Seeing waste differently – a field trip

Last month we went on a “field trip” to Camden market.

Vegan pumpkin curry

Vegan pumpkin curry in a biodegradable container with a vegware fork

Karen filling water bottle

Refilling a water bottle from a central tap – just needs a label to point people to it

It might seem a little strange to be taking a field trip to somewhere we visit regularly, but then it’s not often you visit Camden market to spot litter bins. This was a fact finding mission to see for ourselves what the market is doing to refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle or rot waste.

First some good news. There are recycling bins dotted across the market. Traders have centralised access to a wide range of recycling including glass, food, oil and general recycling. Many of the food stalls use bio-degradable containers.

There is a tap which you can use to refill your water bottle.But there’s so also so much more that could be done.

Here’s some easy options.

Recycling bin hidden in plain sight

Recycling bin hidden in plain sight

Turn the recycling bins around so people can see the recycling signs. Yup, this was one of the most amusing sights and possibly the easiest improvement ever.

Stronger labelling of what can be recycled would be useful too. We saw lots of food waste, food contaminated cardboard and coffee cups in the recycling bins and even some pieces of wood. Equally we saw lots of recyclable items in the general waste including the cardboard and plastic from a tray of cans which must have come from one of the traders’ stalls. With so many tourists in the market we can’t assume people know what to recycle. Simple signs on the top of the bins would help.

I wonder how many coats get thrown away in the market?

I wonder how many coats get thrown away in the market?

Why not have a branded reusable bottle rather than a throwaway one?

Why not have a branded reusable bottle rather than a throwaway one?

Labelling the water tap to let people know they can refill their bottles there would really help. But why not go even further? Instead of throwaway Camden Market branded water why not introduce branded refillable water bottles?


We think visitors would love these as souvenirs.

What we’d really love to see though is somewhere for all the food and compostable containers to go. The wonderful vegan pumpkin curry came in a cardboard container which I ended up taking home to put in my own compost bin. Manageable because I live only a few minutes away on the bike, impossible if you are a visitor. Replacing some of the bins with ones dedicated for food waste and compostables would have many advantages. There would be far less residual waste and recyclable waste would suffer from less contamination. The wonderful food stalls who are already eliminating plastic and foil containers would be better supported and others would be encouraged to make the switch.

All in all, a fabulous field trip. We’ve lots more ideas and lots of thinking which will help inform our work on throwaway takeaway containers and seeing waste differently. Want to know more? Get in touch.

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A positive addition to buying nothing


Recently I’ve been thinking about how I can make more of buy nothing day. Buying nothing can end up being a bit of a passive endeavour – staying at home, eating leftovers, not shopping on the internet – it’s possible to “buy nothing” by “doing nothing” and that’s not really the intent.

There are lots of options to make it a more active experience. I could choose to make it a day I visit friends or search out free events, cook some fantastic creation from cupboard staples or practice the guitar (this last may be a stretch given I’ve ever played a musical instrument in my life).

For me though what I love about buy nothing day is that it creates a moment of pause, a gap in the month when we reflect on consumption and on stuff that we are accumulating (and throwing away) day after day, week after week. I like to think I’m a pretty good waste reducer. I have a ecoffee cup, I take various bags & bottles to the shops to refill, I drink tap water, I buy second hand, I compost, I take lightbulbs to the tip. Yet stuff still accumulates, month after month my house gets fuller. Quite often stuff accumulates precisely because I dislike waste – plastic containers are kept for leftovers, tights for tying up plants, clothes to be repaired, half cans of paint, nuts & bolts & screws because they might be useful.

Each month I plan to tackle one of those piles of things I keep because they might be useful and find someone who might just use them. Freegle, Streetbank and Nextdoor are all my friends in this. This month it’s the shed. A hosepipe, some garden string, odd bits of wood and some shelving brackets have all found a new home and a new life. A peaceful hour sorting out nails, screws and other bits and pieces into those old plastic containers that I hang onto because they might be useful meant that even these found a home to a delighted diy-er.Natasha BND

There’s something personally satisfying in finding new homes for accumulated stuff. Yes, it can take a little bit of organising and a little bit of thought to make stuff usable to someone else but it definitely adds something to my buy nothing day challenge.

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Once a month we at Camden Friends of the Earth having been attempting to buy nothing, spend nothing and consume as little as we can bringing attention to and shifting the balance of our lives.

We’ve all seen the stats – as just one example, if everyone in the world was to consume as we do here in the UK, then we’d need 2 1/2 planet earths[1] to support us. And what’s more consumption isn’t making us any happier. We spend without thinking and with little gain. By choosing to spend nothing on the same day each month it helps us to reflect on what we do consume and take more planet friendly choices when we do.

