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The way you cut your meat reflects the way you live

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He was Jamie Oliver’s right-hand man at Fifteen Restaurant, his team have cooked for the Prince of Wales and he helped set up the UK’s first eco-friendly restaurant. And now, Jamie Grainger-Smith has big plans to integrate sustainability right into the heart of food, drink and hospitality.

George Bernard Shaw once said, “There is no love sincerer than the love of food.” And this comes from an Irishman who spent the vast majority of his 94 years on this planet in the arts, writing music, plays, essays and novels.

When he died in 1950, Britain was still recovering from the effects of the second world war. Food supplies such as meat, sugar and cheese were still rationed, and rationing wouldn’t completely end for four years.

Throughout the 50s and 60s, the UK’s food culture reverted back to its pre-war state, with traditional meat and two-veg dishes appearing on most dinner tables at mealtimes. The 70s brought with it an influx of foreign cuisines – Italian, Indian and Chinese – and into the 80s, fast food was already a well-established option.

The rising popularity of celebrity chefs and TV cooking shows in the 90s, though, introduced a new wave of cooking. All of a sudden, it was cool to experiment with food at home. And in 2013, this is more apparent now than ever.

Food has become the new rock’n’roll”, says Jamie Grainger-Smith. As an award-winning restaurateur, who has worked with the likes of Jamie Oliver, Alastair Little, Rose Gray and Ruthie Rogers at the River Cafe and Ben O’Donoghue, he knows a thing or two about the industry and where it’s heading. And where it’s heading, he adds unequivocally, is towards sustainability.

Everybody loves food; it’s very emotional. But we’ve got to take responsibility for our food. We can’t keep on taking and taking; there has to be a balance”, he says over a Fairtrade coffee at The Hub – a social enterprise incubation unit in the heart of King’s Cross.

It’s about not overindulging and instead just taking what we need. It’s about preparing and looking after the future. And it’s about caring. Sustainability is a massive word. It gets twisted up in many different ways, but it’s mostly about responsibility for me. That’s fundamental.”

The eco-friendly Acorn House Restaurant

A big part of the problem, according to Grainger-Smith, is food waste. A report in January by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in January outlined how between 30-50% of food produced around the world annually “never reaches a human stomach”. Meanwhile, the House of Commons international development committee called on Britons to start seriously tackling food waste in a report published in June.

It’s outrageous. On a day-to-day basis, people just buy food in a conveyer belt fashion. I’m trying to tell people to do things a little bit different otherwise it’s going to get really messy”, he says.

He’s doing this through Think.Eat.Drink – a membership scheme he founded and launched in October 2012, after becoming frustrated with what he calls “greenwash” in the food industry. Think.Eat.Drink, or TED for short, is a supply chain of accredited ethical and responsible businesses. Grainger-Smith’s idea is that if you want to set up a green, ethical or sustainable restaurant, bar, deli, for example, you can find and use accredited designers, shop-fitters, meat suppliers, packaging firms, coffee and tea producers and so on that are TED members – safe in the knowledge that these companies aren’t cowboys.

Leading ethical brands such as Divine Chocolate, FreshDirect and Ecover are on board, along with dozens of other social enterprises. Grainger-Smith says sustainability is “the future” of food and drink; he’s simply getting an early seat on the proverbial plane.

His career in the food industry spans over two decades. Born and raised in Liverpool, he left the city at 18 to work at Camp America – a summer camp for US children run primarily by young people from the UK. He still possesses a soft Scouse accent and remains an ardent fan of the red half of the city’s two footballing giants.

Upon returning to the UK, he headed to London and begun working at a bar in Soho – a job he juggled with his career as a budding photographer. But it was a role working with a chef called Alastair Little that first stirred his interest in food and drink.

Alastair’s known as the godfather of modern British cuisine. He was a TV celebrity chef way before everybody else and has written lots of superb cook books”, Grainger-Smith says.

I got invited to work in his restaurant as a waiter, while still doing my photography. Alastair’s passion rubbed off on me a little bit. He was a fantastic chef to work alongside.”

After learning the ropes under Little, Grainger-Smith was offered a job at the prestigious River Cafe in Hammersmith. It was here that he met Jamie Oliver – though it would be a few years before the pair would collaborate.

By this time, Grainger-Smith’s career in the food industry was becoming increasingly serious. He reluctantly had to make a decision between photography and food, and chose the latter – but still enjoys photography to this day.

Jamie Grainger-Smith with the Prince of Wales StarkUK's pop-up restaurant and bar, which was open for five days in the historic house and gardens of Lancaster House on The Mall

While working at Morton’s, a beautiful restaurant overlooking Berkeley Square in London, he got a call in the middle of service from Ben O’Donoghue, who he had also worked alongside at the River Cafe. O’Donoghue and Oliver wanted Grainger-Smith to manage their new restaurant, which would become the immensely successful Monte’s private members club on Sloane Street.

