February 2014

As Britain met its wettest winter for 250 years, the southern hemisphere had its hottest start to the year on record. The UN’s World Meteorological Organisation recorded extreme or unusual weather at both the equator and polar regions.

Demonstration in Oxford, Feb 10. Photo by Adam Ramsay
Demonstration in Oxford, Feb 10. Photo by Adam Ramsay

While all UK political parties and the Met office acknowledged the likely link to anthropogenic climate change, the floods provoked sharp debates about farming, land use and public subsidies.

Over this grim episode, we were heartened by this discussion of the social psychology of changing public awareness and behaviour around climate change – a possible silver lining?

Hot Off the Press

‘Responsibility and Resilience: What the Environment means to Conservatives‘ was released this week, a report by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sir James Dyson, Michael Gove and other prominent right-wingers on both sides of the Atlantic claiming old conservative precedents for protecting the environment through government regulation.

The report follows months of frustration by green industry insiders about government u-turns putting off investors and discouraging firms from taking on new staff.

“Without a comprehensive, rational, optimistic plan for tackling the great environmental crisis, in a way that distinguishes cost from investment, the British Conservative Party will not be electable in 2015,” warned the coalition’s chair Ben Goldsmith.

We’re heartened that environmental issues are seen as central to the job of governing. The question is whether market-based ‘tools for competition’ are enough, without strong legislative regulation, to create either effective environmental protection or decent jobs

Case Study

Photo from Fungi Futures, used with permission
Photo from Fungi Futures, used with permission

Seeing the future in Coffee Grounds

A growth-based economy on a planet of finite resources is a conundrum we’ve discussed here before. We like initiatives that reuse and upcycle what would otherwise go to waste, and this month have been getting excited by the potential of coffee grounds. Coffeeshops throw out huge quantities of coffee grounds – around 200,000 tonnes each year in London alone – but innovative entrepreneurs show how this waste can be better used, creating jobs and opportunities at the same time.

GroCycle at Fungi Futures in Devon have made an elegant win-win solution with their ‘grounds to gourmet’ venture growing oyster mushrooms out of used coffee grounds. The not-for-profit social enterprise aims to create job opportunities in collection, production and distribution by using what is otherwise a waste product. Exeter Urban farmers Adam Sayner and Eric Jong explain that normally sterilising the substrate on which mushrooms grow involves expense and energy, but coffee grounds are sterile for 24 hours after being steamed for coffee-making.
“When you think of all the energy that has gone into growing the crop of coffee, importing it, grinding it and then putting it through a machine, that’s quite a lot. This way we are making that energy go further.”

(And while we’re getting excited about mushrooms we couldn’t resist pointing you towards this to blow your mind – could Kingdom Fungi save the world?!)

Another way to make coffee energy go further is being developed on a big scale by new London start-up Bio-Bean. As first generation bio-fuels meet continued criticism and political deadlock forcompeting with food crops in land use, Bio-bean aims to extract oils from used coffee grounds for bio-fuels and then uses the remaining mass for biomass pellets for boilers. As London buses increasingly run on food waste biofuel and new Green Deal mechanisms support biomass boilersfor homes and public buildings, we’re excited by the potential rise in using waste products to do this.

Come have your say about the Future of Work

This Monday 3 March the NUS is hosting a Students and Work Summit, including panel debates with Vince Cable and Frances O’Grady, and a seminar on ‘Can a greener jobs market address youth employment problems?’ by our friends at the Greener Jobs Alliance.

The day focuses on three themes – creating new opportunities, quality employment and pathways to work – and wants to
· Share expertise, ideas, and innovation across sectors and focus on practical solutions.
· Stimulate new relationships between stakeholders who might not traditionally intersect, for example youth sector bodies and employers.
· Identify areas of consensus on policy and campaigning with specific action points and grounds for future collaboration. This will include the launch of a Commission on the Future of Work, collecting evidence for recommendations to bring to the 2015 election and beyond.

Tickets are free, 9.30-4.30 at TUC Congress House in Bloomsbury – register online here


OrganicLea is recruiting for nine new traineeships in community food growing and engagement. These voluntary placements involve a commitment of one or two days a week, with structured learning and mentoring involved. Choose from focusing on growing or distribution, in facilitating learning, supporting volunteers or developing grow-to-sell schemes in schools, deadline 4 March.

AltGen supports 18-25 year old’s to set up worker co-operatives as a collaborative and empowering solution to youth unemployment. Get in touch if you’ve got an idea you want support developing. They’re also looking for apart-time Online Content Editor to join the three-person founding team.

Interested in recycling and waste management? Waste Watch in Keep Britain Tidy is recruiting recycling monitors to work in Hackney for three weeks to study how residents engage with kerbside recycling. Full training will be provided. The project starts on 6 March, get in touch by 28 February

Feedback – previously known as Feeding the 5000 – is looking for an Operations Manager based in East London. If you’ve got experience of strategic financial mangement and passionate about campaigning to reduce food waste get in touch before 10 March.

If you’re able to give three days a week to volunteer in an internship programme, Green Alliance hasfive policy team internships coming up in Resource Stewardship, low carbon energy, sustainable economics, politics and sustainable business with strategic research projects. Get in touch quick before the deadline 5pm Friday 28th!

That’s all for this month folks.
Let us know about upcoming opportunities, the lessons you’re learning and the things that are inspiring you.

Stay dry and go well till next time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.