Waste not, want not

10th May 2018

Leeds Indie Food Festival puts food waste and sustainability front-and-centre


High-end dining is having an ethical overhaul. Foodies who once cared only about taste have revolutionised the food scene by bringing their ethical requirements to the plate and taking their money with them. Not only has an interest in provenance, ethical production and seasonality come to the foreground in recent years, but this year’s Leeds Indie Food event programme illustrates that minimising food waste and prioritising sustainability have become watch-words for keen foodies across the UK.

This mission to reduce waste is not only reflected in the festival’s events; for the first time ever, Leeds Indie Food has launched their very own Frank Green reusable coffee cup. The recent Latte Levy has threatened to increase the price of a cup of coffee for those not using a reusable cup but this could affect independent businesses the most, as consumers look to find a cheaper alternative. In light of this, Leeds’ indies have come together to offer a discount to anyone using a reusable cup, rather than charging extra to those who don’t have one. The cup is available to purchase here, along with other Leeds Indie Food merchandise.

The aim to cut down on disposable cups, extends to Leeds Indie Food and North Brewing Co.’s weekly street food fair, Eat North, where every Saturday all of North Brewing Co.’s drinks are served in bio-degradable cups which are 100% compostable and made from plant starch. Leeds Indie Food is also encouraging Leeds’ indies to sign up to become a part of the Refill App, which will be officially launching in Leeds very soon. The app features a map highlighting which businesses allow members of the public to re-fill their water bottles for free, in a bid to reduce the use of single-use water bottles. The app started in Bristol and has already had 800 sign-ups and Leeds Indie Food is committed to helping Leeds indies get on board.

The Leeds Indie Food schedule is also littered with independent food and drink business’ events focussed on waste and sustainability. A pay-as-you-feel supermarket will open punters’ eyes as to the perfectly edible foodstuffs which are discarded and wasted (more than 36 million tonnes of food are wasted every day in this country), by redistributing this forgotten produce, sourced from local businesses, supermarkets, restaurants and Food Banks, on a PAYF basis. Inspired by the work of The Real Junk Food Project and their innovative approach to tackling food waste, Helen Russell Brown (HRB Bakes), Caleb Elliott (Rainbow Junktion) and Andy Castle (Ox Club) have collaborated to create, Real Junk Food Emporium; a project aiming to inspire the people of Leeds into making waste food reduction an everyday lifestyle choice.

They will partner up with The Real Junk Food Project to bring their concept of the sharehouse (a food warehouse for all) to Leeds city centre for the first time. The PAYF element places the value back into food rather than on money and puts the power back into the consumer’s hands by allowing them to choose their own value; it’s an honest system that gives anyone and everyone access to food and the chance to combat food waste. Real Junk Food Emporium’s PAYF supermarket will run every day during the festival (10 – 28 May) at 34 Boar Lane the site formerly known as Mr Arkwright’s Tool Emporium, a disused space which has been renovated by East St Arts and LJ Real Estate. The space will also host the Real Junk Food Emporium’s very-own fine dining event (15, 22 and 28 May at 7pm) which will bring waste food fine dining to Leeds’ food scene, headed up by Ox Club chef, Andy Castle.

Other waste and sustainability focussed events include Food Waste Exposed: Ramen Pop-Up (20 May, 11am-3pm) and The Swine That Dines Roots To Shoots evening (SOLD OUT), as well as a renewed interest in exciting and pioneering vegan and vegetarian food events.

As Rob Greenland of social enterprise Zero Waste pointed out at the LIF launch event, independents “have the power to move quickly on creative ideas and minimise waste without answering to anyone.” Who better to lead the anti-food waste revolution than independents, who are often closer to their customers’ thought processes, and have less administrative red tape to cut through themselves to make real change happen, and fast.

As Liz Cottam, of Leeds fine-dining establishment HOME also mentioned at the launch, ethics in food are not supposed to limit – they are supposed to inspire. Every little helps in this process, whether we decide to go full vegan, just try to expand our meat-free repertoire, or try our hand at growing some produce ourselves. “Our menu showcases things that taste great, and the best tasting things travel the least”, she highlighted. “Sustainability is so important, but so is a creative process and a sense of fun”.

Leeds Indie Food will be selling merchandise to continue the theme, too – with a heavy interest in coffee, they’ll be trying to help the city avoid the pile-up of paper cups wasted everyday by selling a Leeds Indie Food-branded, Frank Green reusable coffee cup, available onsite.


Real Junk Food Emporium: Fine Dining

15, 22 and 28 May at 7pm

34 – 38 Boar Lane

A five-course dinner by Helen Russell Brown (HRB Bakes), Caleb Elliott (Rainbow Junktion) and Andy Castle (Ox Club) with all the proceeds going towards local projects associated with tackling food waste. The event is supported by The Real Junk Food Project, East St Arts, LJP Partnership and local businesses and will be hosted in the same space as the PAYF Supermarket. Tickets here.


Food Waste Exposed – Ramen Pop-up

20 May from 11am – 3pm

Hyde Park Book Club

This event will demonstrate the exciting potential of overlooked food in the form of ramen. All the food for this event will be salvaged fresh from local supermarkets and businesses and all the proceeds will be reinvested into projects such as Rainbow Junktion Community Café and The Real Junk Food Project. Tickets here.


RootsToShoots: Plant-based Menu

23 May from 6.30 – 10.30pm

The Swine That Dines

This plant-based sharing menu will have an emphasis on zero waste and The Swine That Dines will work with their local suppliers to produce a menu which cuts down waste at all opportunities. SOLD OUT.