Tobacco Farming: Trouble in Zimbabwe

I’ve never been a smoker, but having scoured the news for interesting stories around the world, this particular problem reveals the truth about tobacco-farming. Where did your last cigarette come from?

The rise in tobacco farming in Zimbabwe has resulted in the destruction of hundreds of indigenous trees along the Tengwe River.

From what I can gather, the farmers need to cure the tobacco as part of the production process. As they are unable to afford coal, they cut down indigenous trees because they burn very well, and for a long time.

There seem to be two main causes of this problem:

1) Expense: The farmers are clearly unable to meet the rising prices of coal, due to their impoverished situation, and the dwindling supply of coal available. The government have been suggesting for the farmers to plant exotic plants for the use of fuel. These grow quickly and would provide a more sustainable supply. However, the desperate plight of the farmers and their families have obviously resulted in the desire for a quick-fix solution, in burning the trees readily available. Consequently, the second cause is…

2) Education: The farmers need to be made aware of the damage caused by their destructive ‘solutions’.

“We are teaching them not to be myopic, if they cut trees without replacing them, in the long run they will fail to have trees to cure their tobacco” (Arnold Chideme, Project Coordinator of Environment Friends)

The government have started to create a law prohibiting this type of deforestation, and encouraging farmers to set aside a small area of land to grow trees for fuel.

What do you think? Do you think the farmers are to blame? Or is this a smaller problem in the larger tangle of Global Warming?

Source: AfricaNews.com
Picture source: News352.lu

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Welcome to Earth Day!

Today is Earth Day, a day on which events are held worldwide to increase awareness and appreciation of the Earth’s natural environment!

We are obviously rather into all this eco-friendly living, so here is a selection of the different ways people are celebrating Earth Day…

The Prettiest Chicken Contest

Full Circle Farm in California is hosting the Prettiest Chicken Contest for those who choose to keep chickens as a cheap, sustainable way to have fresh eggs every day. It is part of their annual Earth Day Fair, and the chickens are judged on the vivacity of their plumage, richness of colour, and general prettiness.

I literally love this.

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Free Tea or Coffee at Starbucks

Starbucks are promoting the use of reusable mugs, by offering a free hot drink for each customer that brings in their own mug or cup! Not only this, but they are selling their own travel mugs at 20% off on Earth Day itself. How super!

So if you tend to buy a fresh cup of coffee every morning before work, buy a reusable travel mug – it’s environmentally-friendly, leaves no rubbish, and is really an awful lot nicer to handle than a flimsy cardboard cup. Lovely.

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H&M’s Conscious* Collection

H&M is actually the biggest user of organic cotton in the world, and has released a collection of sumptuous clothing made from organic cotton, organic hemp and recycled polyester.

“We really want to make more sustainable fashion affordable and accessible to more and more people around the world” (Ann-Sofie Johansson, Head of Design)

Michelle Williams, Kristin Davis and Amanda Seyfried have all adorned items from the collection on the red carpet, demonstrating that sustainable fashion is not only acceptable but desirable.

I’m a particular fan of the pastel and neutral pieces. Lovely!

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Cornish Cod Recovery?

Just reading the latest Countryfile magazine, and it seems the world is a little bit less doomed. Obviously, Cornish Cod are not quite at a sustainable fishing level yet, but hopefully if we stay aware of where our food comes from, this is a sign of things to come! Keep up the good work, Cornwall!

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Waitrose and Waste: An Angry Letter

I am one of the contributors to this blog, and I used to work at Waitrose for 3 years, on the food service counters. I loved my time there, and they are excellent for their employees. However, every night without fail, I would be forced to throw away bags and bags of perfectly edible food. Now I have left the company, I decided to write to them and ask why they insisted on this terribly wasteful routine.

Here is my letter. Forgive the sarcasm, I got rather carried away…

Dear sir/madam,

I am writing on behalf of Continuous Capital, a UK-based charity with several objectives, one of which being environmental welfare and sustainability.

I worked at Waitrose for three years, between 2008-11. During my time, I was primarily based on the service counters (Delicatessen, Patisserie and Meat & Fish) and in the bakery, preparing and baking fresh bread.

Throughout my employment, I was forced to gather up all unsold, out-of-date produce at the end of each working day, and throw them into the industrial waste bins outside in the loading bay. This has included several bin-bags’ worth of baguettes, cakes, ham, cheese, pastries and even whole birthday cakes.

It was utterly soul-destroying. When modern media informs us daily of our planet’s dwindling resources, starving children in developing countries, and even helpless, homeless, hungry men on the streets of Britain, I cannot tell you how disgusted I felt simply tossing away perfectly edible food.

I asked my line manager about the procedure, and Waitrose’s justification for it. She told me that there were two main reasons why they chose to dispose of good food so callously:

1) For ‘health and safety’ reasons, the food could not be consumed after 8 o’clock, when the store closed, because that was when the food became commonly known as ‘out of date’.

Obviously I hadn’t thought of this scientific explanation. I felt foolish not to have realised the significance of time in the eyes of a simple doughnut. Yes, it may look perfectly good to eat, neither stale nor dry; however, little do we know that after 8 o’clock, it instantaneously becomes despicably poisonous, ready to tear apart any unwitting child who dares approach. 

