Thankyou To Our Volunteers

The following article appeared in the Letterkenny Leader on 3rd November 2021.

As we come to the end of the year, it will soon be time for the Tidy Towns Results to be announced. However highly Letterkenny scores in the results, we are proud of the improvements that have been made to the town both this year and in previous years. None of which could have been done without our volunteers, who turn out in all weathers to pick litter, tidy up green areas, paint fences, mend fences, plant flower beds and everything else that is done to improve the look of the town.

The volunteers gather at the Brewery

Recently, we held a coffee morning at the Brewery, where co-chair Gerard McCormick and co-ordinator Neil Blockley both spoke to the volunteers to give thanks for all their work. The following is an excerpt from an open letter to volunteers, penned by Gerard.

Open Letter

To all the Tidy Towns Volunteers:

On behalf of the Letterkenny Tidy Towns Committee, I would like to sincerely thank each and every one of you for all your work and efforts that you have given to your town this year.

When Neil came to us with his idea of starting a structured volunteering plan which is based on the famous “table” at the Market Square on Sunday mornings along with promoting the good work done on Social Media, we never thought that it would be such a success.

On reflection, it has been successful for two reasons, firstly, the selfless spirit of all you volunteers who reached out to us and gave your time freely to improve the fabric of the town by making it clean and tidy, secondly the hard work and organisation that Neil has put into this initiative from the very start. These two reasons have been instrumental in the success of the initiative, we salute you all.

We are told by the National Tidy Towns Unit that the Tidy Town results will be released sometime in November and we are excited about this, after the cancelled competition last year.

You never know what will happen in this competition, but we do know one thing, we have all worked extremely hard to have Letterkenny in the best shape possible and we should all be very proud of that as the Tidy Town year winds down.

I would just like to conclude that we hope that you have enjoyed volunteering with Tidy Towns as it is in the giving that we receive the most in life. We look forward to continue working with you all as we strive to improve our beautiful town.

Gerard addresses the volunteers while Neil looks on.

Charlie Grant, organiser of many of Letterkenny Tidy Towns’ projects

Pollinating Trees

In order to promote the planting of pollinating trees, we are working with Alcorns Garden Centre in Kiltoy. Members of the public can go into Alcorns and select 2 pollinator friendly trees. Letterkenny Tidy Towns will pay for whichever is the cheaper of the two. Nine tree varieties are on offer, including rowans, ashes, weeping willows, cherry blossom and many more. To find out more, contact Craig on 074 9121541 or visit www.alcorns.ie.

 

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Pollinator Friendly Areas Register – Buy a Pollinator Friendly Tree & Get Another Free Campaign – NOW CLOSED

This offer is now closed, thank you to all who participated.

As part of our Biodiversity initiatives we are building a register of pollinator friendly areas in Letterkenny!

We are delighted to be partnering with local garden centre Alcorns on this great biodiversity initiative. For every pollinator friendly tree(s) purchase we will provide one pollinator tree completely free of charge (that tree being of lesser or equal value).  Please note, this offer is while stocks last and one free tree per customer only.

If you can please complete a register form at the time of purchase in Alcorn so that we can add your Eircode and tree details to the pollinator friendly area register.  NOTE – your personal information will NOT be displayed in any way or provided to a third party.

The trees on offer are:

  • Prunus Kanzan (Cherry Blossom)
  • Prunus Fugenzo (flowering cherry)
  • Sorbus Nigra (purple leaf plum, pink flower)
  • Sorbus Vilmorini (pink berry ash)
  • Sorbus scalaris (Chinese Ash –  white flower pink berry)
  • Sorbus Comixta (Japanese Rowan)
  • Sorbus Acuparia (sheer water seedling)
  • Pyrus Pendula (weeping pear, white flower)
  • Salix Kilmarnock (weeping willow)
  • Cotoneaster coral beauty
  • Ceonthus Victoria
  • Cotoneaster Cornubia
  • Cotoneaster Pendula
  • Pyrus Chanticleer (celery pear)
  • Malus hyshop ( blue tinged crab apple )
  • Malus Red Sentinel (crab apple)

There will be more tree types available in spring for any more information on these trees please contact Craig at Alcorns on 074 – 9121541.

Happy planting!