On spend nothing day we

  • Spend no money whether that be by way of cash, contactless, card or bank transfer.
  • Travel under our own steam, by foot, bike or scooter
  • Minimise our electricity use – phone run out of power? Leave it switched off
  • Cook wonderful meals from food in our cupboards and the back of the fridge
  • Take time with friends in free places – at each other’s homes, walking in the park, in a free museum
  • Learn more about some of the issues facing the world through reading, listening or debating

Why the 24th of every month? Towards the end of the month money always gets a bit tighter and life often feels just that little bit less fun. And this year #GreenFriday2017 lands on the 24th of November.

Attempting to buy nothing doesn’t always work out as it should. Somehow it always seems to be the day my bike has a puncture, or work runs over and I have no choice but to buy food on the run. But somehow each month it gives me a reason to pause and reflect on whether I really need the things I mindlessly consume and if I wouldn’t rather read a book than online shop, cook with a friend than queue for a restaurant table and walk rather than cram myself into crowded tube carriage.

Join us, designate a day each month as your buy nothing day. We’d love to hear how you got on.


[1] “How many Earths do we need”

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Camden FoE Green Action for Change

With the excitement of the general election behind us, it’s time to re-focus on the local agenda.

In 2011 the council launched their sustainability plan, Green Action for Change, with some fanfare. The plan sensibly focused many of the Council’s initiatives around improvements that would directly benefit local residents (such as home insulation). At the same time it set some ambitious goals around carbon emissions, recognising that the big-picture threat of climate change could also directly impact on the borough.

What a contrast then, when earlier this year the fifth progress review was published almost without murmur. The review indicates a number of areas where the council appear to have made little progress (reducing and recycling waste for example). It’s also remarkably difficult to interrogate what has been achieved, as there is a shortage of clear analysis or assessment of lessons learned. Finally, while Camden clearly has made some good steps towards greater sustainability, the world has moved on since 2011, and what was ambitious back then now looks decidedly mediocre – in particular when compared with what other boroughs in London are achieving.

Camden Friends of the Earth have written to Councillor Meric Apak (the responsible Cabinet Member), urging the Council to once again take up their leadership position in this area and ensure that Camden is a healthy and resilient place to live in the future. We look forward to greater dialogue between the Council and the public over sustainability. If you are interested in finding out more about this, please get in touch with us.

Full letter here;

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Addicted to not shopping


I think I’m addicted.

Yet unlike millions in this world of mass consumption and waste, it’s not shopping I’m addicted to, rather the opposite. I’m addicted to inventive ways to make “buy nothing” work whatever the circumstances.

It started many years ago when I moved to Australia to work for a year. I resolved to live the year without buying anything new. Then my rules were relatively simple – stuff, be that clothing, furniture, household gadgets etc etc, had to be bought second hand, scavenged, borrowed or done without. I managed well across the year and only had to buy three things new – a mattress (it’s illegal to sell secondhand mattresses in Australia), a smart dress (when I spilled coffee all down the front of the one I was wearing half an hour before an important client meeting) and a top (when I was meeting a guy for a date and didn’t have time to go home and change a jumper that was just too warm). I still have the dress and top nearly ten years later so perhaps they weren’t such bad buys after all.

So when Camden FoE turned the buy nothing day into a monthly event I was the first to put my hand up. I have to confess I’ve not always been successful but each time attempted to live a day without spending anything I’ve been reminded of how much we spend without thinking. One month I had planned how to go to my book group for the evening on zero cash (cycle home, eat, cycle out, drink water in the pub) but was completely scuppered by a work emergency which meant I needed to take the tube straight from work, eat whilst I was out and then think, well I’ve already failed so a glass or two of wine on top won’t matter. The following month I had a date. My date had found somewhere to go for free with free refreshments and again I relied on my bike. Only to find myself with a flat tyre in central London at 11pm with little choice but to jump in a black cab with my bike to get back home!

I am delighted to say that last month I finally managed to last the whole day without spending a single penny. And no, I didn’t just hibernate at home. I ate home baked cake with a friend and then went to a corruption lecture in the evening. A fabulous day, and all for free. Join us on the 25th and see just how addictive buying nothing can be.


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Buy Nothing Day January


My first Buy Nothing Day of the year fell on the one day a week I’m not in college, so though I cycle in and out it made things easier in one way. It also meant I had most of my reading to do and was in a race against time before my laptop died. I’ll admit that when it did, I plugged it in. Other than this I stayed away from recharging my phone or using appliances, not counting light switches (I’m not at candle light stage on BND, yet).
My housemate works from home so I did hang around the kettle a bit to see if he boiled enough water for two cups of tea that I could take advantage of; undertaking Buy Nothing Day can stray into looking for loopholes I find. I stayed out of the shops though, and kept my usage much lower than it generally is, so it was a pretty legitimate BND for me, and also one that I found rewarding.
I’ve found myself considering my footprint that bit more since, and curbing it somewhat in line. It’s nice to feel a little less of a Global Northerner driving the climate crisis for a day. We’ll all have to soon limit our consumption significantly one way or another I reckon, so it’s good to get a head start.
Feel free to give it a try this 25th and let us know how it went for you.


