Waste by Tristram Stuart, a book review

Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal


This sobering insight into just how much food is wasted across the world is a must read for anyone who wants to do their bit to reduce food waste. The book is slightly out of date (2009) but many of the issues are still as urgent as when it was written.

It details how much food is wasted through the whole cycle from growing food through distributing it to retailers, the unsold food that is discarded by retailers and the food that is wasted by consumers. It also demonstrates how this waste puts pressure on rainforests and other valuable natural landscapes, and the impact on climate change.

It’s full of scandalous facts:

* if the amount of avoidable potato waste was halved in UK households it could potentially free up enough land to grow enough food to lift 1.2 million people out of hunger.

* supermarket standards in the West around shape and size force some farmers to lose up to a third of their harvest every year (though this is beginning to change with some supermarkets now offering ‘strange shaped vegetables’)

* some dolphin-friendly methods of fishing for tuna are actually responsible for killing large numbers of sharks and other sea creatures.

* in many countries including the UK, most offal (which includes nutritious and once valued items such as liver and kidneys) is thrown away

The book isn’t all doom and gloom though, it explores solutions such as fishing equipment that is designed to avoid bycatch, restaurants that offer incentives to customers to finish all their food, food sharing initiatives and ways on which supermarkets can fine tune their stocking rate.

In addition the author explores some of the evolutionary drivers behind our obsession with agricultural and other forms of surplus. There is also a theological element to the book too, as it includes biblical quotes on the topic and looks at the Biblical attitudes to gleaning (or foraging among crops to make sure there is no waste). It offers case studies of companies that are very efficient at reducing food waste, including one that sends its waste to a factory that makes high quality feedstock that the company then buys back for its own livestock. The book also explores differing attitudes to food waste across the world, focussing on Japan as being traditionally very efficient in avoiding waste.

You won’t look at your food again after reading this book!

Waste by Tristram Stuart, published by Penguin (2009) and printed on 100% recycled paper madefrom post consumer waste.

This book is available to borrow from the Granton Goes Greener office in Granton Parish Church.

Clothing Swap Shop to expand at Granton Goes Greener

One element of the Granton Goes Greener Project is the clothing swap shop. The idea is that people donate clothes that are still in good condition but perhaps they’ve grown out of or that they’re bored of and swap them for something that is new to them. We are delighted to receive donations but want to discourage people from using the swap shop as an excuse to get rid of clothes that they otherwise would still happily wear. We don’t want people thinking ‘oh I’ve got to find something for the clothing swap!‘ but to think of it as the first place to take clothing that they genuinely wouldn’t wear any more. It’s fine if you don’t have anything to donate, even if you take something.

I took in a skirt that no longer fitted me and swapped it for this lovely jumper.

We weigh the items swapped to give us an idea of how much waste and carbon we’re saving in the project (this is a requirement of our funding from the Climate Challenge Fund). This jumper weights just over 300g (which works out as 0.005kg of CO2 saved if my maths is correct).

Today a group of volunteers from the Climate Change department of Scottish Government are in the church. One of the things they will be doing later in the day is to sort out some of the many bags of clothing that have been donated to our swap shop.

Next Tuesday at the Granton Community Gardeners community meal we will launch our new improved clothing swap shop. There will be three rails – one for women’s clothing, one for men’s and one for children’s with baby clothes on a table. So bring along some clothing to swap or find your next favourite new outfit!

Granton Community Gardeners

When you walk round Granton you can’t help but notice the wonderful mini gardens that have popped up (and continue to pop up!) on street corners around the area.

These thriving plots are the work of Granton Community Gardeners, a community based project that is encouraging local people to get involved in food growing.

The group then use the food  they grow (along with donated food) in community meals. Last night, I went along for the first time to their community supper in Granton Parish Church. I was very impressed by the delicious vegetarian shepherd’s pie. It was great to see so many people enjoying the food and conversation too. There’s a community supper every Tuesday at 5.45 in the church. 




What’s your attitude to second hand clothing?

A couple of days ago I attended a training event with our funder Climate Challenge Fund,

One of the highlights was a discussion about attitudes to second hand clothing.  On the negative side we talked about:

  • people’s desire to wear the latest fashion or to fit in with cultural norms and expectations
  • people’s distaste for clothing that’s been worn by something else
  • laziness – it’s often quicker to find a specific item in a chain store than in a second hand shop
  • stigma – the feeling that you’ll be looked down on if you buy second hand

On the positive side we talked about:

  • creativity – creating your own look or customising old clothes to make something new
  • saving money – you can often find good brands at low prices in second hand shops (though some discount  stores are often cheaper than second hand)
  • more and more clothing designers and fashion retailers are using up-cycled materials in their productions, making the idea fashionable in itself
  • the environmental benefits of reducing waste

Ever since I was a student, I have bought all my clothes second hand (except for underwear). I often buy 2nd hand shoes too.

