Thursday, 2 September 2010

Guess who'll be hanging out with Saints for National Zero Waste Week?

I've taken my husband there, my children, my mother and most of my friends in Bury and friends who visit from further afield, not to mention an eco-friendly fireman and an incognito waste campaigner.  So I thought it's about time I introduced you to my favourite café to hit Bury St Edmunds too, where I hope you will join me next week to help celebrate an exciting week that's about to hit the blogosphere.

Yes, Monday sees the start of National Zero Waste Week, an annual social media campaign that promotes ideas for waste reduction. Developed and managed by the grassroots website, it is now in its third year, and for the first time is sponsored by Tetra Pak.

This year’s theme, ‘Cooking for Victory’, is supported by celebrity chef Brian Turner CBE, who will share how he views food as an asset on the MyZeroWaste website and will demonstrate “a compost while you cook” approach during National Zero Waste Week. The topics are a response to research by WRAP that reveals households throw away 8.3 million tonnes of food and drink every year, costing the average family in Britain £50 per month.

Enthused by the celebrity chef’s commitment to the national awareness campaign, I asked Saints Café if they would also be prepared to help inspire people at a more local level, serving me a daily “pot luck lunch” to showcase how delicious meals can be made from even small amounts of usable healthy ingredients that busy households might otherwise throw away.  Can you imagine my excitement when they said yes!

Saints Café owners, Engin Aga and Bernadette McAleer, said: "since launching earlier in the year, we have always placed a high emphasis on minimising food waste, sourcing seasonal and local produce where we can, cooking in small batches and fresh to order, along with running a careful stock control system to ensure that the ‘Zero Waste’ model is never far from being achieved.

“We are very excited about the project and are pleased to have the opportunity to demonstrate that efficient use of ingredients can reduce household food waste and save families hundreds of pounds a year too”.

Rachelle Strauss, aka Mrs Green, from MyZeroWaste adds "I'm thrilled that Karen has teamed up with Saints Café to promote National Zero Waste Week locally. It would be great if other eateries across Bury and Suffolk join in too, inspiring their own customers with ideas to try ‘pot luck recipes’ at home in a bid to reduce the nation’s waste.”

Despite having reduced my waste by 95% since I started The Rubbish Diet in 2008, I know I’ve got lax over the summer and so it will be great to pick up some new ideas and inspiration from one of my favourite cafés in Suffolk. There is a real buzz in the UK at the moment, where professionals are even being signed up by production companies to share their knowledge with prime-time audiences on national TV.   It’s an exciting time for raising awareness locally.

Professional chefs are extremely talented in managing food as a resource and minimising waste and even Brian Turner believes there is a role for local chefs to promote their food efficiency skills amongst their own customer community in a way that is fun and accessible. He says “To all chefs - make the world a better place, buy well, waste 'nout and make a bit more profit at the same time, it'd be daft not to.”

So if you fancy joining me next week at Saints for a coffee or even some lunch yourself, do pop in.  I'll be there enjoying good food and blogging from 1pm every day.  If you do, and can share a top tip or two, I'll even feature you on the blog!   But if you live too far away to come along, don't worry, I'll be sharing their top tips and recipes on the blog throughout National Zero Waste Week, before I pack up and attempt to use up everything from my fridge at home.

So how excited am I to have a legitimate excuse to be a lady who lunches!   Well the answer is very, so do keep coming back for all the updates and if you've got a blog, why not blog about it too.

National Zero Waste Week takes place from 6th-12th September. Anyone can pledge to join in at, where there will be prizes for the most inspirational stories and opportunities to share news on Facebook and Twitter. For further information about Saints Café, check out their website at


Karin said...

sounds good. shame I can only enjoy it virtually.

Local Girl said...

Fantastic idea, I'll pop in x

Almost Mrs Average said...

LOL Karin, lovely to see you. It's a shame you're not nearer but do make sure you've got a coffee to hand whenever you look in.

Fantastic Liz, that'll be great. See you next week and we'll sort out an Ely date too...blimey, WHERE DID the holidays go ;0) x

Dahlia ChanTang said...

Hello there Karen!

I wish I could be there, but it's kind of a trek from Canada!

I was wondering if you help me with something... I am sure you've seen the images from Pakistan: I've decided to help out by starting a seed collection for small-scale Pakistani farmers who have lost their crops to the floods. I've had quite a few positive responses from North-American gardeners, and I was wondering if you can put a call out to UK gardeners? I found a British organization willing to distribute the seeds in Pakistan, and they will also accept all gifts of seeds sent to their London office:

Mr.Haseeb Afsar
Social Mobilization Team
Techure Foundation

First Floor, 368A
E17 5JF

Contact Number : +44-752 975 0050

The parcels should be labelled 'Seeds for Pakistan', and any food crop will be accepted.

You can go to my blog for more information A Foodie's Quest

or email me:

Thank you!

mrs green @ myzerowaste said...

