentally friendly to recycle aluminium?

Aluminium has a heavy manufacturing footprint. It takes a lot of energy to mine bauxite ore from the earth and then process it: Producing 1 ton of aluminum requires 170 million thermal units of energy and produces about 12 tons of carbon dioxide. The smelting process is highly electricity energy-intensive; most smelters are located next to major power sources (often coalfields or oilfields). Over 50% of world primary aluminium production is currently in China, so there’s a transport carbon footprint too.

So, what can we do about our use of aluminium to lessen its impact. 

Reuse is one straightforward option. You can reuse foil at home by washing it and straightening it out, saving you money too. 

Recycling saves over 90 million tonnes of CO2 annually, requiring up to 95% less energy than smelting (i.e. just enough to re-melt the aluminium). 75% of all aluminium ever produced (i.e. since 1855) is currently still in productive use thanks to recycling! There is no limit to the number of times that aluminium can be recycled; there is no loss of quality.

The BIG difference between primary production (smelting) and recycling is that smelting also emits more than half the world’s carbon tetrafluoride, CF4. This is a Green House Gas which, litre-for-litre, packs a 100-year atmospheric warming punch that is 7,390 times that of carbon dioxide. If that wasn’t enough, its atmospheric lifetime (analogous to a radioactivity half-life) is 50,000 years! In contrast, there are zero emissions of this gas with recycling!

It is imperative that we recycle all the foil, takeaway cartons, and cans we use, by simply rinsing them at the end of your washing up, and putting it outside for curbside collection. We have an amazing facility in Somerset, let's make sure we all use it! 

For your reference The IAI (International Aluminium Institute) ( is a great source of information & are working hard to reduce aluminium’s carbon footprint.

January 2018 by Mary Bradford

Citrus fruits are abundant, and of good quality at this time of year.

Although not local they are seasonal produce in Spain and North Africa and are more environmentally transported to the UK by ship.

Rich in vitamin C they are a necessary part of our winter diet.

The peel is normally thrown away but can be used to make marmalade, candied or dried to make a tea or as a fire lighter!

Orange and Lemon Peel Marmalade

3 juicing orange shells or the peel from 2 large oranges

2 lemon shells after juicing

1kg granulated sugar + 1 sachet pectin.

Soak the fruit overnight in 1.1 litres of cold water

Boil the fruit in a covered pan until very soft approx. 1-2 hrs. Reserve the liquid.

Leave to cool and chop the fruit finely.

Measure the liquid and add more water, if necessary, to make 900ml.

Mix the pectin with the sugar.

Add to the fruit and liquid in a large pan and heat gently stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Turn up the heat and boil rapidly, without stirring, until setting point is reached.

To test for setting.

Put a teaspoon of the liquid on a very cold saucer. Leave 30secs. Push with a finger.

If the liquid surface wrinkles then setting point has been reached

Take off the heat and leave to stand for 15mins.

Pour into clean warm jars.

Cover and label when cold.

December 2017 -  by Helen Gillingham

Christmas isn't great for our carbon footprint as consumerism is at its height- however we can try to tread more lightly on the planet by trying not to waste food this Christmas. 

There are many ways you can waste less food- for instance did you know that cheese freezes well? If you look at your cheeseboard and think- "we’ll never eat all of that"- why not put half of it in the freezer?! If you eat more than you thought you would, you can always take it out again- or it can be a nice treat in February! 

Wasting turkey is one of the big ones- meat scores highly towards your individual carbon footprint, as the production of one calorie of animal protein requires more than ten times the fossil fuel input as a calorie of plant protein. A turkey is a slow growing bird, so just think how much grain and water it will consume in its lifetime. The most wasted part of the turkey is the leg- such a shame as it’s the tastiest bit in my opinion! Jamie Oliver’s recipe is a little bit faffy, (although delicious and uses seasonal chicory) however taking out the basis for the meat is easy: dry fry shredded leg turkey meat with Chinese 5 spice until crispy, then add honey near the end - makes a gorgeous snack to have as finger food at a party, to dip in chilli sauce or mayo, or to replace Chinese crispy duck in a wrap with spring onion, hoisin and cucumber!  

I love finding new recipes and resurrecting old ones to use leftovers, so hopefully this has inspired you. "Bubble and squeak anyone?" 

