QMUL Green Mary Week 2015: Miranda’s Perspective

This is part 1 in our series of QMUL Green Mary week volunteer posts. From 9-13 February 2015 QMUL celebrated Green Mary week, a week of events which promoted environmentally positive behavior on campus. It was a roaring success thanks in part to our enthusiastic army of Green Mary volunteers. Here Miranda, our week’s photographer in chief provides an account of the events she took part in. 

Meat Free Monday

Green Mary Week 2015 kicked off with Meat Free Monday in front of the Curve, where various groups dedicated to the growing, production, and cooking of food came out to share their insights and hand out free samples. Anyone who did not stop by missed out in the culinary department, because everything was exceptionally delicious. Love Food Hate Waste, a group funded by Tower Hamlets to work on waste management and improve recycling in the borough, was signing students up for free cooking workshops the next Friday, and showing off their skills by serving up a steady stream of freshly-cooked food put together from ingredients maybe a little past their prime, but still entirely edible. I tried out a pasta and broccoli dish after being shown the ease of trimming off the yellow bits and keeping the stalk of the broccoli (it’s sweeter than the florets), and would never have guessed it wasn’t made from the freshest veg possible. I also sniffed around and nabbed a sample of their pancake-style dessert which featured over-ripe bananas and sugar from Starbuck’s packets. They truly knew the meaning of not letting anything go to waste.

Popina sold their vegan and vegetarian pastries to QMUL students and staff on Meat Free Monday.
Popina sold their vegan and vegetarian pastries to QMUL students and staff on Meat Free Monday.
Love Food Hate Waste's chef cooking up free vegetarian samples to promote low-waste cooking during Meat Free Monday.
Love Food Hate Waste’s chef cooking up free vegetarian samples to promote low-waste cooking during Meat Free Monday.

Popina, a food stall that usually shows up in farmers markets, was selling a variety of vegetarian quiches, tarts, strudels, brownies, and other baked goods, including some vegan options. There were only brief moments when the stall was not surrounded by a crowd of hungry students, many of whom took advantage of the sunny day by eating outside. For those more interested in eating at the Curve or Mucci’s, the companies that supply the ingredients for all the food made on campus came out to share about their commitments to local and sustainable products. In particular, I talked with a supplier at Anglia Produce Ltd, where all of our veg and dairy comes from, about the Curve’s practice of serving a seasonal meal of the month to help support local fruit and veg growing efforts. Recipes for the seasonal meal can be found on the Curve’s QM website for those who would like to imitate it at home. Anglia also had samples of tasty cheddar cheese and some fairly amazing soup which rivaled even the Love Food Hate Waste samples. All in all, a delicious day to be at Queen Mary.

Travel Light Tuesday

Library Square was dedicated to bikes and cycling on Tuesday, with a free bike mechanic helping anyone who dropped by, the London Cycling Campaign running a contest to win a free bike, and Bikeworks making smoothies on their popular smoothie-bike. Lots of freebies were being given away, including cycling routes, waterproof seat covers, tea and coffee at the London Cycling Campaign, and of course a go at the smoothie-bike for anyone who signed up for a free cycling class at Bikeworks.

The London Cycling Campaign with their motto ‘London by Cycle’ is a voice for cyclists in London, working to make streets bike-friendly and encourage people to travel more on two wheels for their own health and the health of the environment. They were happy to help fix and tune up bikes for free for some of the many students who cycle to campus, and also brought a variety of bikes along for people to try out. I took a spin on one around Library Square, which made me wish I owned a bike full-time. Luckily, by signing up for their newsletter students received a packet full of handy bike tips and routes, and the chance to win a Brompton bike (a folding bike—very handy). Fingers crossed that I’m the lucky winner.

Bikeworks is based in Tower Hamlets, and was signing up staff and students for free cycling lessons and road safety training. Anyone who lives and works in Tower Hamlets is given up to five free hours of training, so all those cyclists out there who did not sign up on Tuesday, be sure to take advantage of this. Those who signed up got to blend their own smoothie, choosing from the many juices and fruits brought along and then using their own muscle-power to work the smoothie-bike. It looked like fun, if the smiles of the stationary cyclists were anything to go by. The smoothies were delicious, though a bit cold for the chilly weather. Of course, the free tea and coffee across the square could help with that.

Love Food Hate Waste Cooking Workshop

One of the more prevalent phrases I’ve heard around campus is ‘I can’t cook.’ From what I’ve seen and what it sounds like, most students live off of pasta and frozen food, staring at raw ingredients with bewilderment and frequently not eating enough fruit and veg. The Love Food Hate Waste group gave three free cooking workshops on Friday to help out such hapless students and educate about ways to stop perfectly good food from being thrown in the trash, saving money and the environment. The session taught a quick and easy meal and addictive dessert recipe, with emphasis on how easy it is to adjust ingredients to cater to food allergies and to incorporate any extra food that would otherwise go to waste.

Set up in Drapers, about fifteen students at a time were given a cutting board and an apron and instructed on how to make a casserole-type dish with egg and cream as a bottom layer, a mixture of carrot, potato, parsnips, and swede making up a second, and cheese topping the creation with some chopped up parsley. This got popped in the oven for about twenty minutes, and then it was ready to go. All of the ingredients came from rescued food that would have been otherwise thrown away, though it was perfectly safe and tasty to eat, evidenced by everyone’s later enjoyment. Dessert was a uni-style cheesecake, made from a biscuit topped with mascarpone mixed with mashed banana, and then finally smeared with Nutella. Yum. Because the mascarpone was melting, we were required to eat the cheesecake as soon as we made it. No one complained.

The workshop taught that everyone can cook, and everyone can prevent waste. Millions of pounds of food are thrown away in the U.K. every year needlessly, a heart-breaking sum to a student on a budget.  Cooking real (and sometimes healthy) food is not impossible at uni, so everyone who loves food and hates waste should give it a go.

-Miranda James, Green Mary Week volunteer

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