Living Life and LOAFing It

CHRISTIAN ECOLOGY LINK
PRESS RELEASE

Living Life and LOAFing It – Green Christians ask churches to “Use your LOAF !” on sourcing sustainable food

In the run up to Easter, Christian Ecology Link is asking supporters to think and act on how they source food for their church communities, with the aim of reducing the impact of unsustainable agriculture on their local area, and the wider world.

CEL have launched a new colour leaflet on the LOAF programme principles in time for Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras), or Pancake Day, on 21st February 2012.

Continue reading Living Life and LOAFing It

Whittling away at energy consumption

Throughout 2011, I changed a number of things in my domestic arrangements in order to reduce energy consumption at home.

I have been working with an ecocell small study and action group in North London – each member of whom has an interesting story to tell of their own eco-pilgrimage.

What I found was that in order to make progress I needed to measure more things and be more organised. I also needed to acquire more equipment.

This is rather ironic, since there are embedded emissions in all manufactured products. However, with careful use and maintenance, they should last a long time.

The daily electricity and gas consumption I was personally responsible for at home dropped fairly significantly (approximate figures) :-

Natural Gas use per day (Btu)Electricity use per day (kWh)
January 20115.003.00
February 20114.212.94
March 20113.653.15
April 20111.933.11
May 20111.692.98
June 20111.602.95
July 20111.422.84
August 20111.262.82
September 20111.142.81
October 20111.042.76
November 20111.072.84
December 20111.182.83

Based on the average of the monthly daily averages, I should have consumed 766 Btu (8,094 kWh) of Natural Gas over the whole year, and 1,065 kWh of electricity for 2011. However, due to dropping demand, I actually used only 433 Btu (4,572 kWh) of Natural Gas and 1,034 kWh of electricity.

This compares to Ofgem’s analysis of medium household consumption figures of 16,500 kWh of Natural Gas and 3,300 kWh of electricity.

This puts my consumption at 28% of the medium in Natural Gas and 31% in electricity. It’s going to be hard to reduce both of these figures.

I came up with a number of personal solutions for reducing space heating in 2011, which enabled the use of Natural Gas to drop.

I had already come up with a number of changes in power consumption in 2010, which explains why the electricity use did not drop so fast or so far in 2011.

However, I’m still working on cutting my domestic power consumption.

One of those ways is trying to adopt a more vegetarian diet. You see, when you eat vegan or virtually vegan, you don’t need so much refrigeration. Frequently over the last year the only things in the fridge have been milk, spread, yoghurt and green vegetables (plus a couple of half-used jars of pesto or mayonnaise, the regulation bottle of lemon juice and a jar of Marmite). The freezer has been off for months.

So I thought to myself, after checking the power consumption of the fridge – does the house need a smaller fridge ? I mean, the large fridge is useful when there are guests or someone throws a party, but it’s not fully used all the time. I could keep the green vegetables in the coldest, unheated room of the house, and buy fresh more regularly. What if I get hold of a mini fridge to use on a day-to-day basis ? And so, into my life has come the Mobicool W35.

Technically, it’s not a refrigerator – it’s a “cooler box”. A thermolectric one. And despite the E energy rating on the packaging – at 290 kWh a year, it will have less than half the power consumption of the Big Fridge. Plus, since I don’t need to run it all the time, I can cut power use further by only having it on 18 hours a day (or less, as dictated by the weather), controlled by a timer.

The next adaptations to my energy use will entail significant expense. Here are some options :-

a. Upgrading the windows
b. Installing a biomass burner (and optionally a boiler)
c. Cladding the external walls

I will need to save up to replace the windows completely, so I am looking for intermediate solutions.

For the biomass option, I have found a tree surgeon in North East London with whom a win-win arrangement could be developed – with me offering to take unseasoned wood from the loads of sawn waste that otherwise would cost money to dispose of.

In the meantime, I need to address draughtproofing. The sudden cold spell has shown me that there are still opportunities in this regard.

Castagne forestiere

Image Credit : Wikimedia Commons

Marrons, sweet chestnuts, kastanje…made into a sauce and served with pasta.

The vegetarian equivalent of beef steak mince, without the greasy, sour, nauseating aftertaste of dead cow.

Here’s one way to prepare it.

First, wait for late Autumn or Winter, then find a market trader selling uncooked sweet chestnuts. Buy some.

Come home and boil them in water for about ten minutes.

Remove the shell and inner skin of the nuts. Grind or chop.

Roughly chop some kind of onions and garlic and fry these in some olive oil.

Add a cup or so of some red wine, preferably a reasonably good one that got opened when a friend came over, but never got finished and sat re-corked and forlorn in the back of the cupboard, slowly starting to vinegarise, but still very palatable in a cooking sauce.

Stir the sauce and keep the heat under it until the alcohol starts to evaporate.

Add the ground or chopped sweet chestnuts.

Turn the heat down a bit on the sauce.

Boil a separate pan of water and throw in some pasta to cook.

Meanwhile, clean and chop a few other green vegetables, and if you have them, some kind of mushrooms.

When the pasta is nearly done, throw the chopped vegetables (and mushrooms if you have them) into the sweet chestnut and wine sauce.

Add a dash of sunflower oil, salt and pepper.

Just wait another five minutes.

By the magic of food chemistry you will end up with a sauce that looks rather like beef steak mince. And tastes as rich as beef steak mince. And yet it’s entirely vegan. And it’s amazing.

Serve the sauce on top of the pasta.

Eat.

Savour.

Enjoy your virtually vegan 2012 !