November 2017- written by Helen Gillingham

So now that Halloween and fireworks night have been and gone, many of us will turn our thoughts to planning for Christmas. But many people dislike how commercial Christmas has become, with so many adverts tempting you to buy lots of things you probably don't need. So this year let's embrace the traditional Christmas and make our own! Involving the family to make presents for teachers or friends gives a much bigger sense of achievement than going shopping. 

You could just start small, by making your own gift labels from cutting up last years Christmas cards, or if you are feeling more adventurous by making your own mincemeat! This needs a good month to mature before making mince pies, so aim to make it by the end of November. A yummy traditional recipe can be found on, which is really easy to assemble and fills your house with gorgeous smells of brandy and spices. However this recipe uses lots of raisins that are grown in hot places such as California, not great for our carbon footprint. Find out how to make a more sustainable, local, and just-as-yummy mincemeat using a much higher apple content, demonstrated by Mary, at our "Make your own Christmas"  event Saturday 25th November 1-4 pm at the community centre on White Hart Lane. We will also show how to make pastry and mince pies from scratch, along with lots of other recipes, including cranberry vs redcurrant sauce, homemade chocolates and beautiful wreathes and other decorations from locally foraged foliage, plus you will be able to join in with all the demos and taste the food after! 

Whatever you do this Christmas, you can do it cheaper, and with more fun for the family, if you make some of it yourself.

Although we obviously cannot rear our turkey ourselves, we encourage everyone to support our local farmers and butchers rather than getting your turkey from the supermarket. Coates and Potters supply locally reared turkeys, or you can buy free range and organic straight from the farm at Fenton Farm near Greenham, 01823 672075 -and they will deliver. 

October 2017- written by Ann Elliot Day

The Great Vegan Challenge

The Great Vegan Challenge takes place every November. It’s a great opportunity to try out a vegan diet which has many environmental benefits including reducing your ‘carbon footprint’ and the destruction of land for producing animal feed as well as saving huge amounts of water used in animal farming.

Go to to find out more including recipes you can try, nutritional information, as well as entering a prize draw to win a hamper of vegan goodies. It’s a great opportunity to try a diet that is kinder to the planet, to animals and to you. To get started here is a simple vegan version of a classic recipe.

Cottage Pie

6oz lentils  - dark green (puy) lentils are best

1½ lb potatoes

I tbsp oil

1 onion

2 carrots

2 sticks celery

1 leek

1/3 of a green or red pepper

2oz mushrooms

1 clove garlic

4 small tomatoes + 1 tbsp tomato paste (or use 2 tbsp pasta sauce)

1 tspn Marmite

½ pint water

Soya milk


½ tspn mustard

Heat oven to 180C. Cover lentils in water and simmer for about ½ hour until cooked. Boil potatoes in water until cooked. Fry chopped onion and garlic in the oil, followed by mushrooms, celery, pepper, leek and carrots. Dissolve Marmite in the water and add to the pan along with the cooked lentils. Cover and cook for 5-10 minutes until vegetables are cooked (add more water if necessary so the mixture doesn’t become too dry). Mash potatoes using soya milk, margarine and mustard. Put vegetable and lentil mix in dish and cover with the mashed potato. Cook in oven for about 20-30 minutes. Serve with green vegetables.

September 2017- written by Helen Gillingham

It's Apple Harvest Time!

This time of year, apple and pear trees are laden with fruit. If you don't have your own tree, you can visit the community orchard in Wellington! Two other sites that have been planted with apple trees recently are not producing fruit yet, however at Swains Lane nature reserve, the trees are now 8 years or more old, and are producing a good harvest. There are cooking, eating, and cider apples on this site, and one conference pear. Directions are TA21 9PS, for a more detailed description, visit 

To assess if an apple is ready to pick, simply give it a gentle twist. It should come away easily. If you have to use force then it won't be ripe, so just come back at a later date! There is no need to shake a tree, in fact it is likely to damage the branches, leaving it open to disease that will harm future harvests, so please be respectful to the trees. Don't forget to look under the trees for windfalls, if making pies, juice or jelly, these are just as good. 

It's been a good crop of pears this year! These you don't have to pick fully ripe, they can finish ripening in your fruit bowl.

Although dessert apples can be eaten fresh, you can use cooking apples for yummy pies and crumbles. Two pastry recipes, and how to make cider vinegar are on However if you have lots of peels and cores left over, even these need not be wasted! You can boil them up with water and two tablespoons of lemon juice, to make your own home made pectin! Boil for 40 minutes, then strain it through a jelly bag. Finally, boil the juice until it thickens, pour it into sterilized jars, and seal them. 