The Letterkenny Tidy Towns team

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Litter Picking – Tidy Times 7th October 2021

Our litter picking group continue to do great work in keeping Letterkenny clean. In recent weeks we have had a few first timers, which is always great to see, and our regulars continue to do great work. Many of our volunteers meet at the Market Square on Sunday mornings from 10.30, where Neil, our coordinator, directs them towards the areas which most need cleaning up, and provides any bags, gloves etc that might be needed. Other volunteers go out at whatever time it suits them, some on a weekly basis and others on a more occasional basis. However often each person goes out litter picking, it is all much appreciated, and we always stress to our volunteers that it is entirely up to them how often they get involved. We are always looking for new volunteers, and all are welcome to join us.

Some of our volunteers recently told us how infuriating it was to see that Kiltoy, which they had cleaned that Sunday, was already fairly badly littered again by the Tuesday morning. This is a common experience, and a source of frustration to all of us who have volunteered, but unfortunately all we can do is keep chipping away at it in the hope that eventually people might be less inclined to drop litter once an area is kept clean. Many studies have shown that the more littered an area is, the more likely certain people are to add to the litter. Whereas if an area is spotless and beautiful, then the casual litterer may well think twice before hoinking that coffee cup/drink can/takeaway wrapper out of the car window. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I hope I’m not the only one!

Some of the litter found on Kiltoy

One way in which litter can be reduced is by incentivising people not to drop it. Which is why we were delighted to hear of Lidl’s plans to give vouchers for 10c per plastic bottle or aluminium can returned to its stores. Those of us of a certain age can remember when this was the norm for glass bottles, and even today, in Canada you will pay a little extra to buy glass or plastic bottles and can get your deposit returned when you take back the empties. The result is that most people will return their bottles, but even where people don’t there’s a mini industry in people who go round collecting litter in order to collect the deposits.

In conjunction with this, it stands to reason that if less waste is produced in the first place then less will end up as litter. So we are always glad to hear of initiatives by the supermarkets to reduce packaging. They have a long way to go, but at least it’s on their radar, which is a good start, and it’s up to all of us, as customers, to make sure it stays on their radar.

And finally, the perfect way to reduce litter is to catch them young. If it is instilled in our children from a young age that dropping litter is an unacceptable thing to do, then they are far less likely to drop litter themselves, or to grow up into adults who think it’s ok to leave their takeaway wrapper by the roadside. We were delighted to meet a group from Ballyraine FC a while back who were part of a community clean up. For this reason, we sponsored a ‘Junior litter warrior’ competition this summer where we invited facebook followers to send in photos of their kids getting involved in a litter pick. A winner was selected at random each month. We were delighted with the response, and thanks to all who entered.

The Junior Litter Warriors for August

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The History of Letterkenny Tidy Towns

The following article appeared in the September 3rd edition of the Letterkenny Leader.

This month I’d like to look back at where we came from and how we got to where we are now.

The foundation of Letterkenny Tidy Towns.

Letterkenny was involved in the Tidy Towns competition right from its inception in 1959. However, by the 1970s, the town was becoming quite badly littered, and a little run down in places. To some, it was known as “Litterkenny”. An RTE documentary in 1975 was very critical of the town, painting it in a very bad light altogether. A lot of residents felt the picture it painted was highly unfair and unduly negative.

By the beginning of the 1980s, the Letterkenny Tidy Towns group had broken down, however as chair of the Chamber of Commerce, Jim McCormick, owner of Magees pharmacy got to work on revitalising the Tidy Towns group. He had no experience of such things, and was unsure of what needed to be done, but he worked with Cllr Jim Lynch, who became Chair, and Dennis Doyle, who was a Tidy Towns judge and offered a lot of advice and later became Vice Chair. As the years went by, Letterkenny Tidy Towns went from strength to strength. After a few years, Jim McCormick took over as Chair. The biggest challenge was the speed at which the town was growing, however the Tidy Towns committee kept working away, culminating in the ‘Tidiest large urban centre’ award in 2007.

Cllr Victor Fisher, Jim McCormick and John Buchanan

Now the work began to take it to the next level, as Letterkenny was a mere 3 points away from winning the overall title. However, Jim didn’t get to see his dream come true, as he sadly died in 2011, at the age of 69. His passing is marked by the Jim McCormick Memorial Garden by the Century cinema, where one of our ‘Flight of the Bee’ murals now takes pride of place.