I am fully aware (believe me, FULLY AWARE after all those excellent-quality training videos…) that this issue of health and safety is governmental, and you are just covering your own backs. But if you are choosing to excuse yourself through it, you’re not fooling anyone. Which leads me onto the second ‘reason’ for your actions.

2) Apparently, if you were to give the waste food to the starving and homeless, this would lead to a decrease in profits. How? Because the staff and customers might try and boycott Waitrose so that there will be more food for the poor. In other words, I might not reduce the cakes down enough, so nobody will buy them, and I can feel safe in the knowledge that Bill the Big Issue man will have one more chocolate eclair for supper. 

Again, I am fully aware that a business runs on profit. I am not naive. Yet, I always considered Waitrose as a more community-based company, enhanced by your fair trade adverts, partnership scheme, and focus on local produce. Therefore, one would be forgiven for thinking you might use that clever marketing department of yours to find a solution to this horrendous problem, whilst simultaneously helping to enrich this image of the benevolent company you have always claimed to be.

I hope you will be honest with your response to my query. I still maintain that Waitrose is an excellent supermarket with regards to community and ethical sourcing. But I feel there is a long way to go before you can live up to the image you have created for yourself in the public eye.

I am fully aware that every supermarket acts this way. But I thought it would be nice if Waitrose could set an example for the others to follow, and change this destructive and wasteful procedure.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Yours,
Tiffany Francis

After a few days, I received this response:

Thank you for your e-mail. 

Firstly, please accept my apologies for the delay in responding to you which is as a result of the high volume of e-mails being received at this time.

I would like to assure you that it is not in our business interest to produce any food waste at all, however inevitably food waste will occur. 

There are three routes that we use for food waste disposal, depending on the branch catchment. One hundred and nine of our branches have access to Anaerobic Digestion, a process used to generate renewable energy. Under this process, food waste is collected from our branches and taken to an AD plant where it is converted into renewable energy which goes back into the national grid. Waitrose is leading the way in this field. AD is simple and convenient for branches as ALL food waste is collected including packaged waste, meat and liquids. It is our preferred route for food waste disposal as it eliminates the need to send it to landfill, in turn preventing the emission of methane into the atmosphere. The process also produces a fertiliser as a by-product, which farmers use for growing crops. 

The majority of the remaining estate that does not currently have access to an AD plant therefore has to send its food waste to landfill at the present time, however our aim is to roll out AD to as many branches as possible. The third route we use is to send food waste for composting. 

We currently work with the charity FareShare to ensure that any surplus stock produced by our own-brand manufacturers is given to worthy causes. FareShare ran a trial to redistribute surplus, fit for purpose food from our branches, however the charity found the amount of wastage was too low and therefore not viable.

Individual customer requests for food waste that would otherwise be destroyed, should be politely refused, even if for animals, as we have no mechanism to control the integrity of its use after it has left the branch. If the customer has made the request on behalf of a charity or animal hospital, the branch may suggest they can apply for a donation through the branch Community Matters scheme. 

We hope that this information will be of assistance.

Regards,
Dean Baker
Waitrose Customer Sales and Support.

Any thoughts?

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Charity Funk Night @ The Golden Lion

On 29th March the Golden Lion in Bristol’s Gloucester Road, hosted a charity funk night – with all donations going to Continuous Capital! It was organised by a group of enterprising music students from UWE, raising a total of £120 for the charity.

The bands were brilliant, the atmosphere was electric, and people were even dancing at the front. The audience seemed very pleased with the acts who performed: Ultra Violet Zebra, One Shot, and Dirty Funk Syndicate.

These events are exactly the kind of thing we love people to do. If you have ANY ideas for ANY events you would like to hold, please don’t hesitate to contact us and we will do our best to work with you to make it happen. Together we can work towards our objectives, and generally improve the lives of those who need it most.

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Hello and welcome!

Hello!

Welcome to the blog of Continuous Capital, a Bristol-based charity that focuses on alleviating poverty throughout the world, with emphasis on sustainability and development.

It was founded by Alex Walls and Ryan Wilcox, business students at the University of the West of England. It began in a seminar whilst the lecturer was asking students what they wanted to achieve in the future. Alex said that he wanted to ‘die poor’, which effectively meant that he wanted to donate his life and earnings to a good cause instead of giving it as inheritance. Both he and Ryan didn’t really subscribe to the capitalist philosophy of making as much money as you can for yourself. They thought about starting an ethical investment fund, but moved quickly on to micro-finance (small loans to people in developing countries to help them help themselves). They both saw social development as something far more important than financial growth.

We focus on four main objectives, to improve healthcare, the environment, empowerment and healthcare around the world, and we do this by investing in particular projects that pertain to these.

Most importantly, we try not to depend on donations, but see the charity as more of a social business. In other words, using investments to help the charity generate its own money. However, any donations will be more than welcome!

If you would like to get involved, the best way is to:

Like ‘Continuous Capital’ on Facebook.

Follow ‘ContinuousCap’ on Twitter.

Join the discussion on the Forum.

Email us at blog@continuouscapital.org

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