All I want for Christmas…

It’s that time of year again: TV ads pulling our heart strings with cute children and penguins; shop windows flaunting their latest ‘bargains’ and leaflets through the door listing all the festive fayre the supermarkets have to offer.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas! But the amount of stuff we buy at this time of year does make me uncomfortable.

A couple of years ago some truly shocking research about wasted Xmas food was published. In 2012 UK consumers chucked out the equivalent of two million turkeys, five million Christmas puddings and 74 million mince pies.

I wonder what happens to all those unwanted gifts that we feel obliged to give to distant relatives or our children’s teachers every December? Charity shops might benefit to a certain extent, but I bet a lot of it ends up in landfill.

We’re all conditioned to be over-generous at Christmas, but the people who ultimately benefit from this generosity are the shareholders of the large corporations that own our high street shops.

I don’t want to be a killjoy. There must be another way of celebrating the season of giving – a way that protects the environment, conserves our resources and expresses love and consideration to our friends and relatives.

I’ve mined TK members’ top tips for a sustainable Christmas. Here are some of the best ones!

I love this Xmas food planner [http://england.lovefoodhatewaste.com/node/4401] ] from Love Food Hate Waste. It’s got some great ideas about how to reduce the amount of food you buy, and what to do with your leftovers.

Keynsham Caterpillar’s Monica has some great ideas about how to get children more involved in sharing and less in shopping at Christmas. She suggests that they ask for a maximum of three things from Father Christmas, and if they’re expensive, Father Christmas could deliver some to their Grandparent’s house! That way you can share the cost of Xmas, and the children still get everything they really want.

Or you could get the children to participate in initiatives like the Shoe Box Appeal. This not only offers them a chance to give rather than take, it also helps them realise that many children are not as lucky as they are.

Monica advocates using smaller shops. She says that independent shops aren’t always more expensive than the high street retailers. She suggests visiting Etsy [www.etsy.com] and Folksy [www.folksy.com] for independent craft makers who sell direct at reasonable prices.

Charity shops can also be great Aladdin caves – Oxfam in Keynsham is a fine example, selling a fantastic selection of used books and Fairtrade gifts.

TK’s Lucie suggests making gift tags out of last year’s Xmas cards, and saving shiny wrapping paper for kids’ craft boxes.

Other ideas include edible presents (maybe even using foraged food if you’re really organised!); telling your friends and family that you are only buying Xmas pressies from charity shops; giving your time or expertise instead of a present (how about offering a number of babysits to a friend over the year?); or recycling household items into Xmas decorations (check out these fab lanterns [http://thinlyspread.co.uk/2012/11/26/recycled-crafts-christmas-lanterns/])

And finally how about treating your children’s teacher to something a bit different this Christmas? My boys bake them a loaf of bread. It’s always appreciated!

Share your thoughts and tips on a sustainable Christmas in the comments section below.

Energy saving raffle – Winners

Raffle winnersWe would like to congratulate the winners of our Energy saving raffle which was drawn at our last Energy Group Meeting.

Well done to: Laura Corfield, Sue, Juliet Brocline, June Friswell, Liz Barling and John Paget

A huge thank you to everyone who took part and everyone who donated prizes to the raffle we raised just over £26 which will help fund TK projects over the year.

Core group meeting

1

We know that there are lots of you who are interested in what the Transition Keynsham core group is and does, maybe you’d like to know more, or have some ideas about other things we could be doing within the town.

We’d love to hear from you, or maybe you would like to come along to our Core Group meeting on Sunday 2nd of June at 6pm. Friendliness, tea and cake guaranteed.  Please get in touch for information about the venue and agenda.

Team TK
keynshamt@yahoo.co.uk

Music Festival

Thank you to all of you who came and visited the Transition Keynsham stall at the Keynsham Music Festival.

Congratulations to Claire Hudson who won our Good Food Raffle, which was full to the brim with delicious homemade and homegrown treats as well as some additional fairtrade luxuries :-).

 We sold over a 100 fresh strawberry and banana smoothies whipped up on the bicycle-powered smoothie maker. Mr Buss from Buss’s greengrocer gave us a great deal on the fruit but we still only managed to break into a grand £1.70 profit. Not the most lucrative fundraising effort but still lots of good fun!

We were even joined by Orinoco the womble to promote the R3 group’s new Keynsham Wombles project. There was lots of interest with people taking a flyer and asking how they could join the community litterpicking network.

Jacob Rees Mogg

In late 2010 Transition Keynsham had it’s first meeting with Jacob Rees-Mogg MP to urge him to push serious measures to combat climate change as part of the Big Climate Connection.

We recently met again (May 27th) with JRM to see how far he had gone to push the climate change measures.

Please click here to read the minutes from our meeting.

Please click here to view a letter from JRM to TK after our meeting.