After 18 months in the job at Monte’s, Grainger-Smith was taken to one side by Oliver, who explained an idea he’d had about giving youngsters a job in food, training them and teaching them about the industry.

It was right up my street – given my background and where I was from – so I just thought it was brilliant”, describes Grainger-Smith.

I handed in my resignation at Monte’s and the next moment, I was walking around London looking for a property to create this restaurant.”

Oliver’s idea piqued the interest of the Channel 4 bosses, who decided to follow the restaurant’s journey. The accompanying programme, Jamie’s Kitchen, ran in 2002, and saw him and his team attempt to turn 15 disadvantaged young people into chefs. The subsequent restaurant where many of them got jobs, Fifteen, on Westland Place in Hackney, celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2012.

It was nerve-racking because all of a sudden I had this camera in my face and everybody’s watching what you’re doing”, recalls Grainger-Smith.

I think 7-8 million people watched the programme. We succeeded against all the odds and created this wonderful restaurant. I’m very proud to be associated with Fifteen, and to have been there from the off. It was a great moment in my life. I managed there for a few years and it was fully booked at lunch and dinner.”

As manager of Fifteen, Grainger-Smith wanted to ensure the customer’s experience was as good as it possibly could be. In his words, he “didn’t want them to feel like they were walking into a social enterprise operation”, which in fact it was. This philosophy has followed him in subsequent projects, including the first eco-friendly restaurant in the UK.

Setting up the business with his then chef business partner Arthur Potts-Dawson, the Shoreditch Trust and the Terrence Higgins Trust approached the pair and asked them if they wanted to set up another restaurant. Grainger-Smith got given free rein to mould the business into whatever he wanted, but it was rather by accident that they chose their eventual direction.

Grainger-Smith recalls, “The space we’d got near King’s Cross had a waste area at the back, so we decided to take responsibility for our waste. We partnered up with a composting company which was quite unheard of at the time, and decided to pay a small fee per week for them to compost our food waste and turn it into soil.

We built our own garden out of food waste and closed the food loop instead of putting it in a black bin liner; I’m also immensely proud of that. We decided to carry that feeling right the way through the restaurant – from our menus, furniture to the wine list, to the packaging. Just naturally, we became the UK’s first eco-friendly restaurant.”

Acorn House Restaurant, as it was called, relocated to its sister restaurant Waterhouse in 2012 – which Grainger-Smith also helped set up. Waterhouse has solar panels on its roof, a heat exchange system in the nearby canal, paint on the walls with low chemical volume and wood that was FSC certified. It also claimed the crown of being the first professional kitchen in the UK that was all induction, rather than gas.

Both Acorn House and Waterhouse received critical acclaim from so-called ‘foodies’. Grainger-Smith’s ambition of creating a green restaurant that people wouldn’t even notice was green had worked.

He says his next goal is to create another restaurant that instead of trying to blend in with the mainstream, shouts loudly about sustainability and responsibility, but without sacrificing the customer’s experience, which has always been paramount throughout his hospitality career. On the rise of sustainability in food he adds, “It’s been fantastic to watch sustainability become part of the cooking culture – especially among youngsters. They are really interested in this stuff, which gives me hope that food can be sustainable.

Jamie Grainger-Smith is the founder of Think.Eat.Drink. He has just finished a report for the London Legacy Development Corporation on the food and drink vision and strategy for the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for after the London Olympics in 2012, and has worked with a range of other charities and social enterprises including the Camden Society, Prince of Wales Charity, StartUK, Peabody Trust, Hastings Pier and the Transition Towns Network. He was named as one of London’s 1,000 most influential people by the Evening Standard in 2008 and is also a national green ambassador for Team Green Britain and a fellow at Royal Society of Arts.

His top tips for people wanting to do more sustainable cooking at home are: avoid waste, compost your waste, don’t overbuy, check what you’ve already got in your cupboards, buy local where you can, use your freezer and take greater care and responsibility over your purchases. 

Further reading:

First lab-grown burger eaten in London

Government should be ‘reinforcing a sense of urgency’ on sustainable food

Tackle food waste to tackle inequality, government report says

World wasting up to half of global food

Global food system crisis

Economy

How Going Green Can Save A Company Money

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going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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Energy

5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable

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sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.

1. Weather stripping

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.

Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.

2. Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.

Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!

3. Low-flow water hardware

With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.

Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.

Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.

4. Energy efficient light bulbs

An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.

New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.

5. Installing solar panels

Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.

Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.

From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!

These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.

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