Ireland’s Tidiest Town.

After the passing of Jim McCormick, the Chair was taken up by Anne McGowan, who continued the hard work. Over the next few years, Letterkenny continued to win numerous medals and awards.

                 

In 2015, after all those years of improvements, Letterkenny won the top prize. One thing that was highlighted by the judges was the landscaping and use of open spaces. At the time, volunteers were out 7 days a week, led by Anne along with Charlie Grant, who is still a leading light (and all-round force of nature) in many of our projects.

Pictured at the SuperValu TidyTowns competition were, Anne McGowan, Chairperson Letterkenny Tidy Towns (centre) with Martin Kelleher, Managing Director, SuperValu (left of centre); and Mr. Alan Kelly, T.D., Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (right of centre) and members of the Tidy Tows Committee as Letterkenny, Co. Donegal was named best of the 862 towns and villages throughout the country that entered this year’s SuperValu TidyTowns competition.

The last 5 years.

In recent years, our group has continued to work to improve the town under the Co-Cchairs Gerard and Brian McCormick, 2 of Jim McCormick’s sons. Our group has grown, in particular over the last 18 months, and we are involved in newer initiatives such as expanding our internet presence and improving biodiversity while continuing to focus on the same core activities as before.

The volunteer group includes a mixture of people born and bred in Letterkenny plus a growing group from the rest of Europe and all over the world. We’re particularly happy to see a group from the Direct Provision centre helping out regularly. Our volunteers are ably assisted by the CE scheme which operates out of An Grianan Theatre, and together we continue to work to make Letterkenny a highly liveable place and an attractive spot for visitors.

Neil Blockley co-ordinates a group of our volunteers.

I leave you with an example of how our members have always been keen to take every opportunity to improve the town. One year when the St Patrick’s Parade included an elephant. The inhabitants of the Tidy Towns float witnessed the elephant leaving a ‘message’ right in the middle of Main Street. Some might see this as mere animal poo, but our volunteers immediately thought of how great it would be as fertiliser. So after the event, they rushed home to collect a trailer and some shovels to clean up the scene. Only to find that someone else had had the same idea and was already carting off the prized manure. Where some see dirt, others see opportunity!

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Tidy Times – August 2021

The following article appeared in the ‘Tidy Times’ article in the Letterkenny Leader in August 2021.

There’s plenty going on this month. Here are a few of the highlights.

Junior Litter Warrior.

During the summer, we have invited our Facebook followers to send in photos of their children helping to keep Letterkenny tidy. We’re firm believers that getting children involved will set up good habits for life, and it also gives them some quality time with the family. Each month we enter the photos in a draw and award a lucky winner a ShopLK voucher. The photos proved very popular with the public – great to see such community spirit! – so thanks to all who have entered so far. Entries close at the end of August so do send in your photos.  

Thiago (4), the Junior Litter Warrior for June

Tommy (9), Lottie (5) and Molly(4), the Junior Litter Warriors for July

Biodiversity.

In recent months we have been focussing on encouraging pollinators via biodiversity. Pollinators are vital because without bees and other insects pollinating wild plants, the plants wouldn’t produce the fruits and seeds that animals and birds need to eat, leading to a downward spiral in wildlife and plantlife population which would ultimately impact us all.

We have a 2-pronged approach to this. Firstly, we are developing various sites around the town which will be designated as biodiversity areas, for example at Ballyboe Park and at both of the town parks. In addition, there will be various spots, such as Sentry Hill, where the grass will be left unmowed, allowing wild flowers to grow in certain areas, all of which encourages our pollinators to do their work. You can also help out by leaving a section of your garden to grow wild.

Secondly, in conjunction with Byrnes Mobile Zoo we have installed a ‘Polly Bug’ caravan at a vacant site on Ramelton Road. The caravan is home to more than 100,000 bees who will be diligently working the plants of Letterkenny. As I look out of the window I can see a gang of them working away on our flowering trees, so they haven’t taken long to settle in.

Our ‘Flight of the Bee’ mural trail, celebrating pollinators, also continues. The trail will consist of 5 murals, from Port Road to the Jim McCormick Memorial Garden by the Century Cinema, which takes the walker on a journey with the bees. The aim is to promote awareness of biodiversity while providing an attraction which will appeal to visitors to the town along with the murals produced by such people as the A-rt Team and the Cathedral Quarter.