It is clear that we don’t see eye to eye on issues such as climate change and peak oil with Mr Rees-Mogg, but we still feel it is important to keep an open channel of communication with the person who represents us in our system of democracy. We will continue to meet with JRM on a six monthly basis to inform him of all the great work we are doing and if we’re lucky we may even inspire him to do join us in doing so.

So far we have presented JRM with flyers & literature about all of our projects & events, given him hand-made knitted carrot & flower broaches for himself and his family and given him a 2nd hand copy of the Transition Handbook – as it was voted 5th on the MP’s summer reading list.  What a lucky chap!

Bike Maintainence Sessions a big success!

So far Transition Keynsham’s  Transport Working group has helped everyone from a young lad with no breaks to a chap recovering from a knee-op to ride more safely, more comfortably and with more confidence.
The punters of the advice sessions have been a nice mix of those just passing by with their bikes and those who have heard about the sessions and have come down specifically to see us. Which means the word is getting out there and the farmers market is helping us to be seen in the community. People have also been so chuffed with the ‘free’ advice that they have been offering donations – which is all helping to pay for our stall at the market.

If you would like some free bike advice from simple maintainence to a more enjoyable ride come and find our stall at the farmers market, every 2nd Saturday of the month under the clock tower!

First meeting

~ First Transition Keynsham Meeting ~ November 16th 2009 ~ @ The Wine Bar ~

(There is a glossary of terms at end)

Go round:  Why people had come to our first meeting;

  • Interested in tackling climate change and environmental issues
  • Interested in Transition generally
  • Meet like-minded people
  • See how Transition is implemented
  • Somebody had been a part of Transition in Torquay
  • Worried about the state of the world
  • Wanted to get to know their neighbours
  • Wanted to meet the more alternative elements of Keynsham and like-minded and people
  • Wanted to meet other bike riders
  • Wanted things to be more like they used to be in the past (sharing, less materialism, make do and mend)

Introduction:

We had a short and brief intro to the issues peak oil, climate change, Permaculture and history of the Transition movement. We also talked about what other Transition groups had achieved and how they were organised. (See ‘WhAt, WhO, hOw??’ section for more details). People also asked how Transition groups have been interacting with the council/other groups – Bath council took a unanimous vote to support Transition towns and have been very positive, other groups have head-hunted us for advice and a desire to work together.

Problems and Solutions:

We had a quick brain storm about the problems with our current systems focusing on energy/transport and food and these were some of the problems we identified:

  • FOOD: People are disconnected from their food; people have lost a sense of seasonality and demand all types of food all year round at an extremely low cost but this causes problems – food is being shipped/flown from all round the world, this causes climate change, food also needs to be heavily packaged to still look ‘fresh’ at the end of its long journey, this packaging is then thrown away into landfill. Generations are losing their skills to be able to grow their own food, children in particular are losing their understanding about where their food comes from. Supermarkets also have a great control over the prices of ‘their’ stock which often harms the growers both here and abroad and leads to a weakened local economy/ failing high streets etc. Supermarkets have also led to the decline in the variety of vegetables on our supermarket shelves as they choose varieties that travel well and look good instead of those that are tastier, healthier or more naturally resilient to pests and diseases. Producers abroad often produce for us instead of managing farms of diversity to fulfil their own needs. Farms are often monocultures which suffer greatly from pests and diseases and so need to be heavily sprayed with pesticides and fertilisers, this causes soil sickness and sick people. People eat too much meat; it takes more energy/resources to produce meat than vegetables/grains as you have to grow grains to feed the cattle instead of feeding people in the first place. People’s health is also suffering from eating too much meat and the large stocks of cattle are adding methane to the mixture of greenhouse gases.
  • ENERGY / TRANSPORT: Our energy needs are met 98% by non-renewable fossil fuel stocks, our energy needs are rising as are those of other parts of the world – should we be reducing our energy consumption so that other parts of the world can increase theirs to have a decent standard of living? Our energy is supplied from other parts of the world e.g. our coal comes from Columbia. Other parts of the world have lower standards of health and safety and workers work in appalling conditions for very little pay, the comparison can be made to modern day slavery. It also raises the question of resource security and where we will be getting it from next when this bit is used up. We become politically tied-down to resources and if for any reason that fuel is withdrawn we are left in a very precarious, dangerous and scary position. Communities who live next to open-cast coal mines suffer from the pollution and other affects such as noise.   

We then dried our eyes and took a deep breath after such a depressing plunge into the problems and had another brain storm. We thought of some possible ‘working groups’ that could be created to find solutions to these problems and what those solutions might be;

Some solutions are on a grassroots level (these are normal font), some solutions will require working with councils and their processes (these are in italics), some solutions involve areas outside of Keynsham (these are underlined).

