Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A new cafe culture?

How good to be able to share good news!

I know that the media believe in the sales value of bad news, hence its tendency to bombard us with all that is dire and tragic, but, at the moment, good news would seem to be in short supply.
Nonetheless, we need to start by assessing the bad variety.

Damaging climate change now affects large swathes of the planet.  This upsets the production of food, and a fast-growing world population is in need of more food, not less.  True, the majority of us in the west eat too much . . . more than we need . . . more than is good for us.   But even we are beginning to accept that food isn't the cheap, easily available commodity that we once thought.

Where is the good news in all this?
It lies in the fact that, in awakening to this situation, some of us are doing something about it.

'Food Cycle', an organisation, started in London in 2010, tackles both wasted food and food poverty by means of willing volunteers and community cafes.
It is proving highly successful.

Did you know that one-third of the food produced for human consumption each year is wasted?
No . . . neither did I.

Food Cycle's full message is given in this entertaining and enlightening video, it only takes one minute . . . enjoy it:

So, we are valuing food  . . . we are saving food . . . all of which is highly commendable.

But there is even more good news.
Tell me, when did you last see a darning mushroom?  Have you ever seen a darning mushroom?

Strange as it may seem, it wasn't so very long ago that the small, wooden mushroom was considered an indispensable household commodity.
You had a hole in your sock?  Then what you needed was darning wool, a darning needle and, most important, a darning mushroom.
Once upon a time we repaired things.

However, in the Netherlands this practice has been revived.  Enthusiasts have started up what are called Repair Cafes.  Broken utensils that have seen better days, household goods and furnishings that no longer qualify for the term 'good', electronic equipment that's lost its sparkle . . . many such items are no longer discarded but are taken to a Repair Cafe in the hope of gaining a new lease of life.

This wonderfully innovative project was started two and a half years ago in a theatre foyer in Amsterdam.  Now, thanks to keen support from the Government and various foundations, it has spawned thirty groups across The Netherlands.

Over a cup of tea or coffee, people study their broken artefacts, pool their skills, socialise and make friends.
And let's quote figures . . . The Netherlands now puts less than three per cent of its municipal waste into landfills.  Not that they are satisfied with this achievement, they are trying to reduce the figure even further.

These projects make two things very clear:  it's perfectly possible to recycle food waste, and there's no reason why old tools and furnishings shouldn't remain in active service.  Between them, FoodCycle and Repair Cafes have set an inspiring example for us all to follow.

But, for me, the crowning achievement of both types of 'cafe' doesn't lie in their practical benefits. It's the opportunities they provide to evoke the imaginative and constructive skills of the local community.
These projects are highly commendable . . . they are also fun.

Perhaps that's enough good news for one letter . . . when we're extolling the prudent use of food and the conservation of household goods, we don't really want to be profligate with words!

There's only one thing I would add . . . please pass on the good news!