Garden Competition.

During the summer months, we are running our annual Garden Competition. If you are proud of your garden, why not send us a few photographs to enter the competition? We have 3 categories – small, large and wildlife friendly, so please indicate which category you wish to be considered for. Judging will be at the end of August, and winners will receive a voucher for Alcorns Garden Centre. Entries can be sent to lktidy@gmail.com, or you can drop printed photos in at Magees Pharmacy on Main Street. We look forward to seeing your pictures.

Last year’s winner of the ‘Wildlife Friendly’ category.

Keeping the town clean.

Since the restrictions on outdoor gatherings were eased, we have been getting back into meeting up on a Sunday morning for litter picks. Everyone is welcome, just turn up at Market Square at 10.30am on any Sunday, and Neil, our coordinator, will show you the ropes. We also encourage Community Clean-Ups, where groups of residents arrange to clean up their local area. Such events are great for community spirit, and for getting to know the neighbours, all while improving the neighbourhood. Tidy Towns and/or the Council can help with providing equipment and bags, as well as clearing the litter away afterwards. Contact us at lktidy@gmail.com for more details.

If you would like to know how you can get involved in helping with the Tidy Towns efforts, please visit our website https://www.letterkennytidytowns.com/volunteer.

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Garden Competition 2021- NOW CLOSED

We at Letterkenny Tidy Towns ran the 35th Annual Cleaner Community Garden Competition from 4th of July to 31st August 2021 with three categories.

We were delighted to run this Garden Competition for the Best Large Garden, Best Small Garden and Best Wildlife Friendly Garden categories. Each category is dedicated to previous Tidy Town members.  See below for details of the categories.

The competition ran from 4th July to 31st of August 2021.  The entries will now be judged and each category winner will receive a trophy and an Alcorns Gift Voucher.  (Please note that we can only accept entries from Letterkenny and the surrounding townlands.)

The Large Garden competition is known as the Sean Higgins Memorial Award. Adjudication will cover planting, colour including shrubs, grassy areas and flower borders encouraging wild life.

Last year’s ‘Large Garden’ winner from Anne and Charlie.

The Small Garden competition is known as the Charles and Rose Devlin Memorial Award. Adjudication will cover planting, colour including shrubs, grassy areas, and flower borders encouraging wild life.

Last year’s ‘Small Garden’ winner from Breege.

The Wildlife-friendly Garden competition is known as the May McClintock Memorial Award, sponsored by An Taisce. For examples of what we might be looking for in this category, see the biodiversity section of our website.

Last year’s ‘Wildlife Friendly Garden’ winner from Bronwyn. This category is all about encouraging natural growth to help out the pollinators and give wildlife a home.

THANK YOU TO ALL THE ENTRANTS & BEST OF LUCK!

The Tidytowns Committee.

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Charity Shops

The following article appeared in the “Tidy Times” column in the Letterkenny Leader on July 1st 2021.

In today’s world we often hear talk of ‘sustainability’. In previous times, an often used phrase was ‘reduce reuse recycle’. Tidy Towns as an organisation is very keen to promote both of these mantras. One great way that we can do our bit is through the use of charity shops. In these days of ‘fast fashion’, buying clothes from a charity shop is one way to save costs while helping to save the planet. Or it might be a place to buy pre-owned books, furniture or just about anything else you could wish for, often in good-as-new condition and always at a very reasonable price. The environment benefits greatly from both reducing the need to manufacture new goods and reducing the need to dispose of the used goods, particularly those which would go to landfill.

Meantime, the donor gets to clear out some space in their home. I once heard someone with a title along the lines of “Clutter consultant” (the mind boggles!) stating that if you don’t use an item of clothing for 6 months, then you don’t need it so chuck it out. I’m not sure I’d quite go that far, but certainly if you have a wardrobe full of clothes that aren’t likely to be worn again, why not have a good old clear-out.

Last but definitely not least, the charity gains some much needed income. Many charities have been seriously struggling for income this last year, and the impact of closing the shops was described as ‘seismic’ by one charity worker. I spoke to Eamonn of Good & New, who explained that the shop had been closed for 40 weeks, but accounts for most of the charity’s income. It was only due to having reserves that they were able to continue to operate, as they get no income at all from Government despite providing a vital service for cancer patients who are referred to Galway.