  • TRANSPORT: Car share schemes / Car + bike maintenance workshops to make sure they are running as efficiently as possible / improving public transport (making cheap/free for some groups, more regular, making Keynsham train station accessible for wheelchair users on both sides) / having public transport powered by a renewable source / public transport ran by a Co-op / making it possible to have more bikes on trains /DIY bike trailer workshops.
  • ENERGY: Renewable energy production on a large scale (Severn Barrage) and on a smaller scale (wind turbines/ ESCO’s /biomass – willow coppice by marines for boaters wood burning stoves/solar/ hydro-electric – possibly on Chew or Avon) / ‘retrofitting’ – helping people to insulate and make other changes in their home that would help them to more energy efficient (workshops/ home energy support groups/ guidance).
  • FOOD: Identify new spaces to grow food / garden share schemes / education, workshops, courses to reclaim our food growing skills (planting, maintenance, harvesting, seed saving, preserving, eating and sharing!)/ raising awareness of food wastage / community harvesting of neglected fruit trees/ wild forages/ reuse plastic bags + use re-useable newly created Keynsham bags(!) / reduce packaging / Group composting / encouraging composting at home / seed + plant + surplus share / bulk buying + sharing costs / local vegetable box scheme + CSA’s/ support local producers, businesses, retailers / shared food events – get togethers!
  • HEART AND SOUL: We are faced with some pretty daunting possibilities for the future and although these possibilities provide great opportunities for positive change they can also be quite overwhelming. This working group would aim to support the heart and soul of the Transition group. In Totnes they have ‘home groups’ where up to 4/5 people meet once a month to talk about how they are feeling, any worries and then support each other. They have also put on talks/workshops to explore ideas about personal health and consciousness and alternative ways of healing our ailments. Transition Keynsham can obviously put our spin on it J  
  • ENTERTAINMENT: In the future it is likely that we will be unable to entertain ourselves with electronic means as we do now. We could start now to re-create entertainment by celebrating local acoustic musicians, poets, story tellers, dramatists and watch them in a local candle lit venue. Let’s relearn to make our own entertainment! 
  • OUTREACH AND ENGAGEMENT: We cannot wait for the Keynsham people to come to us we must go to the people, businesses, other community groups etc. This group would work on engaging people through hosting events; film showings, talks, workshops, idea generating events, competitions, consultations etc and advertising through; local paper, flyers, posters, displays etc.
  • RUNNING: This group would be running the Transition Keynsham facebook group/ blog/ email list/address + telephone list. It will eventually manage the finances possibly and look for ways to fundraise Transition Keynsham. It may also manage training for Transition Keynsham members on things such as; group facilitation, consensus decision making, group dynamics etc. It could be a point of contact for people wanting to get involved in Transition Keynsham.

Where next:

  • The Food ‘working group’ has been formed – Hooray!!!: Contact Mary Lambert for more details and how to get involved! (0117 9862257 / mandd@gentlyblown.co.uk)
  • Come and help out and/or visit us at the Keynsham Victorian Evening Friday 27th Nov, find our stall and bicycle powered laptop and film in the Fear Hall.
  • Come and help/visit us at the ‘What does energy look like?’ Core strategy consultation event, Dec 4th hosted by Bath & North East Somerset Council and the Centre for Sustainable Energy. (planning_policy@bathnes.gov.uk / 01225 395418),  find our stall 2.15pm – 6.15pm Frys Club
  • We hope to have our next meeting mid-Jan 2010, we will need help organising and advertising, please get in contact!
  • We will also be organising a film showing of ‘In Transition’, a film about the transition movement, please get in contact!

Glossary of terms:

Grassroots: A movement of people on a ground/local level.

Transition ‘working groups’ – Transition groups formed to focus on certain areas of community life e.g. food / energy / entertainment.

ESCO’s (Energy Services Companies) – Their job is to match buyers and sellers, tailor both physical and financial instruments to suit the needs of particular customers, and to allow even the smallest residential customers to form buying groups or cooperatives that will give them the same bargaining power as large industrial customers.

Retrofitting – The improvement in the energy efficiency of existing energy-using equipment or the thermal characteristics of an existing building.

Solar powered – energy from the sun that is converted into thermal or electrical energy.

Biomass – Biomass, as a renewable energy source, refers to living and recently dead biological material that can be used as fuel or for industrial production. In this context, biomass refers to plant matter grown to generate electricity. It is said to be fairly carbon neutral as plants absorb carbon when they are growing and so causes a carbon cycle.

Hydroelectric – Hydropower, hydraulic power or water power is power that is derived from the force or energy of moving water, which may be harnessed and converted into electricity.

Wind powered – Wind power is the conversion of wind energy into a useful form, such as electricity, using wind turbines.

Monoculture – the cultivation of a single crop (on a farm or area or country).

Soil sickness – Soil life (bacteria, microorganisms, earthworms etc) are poisoned by pesticides and so the soil is said to be dead. We need soil life in order to break down organic matter so that it can be used by plant life.

CSA’s – The farmer sells shares or subscriptions for the year’s crop of vegetables (some farms also include fruits or flowers). Customers who buy a share usually pay for it early in the year and then receive a weekly box of produce for a set number of weeks. There is shared responsibility for crop failure and other unforeseen risks that farmers may have.