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Spirit of Manchester Story Week 2019 - Day 3

Furniture Poverty Hub - Re-use, and Minimise Climate-Changing Impacts

On Wednesday 25 September, Helen from the Furniture Poverty Hub is working with the Tree of Life Centre to promote furniture reuse and it is a good start to the day as the civic centre in Wythenshawe have given them a shop free of charge to run this activity. They have displayed some donated furniture in the shop window and the aim is to have a conversation about the links between reusing furniture and the climate.

What has our consumer-led, throw-away society got to do with the climate emergency?
A great deal, as it happens.

For example, the making of a new 3-seater sofa releases, on average, 70 kilograms of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. By reusing rather than buying new and in turn, disposing of 1 tonne of sofas, we could prevent 1.5 tonnes of CO2 emissions. Multiply this by the 10 million items of furniture including sofas, beds, wardrobes, as well as electrical appliances and other furniture items we throw away each year in the UK, then the speed with which we retain, re-use  and repair household goods becomes ever more urgent.

The voluntary sector is at the heart of furniture reuse. Hundreds of charities and social enterprises across the UK intercept the reusable furniture to provide affordable, essential goods to low income households. These organisations, like the Tree of Life and Wesley Community Furniture, are the ethical alternatives to the likes of Brighthouse; they also limit the use of payday lenders and loan sharks for credit, to buy household essentials. and Helen has been working with organisations for over two years to help them with this. Helen's advice is:

1. Don’t cut off the fire safety label on your current sofa as it can't be reused
2. Visit furniturepovertyhub.org.uk and search for a local organisation across Greater Manchester who could reuse your furniture. They may collect free of charge
3. If you do get rid of furniture, ask the person or organisation how they will be disposing of it. Dumping furniture affects the environment too!

Back to the shop and people have the opportunity to sit on the sofas and have had a chat. The most frequent questions are about the link between furniture reuse and the climate. The sign on the sofa reads 'You can find CO2 down the back of the sofa'. Helen explains that the aim is to raise awareness and relate the climate emergency to changes that people can make themselves. She said, "If you are buying new, buy well and look after it. Ask yourself - Do I need to get rid of something? Donate your unwanted furniture to a local charity and help save the climate".

For more information: www.furniturepovertyhub.org.uk or contact Helen Middleton: [email protected] or 07791 465271

Focusing their work on Greater Manchester, the Furniture Poverty Hub promotes the re-use of furniture and other household goods whilst simultaneously helping low income households to alleviate debt and poverty. They do this by raising awareness about furniture re-use; facilitating the channels with which re-use can be increased (i.e. between local charities and local authorities, housing associations and the private sector); and providing business development and capacity building support to existing charities, social enterprises and new start-ups.


Real Food Wythenshawe - "Our group reconnects people with their food"

Every Wednesday and Thursday, the Green Doctor groups meet at Glasshouse number 1 at the Horticultural Centre, Wythenshawe Park. These are drop-in sessions where people can learn all about food plus how to grow and harvest vegetables. If people just want to come along to have a chat and enjoy good company and a cup of tea then they are welcome too!

This activity is part of the Real Food Wythenshawe project promoting sustainable food and aims to introduce participants and visitors to the issues around environmental change and food security. It is a drop-in group so numbers vary week on week, but on average they see around 12 people each Wednesday, less on Thursdays.

Being a part of the group has massive mental and physical health benefits. Encouraging people to grow and eat their own fruit and vegetables is obviously good for physical health, as the movement that comes with gardening. Their members also speak of the mental health benefits of the work, which includes making new friends!

Sarah said "How we grow and consume our food needs to change if we are to tackle the climate emergency. For example, an enormous amount of food in the UK is imported, which means this food will most likely have a vast carbon footprint. Our group reconnects people with their food. We teach people how they can make changes about the way they interact with food, for example teaching people how they can grow their own food – therefore reducing the reliance on imported food - even in an urban environment. This education about food and its impact upon the climate emergency is so important in the fight against climate change".

Participants speak of making new friends and feeling healthier in their body and minds. They also speak about how much they have learnt about food, including how to eat better, how to grow their own food and also the way we grow and consume food has upon the climate emergency.

Liz - “I started being part of this group as I wanted to give something back to the community, and I get back as much as I put in. I meet people from all walks of life, share recipes, and grow my own food…it is very good!”

Sandra - “I have made loads of friends doing this…have learnt cooking skills….and some of the recipes I have learnt are really good!”


Manchester Carers Network - Plant-based cooking and recycling

On Wednesday 25 September, members of the Manchester Carers Network attended a cookery and nutrition workshop, delivered by Bounceback Food. The five people attending had the opportunity to make their own tabbouleh, hummus and delicious (and low-sugar) Eton Mess. This was the 3rd workshop in the Live Well programme, which is designed to help people learn how to cook healthy recipes, improve their budgeting skills and get support with nutrition.

The sessions provide attendees with not only a break from their usual caring duties, but also the chance to develop their cooking skills, meet new people and gain confidence. Duncan, founder of Bounceback Food, says “The workshops are also an opportunity to celebrate the diversity of cuisine in Greater Manchester”.

This programme helps the climate as they didn’t use any meat in their session today and usually teach people plant-based recipes. They also recycle all the tins they use, print their recipes on recycled paper and the session today was focused on batch cooking which is a way to reduce food waste.

It’s a four week programme and it’s designed so that people don’t have to go to every one. They can get the recipes afterwards or access them via the online cooking and nutrition portal on the Bounceback Food website.

Manchester Carers Network receives funding from Manchester Health and Care Commissioning to develop learning and development programmes for carers. More information about the Manchester Carers Network can be found at https://www.manchestercarersnetwork.org.uk/ and more information about Bouncebank Food can be found here - www.bouncebackfood.co.uk