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BEFORE THE FLOOD – 30 November – 7.30pm The Grafton


Camden Friends of the Earth will be screening Leonardo Di Caprio’s documentary about Climate Change ‘Before the Flood’, a must see production.

Compelling and beautifully executed, the film explores the dynamics at play in the fight against global warming.

The evening will also be an opportunity to socialise and network, so bring your friends and spread the word in your local group!

The screening will be at 7.30pm. We will be there from 7pm.

Entry is free but a voluntary donation to help us recoup the operational costs is welcome.

Venue: The Grafton (first floor), 20 Prince of Wales Road, NW5 3LG.

To give us an idea of numbers, grateful if you could RSVP to




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Buy Nothing Day

Next Sunday the 25th will see Camden FoE holding it’s monthly Buy Nothing Day. As an effort to better understand and consider our consumption levels in day-to-day life (and of course the need for them to change drastically in order to achieve environmental sustainability), we Camden FoE members pledge to -as far as reasonably possible- not buy anything, travel only by foot or by bike, and not use any electrical appliances for the full day. In August, Earth Overshoot Day highlighted the environmental overreach our economic system fucntions on and lifestyles operate within. The UK had in fact reached it’s ‘National Ecological Deficit Day’ (the point where a country’s consumption overtakes it’s ability to ecologically regenerate resources consumed) much sooner, on April 6th

So with this in mind, along with the consideration for the 6 billion odd people who don’t get to have our lifestyles but feel the effects of them, we also try to approach our Buy Nothing Day as an opportunity. Being a Sunday I’m aiming to spend it in a park, weather allowing, with a book or friends or both. I imagine it’ll be a good motivator to walk; something I love doing but never seem to find time for, and I hope to have a good ol explore of parts of my borough I’ve yet to see. I’ll be actively looking for free events on rather than acknowledging them and putting them on the maybe pile.

If the idea of considering your effect on the world whilst possibly reconnecting with your area, loved ones and self in a new way sounds appealing to you, drop us a line and get on board (we might meet up to help each other through the withdrawl symtoms). Or feel free to go solo and let us know your experience afterwards. We’ll be sharing our own on here.


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Basecamp 2016

Basecamp 2016 has just drawn to a close and while we look forward to the next and to turning inspiration into positive action, Camden FoE members share their impressions on what makes Basecamp so unique:

Irena Kausiute: “I joined Camden Friends of the Earth in March with the goal to make a difference. Basecamp 2016 has been a great start and a source of inspiration and hope in the environmental movement of the 21st century.”

Irena Kausiute: “The beautiful setting in the countryside filled me with the sense that an alternative sustainable living is possible.”

Irena Kausiute: “The event was centred around inspiring speakers sharing their valuable experiences, to mention a few: the case for successful renewable energy and the role faith plays in tackling environmental crisis. I feel so grateful to be part of this journey.”

Finnian Mutagh: “This was my first Basecamp so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The first thing that struck me was the setting; for someone living in London, simply seeing the Peak District was worth the trip alone.”

Finnian Murtagh: “Basecamp succeeded in mixing the elements of a quality music festival with talks and sessions that for me, clashed just as bands would at Glastonbury. My highlights were a sobering talk on today’s climate refugees, an uplifting one from C40’s Mark Watts about how there is hope in focusing on transforming cities, and Saturday night’s campfire session featuring a brilliant traditional music troupe. I’ll be back next year.”

Natasha Clayton: “Sometime ago Friends of the Earth used the slogan “think global, act local” and in many ways this is what basecamp is about for me. I love learning of actions and successes from Friends of the Earth groups round the world and how this was similar in many ways to when the mayors of the world’s largest cities met at the C40. Just like those mayors though, I have come away knowing that I too am not just there to listen but to come home and take action here in Camden and in London. As Mark Watts put it in his presentation “we all need to travel at the pace of the most ambitious”.

Jess Gold: “Friends of the Earth Basecamp is hundreds of friends and activist colleagues gathering to share tales and inspire each other to carry on campaigning. The venue was gorgeous as was the weather.”

Jess Gold: “My personal highlights were: the super inspiring Juliet Davenport on the challenges of setting up Good Energy – chatting with muslim climate activists attempting to waken up their community to the climate crisis – the very gorgeous late night bonfire singing – finding renewed motivation by listening to what activists like me are getting up to all over the country. “

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