We have had a fantastic few days at Greenbelt, a Christian festival that celebrates arts and social justice. Whilst there I went to a number of incredible talks, listened to some soul-filling music and had animated conversations in the Jesus Arms (yes that is the name of the Pub) with people who were engaged in theology, politics and the whole of life. I loved it!
We camped at Greenbelt with a wonderful family. Camping, as am sure you can imagine, can include a fair bit of plastic. In all honesty, it is the most we have used this year. Some of it we could do a bit better (like the apples and crisps) but some of our plastic we reduced as much as we could (like home-cooked food in Tupperware, butter, re-fillable washing up liquid, loo roll). It is a tricky one as we were eating meals together as a clan of seven in a rather unusual way. We aren’t exactly expert campers.
I am not going to be too hard on myself but there is always more I could learn. My bin tells me this when I look in it! I am hoping to be better prepared in the future and research how to keep prices reasonable without plastic in camping before I next go to Greenbelt.
We did however take with us all the usual musts (water bottles, tea re-fillable caddies and re-usable bags) and really are trying to use as much of the food up before whatever we have left goes off (which involves a mixture of sharing out the food and freezing!). However, it has in no ways been a plastic free life the last few days.
Greenbelt – Food
This year Greenbelt managed to ensure that all food produced and items such as trays, forks, knives, cups was compostable. THIS IS A HUGE STEP and something I congratulate the festival on achieving. This is a festival that had around 20,000 folks wandering around it this year. They still sold plastic bottles containing various liquids but again made an active effort with their recycling and labelling which is a good step forward.
Furthermore, the Jesus Arms (the pub) promoted re-using and reducing waste with bought in plastic cups. You paid a deposit of £2 used the cup all festival (at least we did) and then take it back at the end. This radically reduced the use of single use plastic for beer cups and was so exciting to see. I look forward to seeing those same cups next time I go to Greenbelt.
I also noticed an increased stock in the Greenbelt shop of re-usable and biodegradable products – this is great to see.
One really inspiring talk I went to was on Junk Food led by members of The Real Junk Food Project. All weekend in the Christian Aid tent at Greenbelt people were fed using Junk Food in the manner in which The Real Junk Food Project operates. It was wonderful to see faith in practise.
The main speaker on stage was Duncan Milwain, a trustee of The Real Junk Food Project. He talked about how in the last three years they have collected around 300,000 Tonnes of food and produced just under a 1/3 of a million meals across their regional cafes. What really made me think was how simple their enterprise was – collecting food from supermarkets and other sources like allotments an then either distributing through alternative food markets or cafes on a Pay-As-You-Feel basis. Food waste is challenging to my own lifestyle as in reality a lot of that food will be wrapped in plastic. Yet, when you consider how many folks aren’t able to eat I can only applaud the churches, community groups and individuals working with this charity and this excess food that is being produced.
Duncan said that it was something like around 130% more food is on average being produced by farmers in order to meet supermarkets standards. It makes you realise how much waste is going on at all levels – from the growing, to the supermarkets to our own kitchens and has made me think again on how I can work towards reducing my waste.
In total, there are around 120 of these cafes up and running throughout this country and really there could be more. Do check out their website to see if there is one near you that you could actively support. Maybe your church or community could even host one.
I had some really helpful conversations about approachability with friends on things like trying to live plastic-free. In one conversation, it struck me how hard folks do find my lifestyle. This is despite me saying that I don’t intend to impose it on anyone and am trying to be as honest as I can in explaining how hard it is and when I go wrong. One friend rightfully said though I am open about it (particularly through this blog) and it comes up in conversation – although not as often as you might imagine. Although I might argue this is not imposing, I guess it nevertheless isn’t subtle either. It is tricky as by trying to live in an ethical way I do believe in, it turns out some find it very tricky to see me as not being judgemental in some way or seeing my lifestyle as “hard-core”. Yet, to raise awareness of anything I believe conversation is important.
I had another conversation with a vegan friend on how she finds people react to her being vegan. This particular friend mentioned one conversation where someone said to them “Do you feel ethically superior to the rest of us?”. She said that this was hard as she had not even brought up her veganism other than in a “dietary requirement” obligatory information way. She is probably one of the least outspoken vegans because she is aware of how some vegans are portrayed particularly through some Social Media. However, there seems to be a tension often experienced by folks who are trying to live a somewhat different lifestyle which strikes me as being problematic for producing healthy, “real” dialogue. If you can’t ever talk about aspects of how you live your life no-one can challenge you for it either. I had one such challenge when running recently with someone who said “but you aren’t vegan” as she, a vegetarian, realised that I was plastic free mainly for environmental reasons and yet knew that being vegan was the most environmentally friendly diet (in terms of actual food processes) possible. And she was right. I could do better too.
I often get folks apologising to me for their plastic use (admittedly sometimes jokingly). What concerns me though is that it suggests I am making others feel “guilty”. This is an interesting idea considering that I too am guilty of using plastic as soon as I write a blog (computer), ring someone (phone) or take a ride into town on a bus (a lot of the bus!). Perhaps there is something about terms like “Zero Waste”, a lifestyle I admire, and maybe even “Plastic Free” that is unhealthy. Both suggests absoluteness – a sense of no guilt, no link to waste or plastic ever again…which is simply impossible. Maybe I need to raise awareness of that more. I am guilty too. Let’s keep trying together in whatever ways we can.