Without the service Good & New provide, cancer patients and their families would have to make their own way to Galway and find their own accommodation. Aside from the costs this would involve at a time when income may well be impacted negatively, there are also practicalities. For example, people who have radiotherapy treatment for prostate cancer need to have 3 litres of liquid ‘on board’ in order for the treatment to be safe. This inevitably results in the need for a lot of pee breaks on the way home. With a specialist bus, stops can be made. With public transport the situation would be impossible to manage.

Some of the literature available at Good & New. “The Toughest Journey” is a fascinating account of the bus ride to Galway, which appeared in the Irish Times.

In Letterkenny we have a range of charity shops. For the most part, they accept donations of clothes, books, CDs, and in some cases they also accept furniture, jewellery bric-a-brac and small electricals. These include:-

  • St Vincent DePaul (Lower Main Street) works to alleviate the impact of poverty on those most in need in our society, caring for the homeless and providing social support to enable people to help themselves.
  • Irish Wheelchair Association (Glencar shopping centre) provide services for people with physical disabilities, including advice, community centres, and support with assisted living, housing, holidays and motoring.
  • NCBI (Upper Main Street) offer services to people affected by sight loss. The advice and assistance they offer can be the difference between becoming isolated versus living a full life.
  • Good & New Charity shop (Port Road) provides free transport to Galway for people requiring cancer treatment, and assists with accommodation. They also offer a drop-in centre to provide advice and support for people affected by cancer and their families.
  • Animals In Need (Lower Main Street) rescue and rehome unwanted, injured and abandoned animals.
  • Universal Books (Church Lane) are not a charity shop, but have an excellent selection of second hand books.

So do take the time to check out your local charity shops, either as a buyer or a donor. You might find something you’d love, or get rid of something you no longer love, and you’ll be benefitting some of the most deserving people in our society.

The NCBI shop

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Tidy Times – June edition

The following article appeared in the Letterkenny Leader on June 3rd.

It’s great to see the Leader back after these months of lockdown, and here’s hoping that the gradual opening up of society continues onwards and upwards without any major setbacks! Not surprisingly, the lockdown has impacted Tidy Towns in a number of ways, but we have still been active as much as possible. So what have we been up to?

Perhaps the most visible activity is the litter picks. We haven’t been able to meet up, but Neil, our coordinator, has done a sterling job of keeping all our volunteers (who now number more than 50!) equipped to go out in their own family groups / bubbles and clear litter from their local areas. Looking around the town, there’s a real visible improvement, with special kudos going to John Wilkie who almost single-handedly cleaned up the dual carriageway. Quite the mammoth task, and it’s looking so much better! In the coming months, we hope to be able to get back to the Sunday morning meet-ups in the Market Square, and will also be encouraging community groups to “Adopt a road”. That is, a residents’ association would organise a litter pick of their own area with equipment provided by the council, along with assistance to remove bin bags afterwards. Get in touch with us if you would like to know more about this, at lktidy@gmail.com.

Our new volunteers from Writer’s Square set out on a litter pick.

In addition, there have been a number of local projects, mostly co-ordinated by Tidy Towns stalwart Charlie Grant. For example, there was a clean-up of an overgrown area on Long Lane, and there were also clean-ups at the Famine garden and by the Mart. One project which gained a lot of attention was at Roger’s Burn, which is a very fondly remembered site by many people from their Letterkenny childhoods. Here, our volunteers repaired a wooden handrail to make the site more easily accessible. Having visited there myself for the first time recently, I can say it’s a beautiful spot and anything which makes it easier to visit is to be welcomed.

Janus and Neily work on the handrail at Roger’s Burn.

Charlie has also been working with Transition Year students at Errigal college to set up a polytunnel, for use as a resource for both students and the community. In addition, he worked with the TY students to provide flower boxes for the Cathedral Quarter.

In the coming months we will be focussing on sustainability, with emphasis on biodiversity. There are numerous biodiversity sites around the town (Roger’s Burn being a prime example), and we will be working to keep these in good condition and provide information on how people can keep their own areas biodiverse. Other areas of focus will be on cutting down household waste, and in particular food waste, in which areas we will be providing information in the coming months.