Part of the Granton Goes Greener Project is the clothing swap shop which is already an ongoing part of the Granton Parish Church community but is set to expand in the very near future! You bring in good quality clothing that no longer fits and swap it for something else.

We want donations of good quality used clothing. The swap shop isn’t an excuse to clear out your wardrobe just for the sake of it but part of a circular clothing economy that tries to extend the life of clothing and reduce waste (see this article).  We want individuals to both bring clothing in and take clothing away. Having said that, we won’t turn away donations and we’re happy for people in need to take items of clothing even if they don’t have anything to donate.

Clothes swapping is becoming quite trendy now with Swishing parties being very popular.

The Swap Shop will feature at the launch of Granton Goes Greener which will happen between 12 noon and 3pm on Saturday 30 June.


Granton Goes Greener Launch Saturday 30 June

Granton Goes Greener will be officially launched on Saturday 30 June, between 12 noon and 3pm in an event to be held at Granton Parish Church, 55 Boswall Parkway.

You will be able to access our extended clothing swap shop, bring your bike along for a maintenance session from Grease Monkeys (to be confirmed). We hope to be able to offer a guided walk and cycle ride round the local area. Entertainment will be provided including poetry and short stories, children’s stories and nursery rhymes and music (to be confirmed). Refreshments will include soup and bread and locally made elderflower cordial.

I’ll update this information as I can, but meanwhile you can sign up to the Facebook event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/171002076915355/


The Social Bite Eco Village in Granton

Social Bite is a social enterprise that runs cafes throughout Scotland to help homeless people. One in four of their staff have experienced homelessness, homeless people can access free food from their branches and now, in collaboration with the Cyrenians they are just about to launch an eco-village in Granton.

I was delighted to be part of a tour round the village and was very impressed by what I saw. The site includes 11 tiny two bedroom houses, all made to very high energy efficiency standards and built to last 100 years.

A Hub in the centre of the village offers laundry facilities and a social space for residents to gather. Workshops and classes will be held in  the Hub.

The area is planted up with shrubs and flowers and there are bird feeders too so the whole area feels very green.

Residents will start moving into the village from next month. Every resident will be fully supported for a period of 12-18 months to help them get back on their feet, access training and education from nearby Edinburgh College and take up work placements.

Meanwhile there’s still time to book a tour of the village before residents start moving in.  You can find out more here, but hurry as places are booking up fast!


Granton Hub

On Wednesday I visited Granton Hub, a volunteer run community project with a real environmental ethos!

There is a wonderful community garden behind the building, with space to grow vegetables and a wildflower nursery. The Hub sells wildflowers and has supplied Butterfly Conservation and others with plants for their projects.

The Hub is based in the original office building of the Maldevic Motor Carriage Company which in 1899 was manufacturing electric cars!

This aspect of the history of the site is reflected in the occasional events held at the hub that focus on the history of cars and alternative transport. The car factory itself is now derelict (see the building in the background of the photo below).

Edinburgh Scrapstore is also based in the garden, though it was shut when I was there. This is a great place to find reusable supplies for art and craft projects.  The Scrap Store promotes creativity whilst diverting waste from landfill.

Granton Hub is positioned right next to the cycle-path and they intend to develop direct access between the cycle-path and the Hub garden (currently people need to cycle right round the outside of the garden to access it from the cycle-path as there isn’t a gate or pathway to join the two). We hope that when we start running our guided cycle rides that some of them will stop off at Granton Hub to enjoy a cup of tea, explore the garden and find out more about the fascinating history of the area.


The Granton Hub Garden is one of three Granton community gardening projects that are involved in the Power of Food  Festival, which is happening across Edinburgh on 16 and 17 June. The other local gardens taking part are Granton Community Gardeners (who make and serve vegetarian meals in Granton Parish Church on Tuesday evenings) and Granton Castle Garden.

Clothing Swap Shop to Expand!

The Granton Goes Greener Clothing Swap Shop here at Granton Parish Church is set to expand!

We hope soon to have three rails – one each for women’s, men’s and children’s clothing with baby clothes on a table.

The rails will be found at the back of the hall making it easy for people attending events in the hall to access the swap shop.

We’re looking for donations of good quality used clothes that perhaps you’ve got bored of or no longer fit.

Swapping clothes in this way can reduce the amount of clothing sent to landfill and can help people save money on clothing.

However, please don’t get rid of clothes just as an excuse to buy more!

As the swap shop is going to expand we are looking for volunteers to help us run it! You can find out more about volunteering with us on the Volunteering page of this website.


Granton Community Day at Edinburgh College

We were delighted to have a stall alongside Granton Parish Church at the Granton Community Day at Edinburgh College.

We had taken our clothing swap rail along to attract interest and help start conversations around clothing waste.

It was an excellent networking event and offered me in my second week in the job a good way to make contact with other organisations working in the area.

There was live music and a chance to sample and buy a range of products produced by students from the college.