17 December 2009

Trafalgar Square: No free lunch, but free bike parking

For once, you could park your bike in Trafalgar Square yesterday. The Feeding the Five Thousand event had commandeered the square with skiploads of edible fruit and veg which, like one third of all stuff grown in the UK, would normally be thrown away for cosmetic reasons.

They were turning all this into a free lunch for anyone who turned up, to draw attention to the amount of food wasted in the rich world, which just by itself contributes something like 10% of greenhouse gas emissions.

Either the recession is biting harder than we thought, or Londoners just can't resist a freebie, because the queues were of post-office proportions, winding round more than two sides of the square.

Unfortunately I didn't have the time to invest just to get a biodegradable paper plate of veg curry, wodge of bread, and complimentary banana, apple and handful of loose grapes.

Anyway, I had some leftovers waiting for me in the fridge, and it didn't seem right to throw that away in order to stop food waste.

Clustered round the square's great Christmas Tree was a tent village of rather damp climate change protesters. You have to be pretty determined to draw attention to global warming when it's freezing cold.

On the central stage was an entertaining demonstration of how a simple adjustment to your bike can turn it into a pedal-powered blender, suitable for turning fruit into a smoothie.

You just put a glassful of water and three pieces of fruit into the blender, pedal furiously for two minutes, and hey presto! A glassful of water with thirty pieces of fruit in it. And a lot of froth.

There were two blender-bikes in the square, and you could have a go yourself. I did manage to score a freebie biodegradable disposable plant-based plastic glass of someone else's legwork. So no such thing as a free lunch for me, but there was such a thing as a free smoothie.

And, to be fair, it was rather tasty, though my idea of a bike-generated smoothie machine would still involve cycling to Argos.

And, as the pleasant young steward handed me my gratis goblet, he smiled and said, Thanks for coming by bike, and it all felt worthwhile. Even if you can't park your bike there the other 364 days a year. Maybe they should leave up that sign that says 'This is rubbish'.


  1. By the time I got there (having followed your link yesterday) at 2:15, all that was left was a few people tipping up vats of a mysterious sludge, proffering ladles to passers-by. I superciliously decided to have lunch at home.

    I was a big fan of the climate campers who had a foul smelling brazier, presumably to give tourists an impression of what it would be like to live near the Alberta tar sands.

  2. Vats of mysterious sludge for lunch, foul smells, groups of grubby young people - *shudder* it all sounds too much like my primary school...

  3. I read that as 'proferring ladies to passers-by'

  4. Just discovered your blog via http://twitter.com/foodwaste. I found it to be a brilliant day. I was one of the people there volunteering, and there was positive vibes all round especially coming from the public. The idea of raising awareness about unwanted food being wasted by supermarkets, restaurant and other organisations is a positive thing, and it should continue until people realise what's going on, and something can be done about it on a large scale by such organisations.
    Thank you to all those that attended the event, and those that helped organise it. :)

  5. @Ana - well done for volunteering! Despite the effing freezing temperatures it was a very good-natured and enjoyable event, lunch or no lunch.

    And yes, the food waste business by the rich and developed world is staggering. Obviously I can feel a bit smug, as I neither waste food, and aren't rich or developed.

  6. Jos - perhaps you should have come during the event times - 12 - 2pm ! You should all check out www.thisisrubbish.org.uk!