Monday, 21 February 2011

Monday's Musing: how can green issues have meaning in a recession?

Photo courtesy of
Recently Lori Shook co-facilitated a fascinating discussion to illustrate the deep democracy process.  It left me with a burning question how can we make green issues funky?  There have been well researched articles on the decline in interest in environmental issues in this country.  At around the same time as I was reflecting on that question, I found out about The People's Supermarket and am very excited about the concepts that Arthur Potts Dawson is promoting.  Most recently this was supplemented by my discovery of freegans.  Let me continue by unpacking this further.

I have long been concerned by the amount of waste that we in the West produce as those who know me well are aware.  In a small way my family does what it can to counter that through recycling, using freecycle, tending an allotment, shopping as much as possible from smaller, local retailers rather than the monopolies such as Tescos and Sainsburys.  That said my concern is that we do not go far enough and that was brought home to me by reading the Evening Standard today in which it was quoted that British households throw away a third of the food they buy and supermarket waste adds almost 25% to that.

If we consider that the world's population is to grow by another 2 billion to 9 billion by 2050 then we need to change how we live.  It is clear that in the UK we are conditioned into believing that we need loads of choice when we shop.  We expect to see supermarket shelves groaning with fresh produce.  This is brought home by the experience of The People's Supermarket which has struggled to make money because it is asking consumers to shop in a different way.  The idea is that we need to base our shop around the fresh fruit and veg in season and where necessary add meat for flavour.  To that end the People's Supermarket has very little choice of meat and fish available and it is all sustainably sourced so appears far more expensive then a battery raised chicken from Tescos which costs £3.

I really hope that Potts Dawson's social revolution is successful because he, like freegans (who employ alternative strategies for living based on limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources) is challenging the way we live.  He suggests we can eat well without the level of choice given to us by Sainsburys and Tescos.  Furthermore he is endeavouring to implement a zero food waste policy by cooking up produce that is about to go beyond its sell by date in the People's Kitchen which is then sold as ready meals to customers of the supermarket. 

The People's Supermarket is offering us another model for life because it is a co-operative so all members have an equal share in the business and give four hours of their time to work in the shop thus cutting the overheads and so enabling Potts Dawson to offer produce at a much reduced rate.  This makes the produce affordable to a greater range of local people.

So what can my family do? My pledge is to stop being seduced by the two for one offers and just buy what we need for our weekly consumption and be more creative about how I use stuff that is coming up to its sell by date.  And what are you inspired to do going forward?  I would love to know.


  1. Like this post as its something I've been trying to improve on this year too. Interestingly, eating less meat is appealing to me. Meat production uses a remarkable amount of water. In the West we eat way too much of it. Eating less meat seems like a great way of balancing out the possible extra expense of eating organic and not partaking in supermarket 'specials.' Good luck with your efforts.

  2. Hi Anna thanks for your comment. I used to be vegetarian and then converted back to meat because my hubbie so enjoys it, on the basis that we ate organic only! However I am seriously reflecting whether we need to cut back even more because as you say meat production is water intensive and the world is running low on it. Would love to hear how you get on too.