We are holding a free apple juicing session from 11-3 on Saturday 7th of October at the friends meeting house garden. Everyone is welcome, including supervised children. Please bring apples and bottles. 

August 2017- written by Kate Holloway

Herbs can be hard to germinate, some more than others. One solution is to look for reduced herb plants that many supermarkets sell at the end of their shelf life and then replant them in a much larger pot using some left over compost or good garden soil. The herbs sold for cooking are very closely packed, which is why they don't last long once you have bought them. Try carefully separating the plants and putting them into a larger flower pot and then put them on your window sill or in a sheltered and sunny spot outside. This will see them growing on and giving you fresh leaves for some time. The best herbs for potting on, are basil (great with tomatoes or in any sort of pasta sauce), parsley ( very tasty when chopped up and added to scrambled eggs or egg sandwiches) and mint (traditionally for mint sauce, or you can add to chopped cucumber with yoghurt for a salad). I planted out some flat leaf parsley bought from one of the supermarkets in Wellington in June and it is still giving me plenty of leaves now.

Some supermarkets also sell several varieties of lettuce in a punnet and these can be used in the same way as the herbs, they are really just seedlings and very much cheaper than buying them as lettuce plants. If you don't have a veg patch then plant out the lettuce seedlings in pots or in your flower borders. Many varieties of lettuce can cope with having leaves removed for your sandwich or side salad, with the main plant being left to carry on growing. They are often very attractive and look good in the flower beds.

July 2017- written by Helen Gillingham

 Changing the world one cotton bud at a time."

So here's a little success story in regards to reducing our plastic waste. 

As a beauty therapist, I have always chosen paper stem cotton buds over plastic, because of the obvious reason; isn't it better to throw away or compost a little paper and cotton stick, over a plastic one, that will stay in our landfill for years to come. Lots even make their way into the sea, choking marine life and littering beaches, due to people flushing them down the toilet, (which you should not do, even with paper ones.) However, although I could find paper stem cotton buds in the beauty therapy wholesale catalogues, they were never available in the shops. So what should I do? Approach Boots or Sunseed and see if they would sell them? I discussed with people when I remembered, but unfortunately as sometimes these things go, never got round to writing to Boots.

But one day I got one of those petition emails from 38 degrees, and "city to sea" had started petition called "switch the stick", calling for the supermarkets and chemists to change their ways and start selling ones with paper stems! Of course I signed immediately, and shared with friends. I wish I'd thought to start a petition, but at least I know now that it's easy to do on or 38 degrees.

So now in Wellington, you can get paper stem cotton buds from the co-op, boots, Waitrose and Asda, but watch out for Asda's own brand which are still plastic, (they also sell Johnson and Johnson who have now switched) and Wellington's Superdrug still only sell plastic ones. So please, next time you buy them, choose the paper stem ones, and pop them in the compost, to help reduce our plastic waste. And maybe if there is a cause you feel strongly about, you could start a petition, or maybe even just help someone else by adding your signature, as these little things are what help change the world.

June 2017- co written by Pat Crew and Helen Gillingham

Wasting food is an important issue, because it's an immense waste of the worlds resources; from the nutrients stored in the soil, and the Diesel used to farm and transport it to us. We would like to offer practical tips on how we can all help reduce waste some of our most perishable items, milk, cheese, eggs and bread, in a series of articles. 

Milk is horrid when it goes off, but we don't need a use by date to tell this, we can just use our eyes and nose! If you work out how much milk you use per day, just buy the right amount. If you have miscalculated and have excess, use it to make a cheese sauce for macaroni or cauliflower cheese, or a parsley sauce for ham. If you are going on holiday, you can always freeze milk. 

Roux recipe:

This sauce is the basis for cheese sauce and parsley sauce (or gravy, but then you add vegetable stock and meat juices instead of milk).

Add 1 tablespoon butter (or margarine) to a pan.

Melt this, then add 2 tablespoons of flour. (Just use whatever you have; white plain is best, but self raising seems to make no difference, and wholemeal just has little brown wheat flakes in it, which doesn't alter the taste.)

Stir vigorously (using a whisk) until sizzling, taking seconds! 

Add half a pint of milk, a bit at a time and keep whisking.

To increase the volume, just double the recipe. For a thinner sauce, add more milk. For parsley sauce add parsley, and for a cheese sauce, add cheese. Easy! It takes no longer than 5 minutes, and tastes so much better than a packet sauce, plus saving you money, especially if using milk or cheese which might be wasted.