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John Cossham introduces freegan food Sometimes you’ll come across someone who claims to be a ‘freegan’. Usually by that they mean they forage for food, either from hedgerows or from the urban equivalent, dustbins and skips. No one is 100% freegan, as everybody (apart perhaps from Mark Boyle, the ‘Moneyless Man’) uses a currency of some sort, but that shouldn’t stop anyone trying to barter, forage or grow their own. I can’t actually advise anyone to take things from skips and bins, as technically it’s theft, but it is a recognised way to find things to reuse that would otherwise go to landfill. I’ve been ‘rescuing’ unsold food for over two decades, and I am good at utilising it. Often, found food is a lot of the same thing, so I’ve learnt how to preserve it. I make pickled eggs, dried apple rings and bananas on my woodstove, houmous substitutes, and wonderful soups from floppy vegetables. I donate to Food Not Bombs, and compost any leftovers. The rich compost on my clay soil helps me grow some lovely fruit and vegetables. I like perennials and self-seeders. I’m always delighted with the chard or perpetual spinach, which grows profusely in my raised beds. I get so much of it that I have to pull it out like a weed, and these ‘salad seedlings’ taste so nice. I even eat ‘real’ weeds such as ground elder (which is an acquired taste). The iconic taste of summer for me is the loganberry. This is a cross between a blackberry and a raspberry, and it grows just like a bramble, putting out a long shoot that can be tied to a trellis or fence, and then the following year flowering and fruiting from that long stem. If the tip of the stem touches the ground, it roots and makes a new, free loganberry plant.

I barter food plants like loganberries and jars of dried fruit at a food swap called Apples for Eggs. Food swaps are springing up around the country. Our local one takes place four times a year, and I find it very satisfying to swap things I find easy to make for treats like lemon curd, onion bread and chutneys, which I don’t make. All these activities take a little time, but they save me money and reduce waste, which is something we should all aspire to.

Freegan: a person who rejects consumerism and seeks to help the environment by reducing waste, especially by retrieving and using discarded food and other goods

None of this is intended to be guiltinducing or dogmatic, however. In fact I think we need to move past those concerns, and the guilt, in order to have a full and progressive dialogue about what we need to do to ensure that we leave a habitable world for our children. Many of us choose reusable nappies and opt for public transport in place of car journeys, to reduce our carbon footprint on the world, but we can still feel bogged down by the times when we do need to drive or reach for a disposable. I don’t think that feeling bad about this is helpful at all. Instead of focusing on our perceived failings, we can continue to make small, achievable steps to bring our environmental awareness to real-life practices. We need to stop judging each other’s choices too, and start praising the positive ones. Simple things can include walking more as a family, or taking up cycling. Spending more time in Nature is a fairly obvious point, but what about the way you get there? What about the green spaces on your street that could use some guerrilla gardening, or all those strawberries you could be growing in pots at home? In my view, environmentally aware parenting is about nurturing: nurturing ourselves when we carry children and give birth, nurturing our children, nurturing our connection with the outside world and coming to see ourselves as a part of it, not apart from it.

being environmentally aware means consuming less, especially new goods

A while ago I met Jay Griffiths, author of Wild and Kith: The Riddle of the Childscape, and she told me that during her extensive travels living with tribal cultures she noted that they do not have native words for ‘the environment’ or ‘Nature’. They simply are a part of Nature.

This speaks to me as a crucial centre of being an environmentally aware individual, and for a parent it means embracing the ‘outdoors’ with our children as well, to teach them that there is no barrier between ourselves and the natural world. The film Project Wild Thing highlighted some of the barriers people face to spending more time outdoors, and science is overwhelmingly in favour of ‘wild time’ and free play outdoors, but how do we get there? With one step at a time. A walk around the neighbourhood and to the local park. Stopping to look at a flower and learn its name. Pausing to watch bees and talk about their complex, delicate lives. Talking to the growers at farmers’ markets, embracing slow travel, and through taking these small steps together building a bigger, better, greener future. Small, guilt-free, proven and powerful steps, taken together to change the world for the better. That is the essence of what environmentally aware parenting means to me. •


Zion Lights lives in South West England with her family and is contributing editor of JUNO. The Ultimate Guide to Green Parenting, published by New Internationalist, looks at the practical and technical aspects of managing an eco-conscious lifestyle alongside having children.

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