Welsh Green Dragon

Friendly Food Fighting by the Cardiff Food Alliance by Chris Halpin

If you went down to the woods today, you’d certainly have been in for a surprise. However it isn’t a picnic you would’ve found – in fact it could be described as the exact opposite! If you were taking a stroll down the Taff Trail behind Talybont Halls of residence in Cardiff on Saturday afternoon, you may have wondered what on earth was going on.

Members of the Cardiff East Transition group have been routing through bins and getting their hands on waste food, to stage a friendly food fight to demonstrate how much food is wasted in Cardiff everyday.

It might seem quite perverse to be throwing food around to highlight how wasteful we are, but according to the organisers all the food used would otherwise have been headed straight to landfill. It’s all part of the Cardiff ‘Fix the Food Chain’ month which looks at the problems in all the different stages of food production. A number of groups are involved including Friends of the Earth and Fareshare alongside the Cardiff Food Alliance.


Fairtrade Fortnight – what will you swap? by Chris Halpin

This years FairTrade fortnight has centred around one thing. Making individuals pledge to swap just one product they’d normally buy to a fair trade one. Organisers say this year has also been about raising awareness of the whole range of more unusual items that now carry the fair trade logo.

Fair trade groups work throughout the year to dispel any doubts people may have about fair trade products, but fair trade fortnight is the highlight of the calendar.

Welsh Green Dragon went to a Tea Dance organised by FairTrade Wales in St David’s Shopping Centre in Cardiff to find out more.

It’s never been easier to switch to FairTrade, especially now many of the big supermarkets are paying a fair price to suppliers in developing countries who help to produce many of their own brand products. When you think of FairTrade, what immediately springs to mind? Most people we asked said Tea, Coffee,  Bananas, then perhaps chocolate.

But there are many other ways in which we can switch to ensure a fair deal for farmers in developing nations. Cotton is the perfect example, and Tesco have recently made a pledge to sell fair trade school uniforms for the academic year 2010/11. Fairtrade organisations are pushing for hospitals and hotels who use alot of cotton to think about ethically sourcing their linen. Other ways to switch could be with Wine, Rum, Olive Oil or like Environment Minister Jane Davidson, you could promise to switch to buying fair trade Melon’s.

However getting your hands on these items is not always as easy as it seems. Fairdo’s in Canton stocks a range of products ranging from pyjamas to peanut butter, but as part of your weekly shop you’re restricted to what you can find in the supermarket.

I asked some people in Cardiff if they knew exactly what FairTrade stood for.

It’s clear that Wales is leading the way in ensuring a fair deal for farmers in developing nations, and that groups here work tirelessly to promote the fair trade ethos.  There are groups right across Wales who organise events from Tea Dances to holding stalls at farmers markets. However, changing consumer attitudes is easier said than done, as can be seen from the video above.

Fairtrade campaigners hope that with big players like Cadbury’s Dairy Milk and Nestle‘s KitKat jumping onto the FairTrade bandwagon,  other multinationals will also follow suit.

My swaps will be Rum and Coffee – although I don’t think I’ll be mixing them together.

Eating our way to sustainability. by Chris Halpin

How can we be more sustainable through going shopping? Head down to your local farmers market apparently – I braved some blustery conditions over the weekend down at Riverside Farmer’s market in Cardiff and this is what one shopper had to say about the experience.

Eating more locally grown produce and reducing food waste were just two of the things spoken of at a debate that I went along to as part of Cardiff University’s sustainability week.

In a question time styled debate, a panel including Environment Minister Jane Davidson,  Dr Pam Robinson, School of Social Sciences (who knows her stuff about the supermarkets),  and Professor Kevin Morgan (of an Urban and Regional governance background), fielded questions from a fully charged audience of academics and students.

The most enigmatic of the bunch was Steve Garrett, who is the founder of the Riverside and Roath Farmers markets. Agriculture, farming and food production is one of the biggest contributors to global warming, and with populations set to rise food shortages will become a huge issue.

A big question is, how can you ensure a level playing field when supermarkets have economies of scale on their side to drive down prices and squeeze a farmer’s profit margins ever lower? Remember the dairy price fixing allegations of the ‘big four’ by the Office of Fair Trading in 2008? Even then the OFT got its fingers burnt with claims of defamation, so the supermarkets certainly have some legal clout behind them.

It’s inevitably about cultural change; how can people be persuaded it’s wrong to eat strawberries in December after accruing thousands of air miles to get to the fruit aisle?

There are some good reasons why people should make a farmer’s market a higher priority for their weekly shop.

There is a general misconception that farmers markets are for the bourgeoisie, and although there were stalls with specialist cheese’s and olives at riverside, you could still get all the staples. Also people fear that farmers markets just aren’t as cheap as the supermarkets, although that wasn’t according to the people i asked.

With pros there usually always come a few cons though.

So there are clearly things that a farmers market can’t do that the supermarkets can. Perhaps the answer is a mixture of the two, and this is something that was suggested at the debate.

Anyway back to the point, what are the three key things people need to do eat more sustainably?

  1. Eat less meat
  2. Eat locally grown seasonal food
  3. Throw less food away

Sounds simple. However, we’re struggling to get to grips with the thought of having to pay for plastic bags here in Wales, so the Welsh Assembly need to come up with something good to get people away from the supermarkets and out buying more locally produced food. Maybe they could even teach us how to grow our own!