Finally for this month, our “Flight of the bee” Mural trail continues to develop. After delays due to Covid restrictions, Karl Porter has been back in action in recent weeks, with the mural at the Jim McCormick Memorial Garden taking shape. The idea of the mural trail is to create a walking route which highlights the importance of bees in the preservation of ecological balance and biodiversity in nature. It is hoped that an app will be created to highlight the trail and to link in with other local attractions such as the Cathedral Quarter and the other murals around the town, thus providing another good reason for people to come and visit our town.

The new mural at the Jim McCormick Memorial Garden.

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The phantom litter picker – John Wilkie Q&A

In what we hope will become a regular feature to get to know our volunteers, we posed a few questions to Tidy Towns volunteer John Wilkie, in order to get to know what makes him tick and what makes him wave a litter grabber in triumph (or in anger!)

1. What makes you laugh the most?

JW – 0ccasionally Sarcasm make me Laugh. Laughter is a hugely underrated activity. l always try to see the funny side to everything. Also, the things people say! – Like ‘oh its yourself’ or ‘I see you in the town today’. I find Fr Ted very Funny, and as a child I loved Monty Python’s flying Circus – very funny.

2. How long have you been involved with Tidy Towns?

JW – I started with the Letterkenny Tidy towns in  2012 – just started cleaning up around my own area, lower Dromore. Also started cleaning along the dual carriageway around that time – me and family members.

3. What do you enjoy about being involved with the Tidy Towns?

JW – l love the freedom of volunteering you can do a few hours when ever you can – it’s just brilliant.

4. Who is your number one hero?

JW – Greta Thunberg the Swedish environmentalist / activist who is know for challenging world Leaders on Climate change – she is amazing for such a young person. Also Sir David Attenborough is amazing.

5. Where is your favourite place to be in nature?

JW – I just Love anywhere there is Trees…Like Carravaddy ,or Ards Forest park. I also like island hopping, going to visit Arranmore ,Tory island ,Cruit island – so beautiful right on our doorstep – please visit sometime.

6. If they were making a movie about your life, what would the theme tune be?

JW – Star Trek – Space, the final frontier, to boldly go where no man has gone before…

7. You are an amazing litter picker, what motivates you to keep on going?

JW – Well!! For me its about giving back to our Community we must all do our we bit for biodiversity and the environment

8. If you were a superhero what special powers would you have?

JW – The phantom Litter Picker. My superpower is my Laser beam eyes that Zaps all rubbish off the face of the Earth.

9. What is the most unusual piece of rubbish you have picked up?

JW – Well I have found some unusual things, such as ….

– Three piece suit

– Arm chair

– Toilet

– Microwave oven

– Deep fat fryer

– 4 tins of Beans

– 12 Cans of Beer

– Bag of Ashes

– Small bag of Cocaine

– Pregnancy Test which was positive

– Dog house

– New pair of Nike runners

Editors note – sounds like the Generation Game conveyor belt gone wrong. Didn’t he do well! Etc Etc…..

10. Do you possess a wig?

JW – Yes i have a Elvis Wig
Thank you very much…huh hu..

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Food Waste

Did you know that 28% of the world’s agricultural land is used to produce food which is wasted? More than half of this food waste comes from industrial and retail sectors, but a significant amount of it comes from households, so we can all do our bit to reduce this waste. Aside from environmental issues, it has been estimated that the average Irish household spends 700 Euros per year on food which ends up in the bin.

The Environmental Protection Agency have produced the website Stop Food Waste, which is full of helpful tips on how to reduce food waste.

The graphic below shows which food items are wasted the most.

So what can we, as householders, do to reduce food waste?

  • Planning – by taking a shopping list, we are less likely to buy on impulse, and are more likely to think about what we are actually likely to eat.
  • Avoid ‘2 for 1’ offers on perishable foods.
  • If cooking more than is likely to be eaten at one sitting, try to cook things which can be stored and reheated another time. For example, most pasta dishes, stews, chillies and curries will taste even better the second time around! Besides, you then have a second meal for half the effort.
  • If you have a compost bin, put all your waste food in there.
  • Get creative with food which might otherwise go to waste. The photos below show a veggie curry side dish I made from veggies that were left in the fridge. Delicious AND cheap.

We will be looking for more of your ideas for using up food which might otherwise go to waste.

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