Mrs A, I can't wait to see how things turn out this week. As you know, I'm loving your challenge and I hope you get to enjoy some great meals while helping to raise awareness about this important issue.
Looking forward to seeing what you eat for lunch tomorrow!

Best of luck for the week xx


Dear Almost Mrs Average

Zero waste week is a lovely idea and sounds great however with regret you’re not living in the real world.

Not all goods however natural they may be are 100% usable, compostable or suitable for waste derived fuel.

There will always be some waste which is most cost effectively discarded into landfill. Your campaign focusing on food waste is particularly relevant as mainland UK discards massive amounts of biodegradable waste to landfill and within the next two years this will be banned. Defra has already written its papers on the issue and Eire amongst other EU countries has already banned it.

Within your post you state “Professional chefs are extremely talented in managing food as a resource and minimising waste” – I would suggest to you that you are wrong. A Michelin Star Chef is concerned with quality to the diner and will always choose the bin to the plate where necessary.

The same Michelin Star Chef will generally not use a food recycling service as it is not in his/her interest to identify the volume of biodegradable (food waste) being discarded every week.

I wish you luck and hope you enjoy your week but again I suggest – anyone telling you they are a zero waste person or company is disillusioned but this is not necessarily a bad thing. Anaerobic Digestion will treat the majority of wasted food but we need the legislation to make it happen – not all companies are as ‘green’ thinking as Waitrose.

Almost Mrs Average said...

Hi Dahlia - thanks for the note about the collection. I'd be delighted to tweet and facebook the links to your blogpost. Lovely to hear from you and good luck with the collection :-) x

Hi Mrs Green - well, as a former tutor once said to me when I pushed to do a work related dissertation..."Karen, you just want to have your cake and eat it don't you!" LOL, Indeed yes and what better excuse could I have for celebrating NZZW by sitting in a cafe and being show how I can best manage my own kitchen with some fabulous lunches ;0) x

Almost Mrs Average said...

Hello Gideon Mack - thank you for your interest in this post and for leaving your comments about the various threads of Zero Waste.

In the last few years I have met many arguments against Zero Waste and have also seen a many examples of how zero waste can be achieved, so much so that I do believe that I am actually living in the real world.

Agreed there are many components created by current markets that may not be able to be reused, composted, recycled or used for fuel, but these are being hit head on by one of the first zero waste principles of "Reduce", where manufacturers with a keen interest on zero waste design are "designing-out" such problems at concept level using the cradle-to-cradle approach recommended by McDonough and Braungar. Consumers with an interest in zero waste living are also swapping the products that contain waste materials that they'd have to place in their landfill bin for goods that minimise the need for packaging or only use materials that can be widely recycled or composted.

It may be more cost effective by old models to dump stuff in landfill but pressure from the EU, and in turn central government, is changing this through financial disincentives and incentives as well as legislation that are all providing an impetus for householders, manufacturers and retailers to have to face up to change. Coupled with this is a growing public awareness of how habits of old equate to a false economy as well as the impact on environmental matters.

A focus on Zero Waste agendas within government and manufacturing may not demonstrate actual achievements at that level now but are certainly realistic targets for the future, some as close as just a decade or even a couple of years away. And even companies who are not commonly deemed to be green are meeting goals in this area, including the Walmart empire for example. (cont...)

Almost Mrs Average said...

(...cont) I stand by my statement about food waste and professional chefs. As a key leisure sector, restaurants have a huge responsibility for helping to lead sustainable initiatives. And as far as food waste is concerned, even a Michelin star restaurant has to tackle head on the problems of food waste being a cost to the business and managing the inefficiencies of the kitchen is as important to a successful business as well as managing the quality of food served to customers. Zero waste in the kitchen is not about serving up customers unappetising spoils that might be dumped in a bin but managing food more carefully so that customers keep getting the quality they expect and chefs help kitchens increase their profit margins and reduce the waste that does end up in the bin. Apologies to all as there is no pun intended but things are hotting up in the restaurant sector and yes, professional chefs (perhaps not Michelin ones) are prepared to put their necks out when it comes to submitting food waste surveys. The results will soon be published by the Sustainable Restaurants Association (SRA), which is tasked with the aim of making UK restaurants global leaders in sustainability. Although the results aren't in yet, there's a video showing what the UK's top chefs are saying on the topic of food waste at

Finally on the matter of "disillusioned" companies or individuals telling me they are achieving zero waste, if they can look me in the eye and talk me through their methods that make it possible, I believe they're in a position of authority to influence society towards a zero waste future, which will become real for far more organsations and individuals than those who currently sit as a gradually increasing minority.

After all, a zero waste reality is about rethinking waste at every opportunity from creation to use (and reuse) right through to collection and recycling, minimising waste at each turn of what is a new industrial and process revolution in a wide number of sectors. Not every sector will be able to achieve it perhaps, but there will be many who can.

Thanks for your well wishes and for the opportunity for debate.

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