How Should My Garden Grow?

How can you most effectively reduce your carbon footprint through your choice of what food you grow yourself?

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Growing your own food is often, and justifiably, talked about as an effective way to reduce your carbon footprint by avoiding the environmental impact of food miles and out-of-season veg from the supermarket. In the UK, between 20 and 30 per cent of our annual greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture – from pesticide use to refrigeration and transportation.

Over half the world’s population now reside in urban areas, and urban food production is becoming increasingly popular as a way to mitigate climate change, improve food quality and reduce personal carbon footprints.

The variety of herbs, fruit and vegetables grown by allotment holders, community farms and the like are endless – just take a wander around the town of Todmorden for example, where peppers grow outside the police station in homage to the Beatles, and the hospital boasts an apothecary garden with herbal remedies galore.

However, for those just starting to venture into the world of grow-your-own, especially those doing so from a concern to reduce their impact on our planet’s delicate climate, choosing what to grow can be an overwhelming experience. This is especially true if you, like the vast majority of us that live in urban areas, suffer from limited growing space. What on earth should you choose – what is the most effective way to grow food and save the planet?

Continue reading How Should My Garden Grow?

Five environmental issues that will make headlines in 2015

(Originally published at Clarity News)

1. Fracking

Over the last year, fracking politics have entered mainstream political discourse in the UK. The Infrastructure Bill currently making its way through parliament has the potential to legally oblige the Government to extract all available oil and gas reserves in the country, which would necessarily include fracking. This has prompted widespread public outcry and the creation of numerous community groups to oppose widespread fracking across the country. A list of licenses for unconventional gas exploration given by the government is due to be released this year, and decisions from planning authorities, the UK and Scottish governments regarding the extent to which fracking and unconventional gas exploration will be allowed, will also be announced. This will shape the direction of energy politics in Britain for better or worse, and is worth keeping a close eye on.

Continue reading Five environmental issues that will make headlines in 2015

Incredible! Plant Veg, Grow a Revolution

In 2012 I was lucky enough to visit Todmorden, home of Incredible Edible and bastion of hope for people around the world looking for evidence that small changes can make a big difference.

Incredible: Plant Veg, Grow a Revolution is the new book now available to order all about Incredible Edible Todmorden. It’s been a while since I could really describe a book as a “page-turner” but here is a story that truly lives up to that description!

ImageIncredible Edible has been a key movement that I’ve thought back to time and again when the state of our planet gets me down. It’s easy to be depressed about the environment – so easy, in fact, that it’s actually pretty hard to narrow down specific examples as evidence. From the Fijian government’s evacuation and relocation strategies for its islanders faced with rising sea levels (another news source here) to the knowledge that those most responsible for the unprecedented rise in carbon dioxide concentration in our atmosphere will probably suffer the least – and therefore take the least action to curb their emissions – to the fact that the UK government has a climate change-denier responsible for climate change policy, it’s easy to feel like all there is left to do is give up and (literally) wait for the tide to come in.

And that’s when I remember Incredible Edible. Incredible Edible started from the idea that maybe the way to change the world was to stop talking about inaccessible and scary concepts like peak oil and carbon cycles, and start talking about food. Incredible Edible: “If you eat, you’re in”.

ImageThe story of Incredible Edible is one of a depressing and declining Yorkshire market town that turned its future around through the powers of food and community. From its humble beginnings with a sign on a vegetable patch that read “Please help yourself”, to propaganda planting around the town, to a global network of committed individuals working to increase their communities’ health, knowledge, love for food, and future security, Incredible Edible is positive action at its best. And it isn’t elitist, either – one of the things I love most about the project is that from its very outset those involved were convinced that they could only do this by involving the most disadvantaged communities in the area – otherwise, what was the point?

From a vegetable patch outside the police station, to the hospital’s apothecary garden, to the involvement of every local school in growing projects, to new jobs and apprenticeships, Incredible Edible has turned the fortunes of Todmorden around – and created some pretty tasty meals in the process!

ImageReclaiming the right to nutritious and delicious food from the hands of multinational corporations, and building a future with real sustainability at its heart, Incredible Edible is a revolutionary way of life that doesn’t require you to have a PhD in Leninism or twenty years of experience in permaculture. All you need is to be a person who eats food!

There are many things about Incredible: Plant Veg, Grow a Revolution that are going to stick with me and inspire me to keep fighting for a future that’s worth fighting for. But I think one of the main things that I try and carry with me is this: Stop passing the buck. Stop waiting. Don’t wait for permission. Go outside, grow veg, change the world.

ImageIf you are losing hope for the future, if you are losing faith in people, if you are despairing about the future of our planet: stop. Buy Incredible: Plant Veg, Grow a Revolution. And get inspired to stop looking at the failures of those in power, and start changing the world through subverting the structures-that-be to create a kinder and radically more beautiful future for everyone.

Image(All photos taken by myself at the 2012 Todmorden Show).