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French town gives free chickens to residents

The Local France
The Local France - [email protected]
French town gives free chickens to residents
(Photo by PHILIPPE HUGUEN / AFP)

Local authorities in one French town have announced that community members can apply for free chickens to help reduce food waste, just one of many green initiatives being taken by French municipalities.

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From beautiful cobblestone homes, a winding canal and a Christmas market to rival that of Strasbourg, the eastern French city of Colmar has a lot to offer tourists and residents alike.

Now, it is also offering free chickens.

In an effort to reduce food waste and ease the burden of waste collection for the town, the Colmar urban area will be offering two free chickens per household. According to local authorities, chickens can devour around 300 grams of waste per day - which adds up to about one hundred kilograms of waste annually (for a two-person household). 

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Members of the 20 communes in the Colmar agglomeration need to apply by Friday, March 24th to benefit. Those who are chosen will be able to receive their chickens - which will be red hens - on June 10th at the Place du Capitaine Dreyfus in Colmar.

The chickens are not just passed out to anyone though - to be eligible, households must demonstrate that they have adequate conditions to house the birds and will be able to respect animal welfare. Once accepted, households must also accept that local authorities still have the right to visit the facilities that the chickens are being kept in, to check they're OK. 

This is not a new initiative - in the last seven years, 2,942 red hens and 766 Alsatian hens have been given to community members, and households looking for more chickens can apply every two years. 

Colmar has been distributing chickens to households since 2015, and the initiative has been met with enough success that chicken drives happen twice a year now.

But Colmar is far from the only place in France rolling out innovative green initiatives - an increasing number of green mayors and local politicians means that many towns are trying out new methods of aiding the environment.

Here's a few examples;

Free worms

Several cities and municipalities across the country have launched initiatives to encourage composting, with many offering free worms to help.

For those living in Paris, free worm composting bins can be retrieved during the city's distribution campaigns, which are usually announced on the Town Hall’s website. The city also offers a short, 45-minute training session to learn how to use the bin.  

In other parts of France, like the Aix-Marseille-Provence metropolitan area, you can order a €10 wooden composter or an individual worm composter on the local authority’s website. In the Greater Lyon area, your town hall can send you composting materials for free if you register online.

READ MORE: Free worms: How to start composting in France

Composting is also set to become more standardised in France. Starting in January 2024, all local authorities across the country will need to give households a way to compost – whether that be via separate bins for collection, individual or collective composting.

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Vegetarian and organic school lunches

Since 2014, the city of Grenoble has been reducing the amount of meat offered on school lunch menus. At the start of the 2022-2023 school year, the city moved to a full vegetarian menu. Students can still choose to take a meal with meat or fish, but they are now given the option for a vegetarian alternative each day. 

The menu offered includes three choices: red (a meal with meat or fish), blue (a meal with fish), or green (a vegetarian meal). Parents have 72 hours to choose their child's meal ahead of time, but if they forget then the default will be vegetarian. 

"We want to reverse the logic. Before, the standard menu was with meat or fish, and people would need to request a meal without pork or without meat. Now, we are trying to flip that," Eric Piolle, the Green party mayor of Grenoble told Franceinfo in September.

Another French town, Langouët, located in Brittany, outside of Rennes, offers 100 percent organic meals in their school canteen.

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'Oases' for school courtyards

As heatwaves become more common in France, Paris often suffers from being a 'heat island'. In order to help keep the city cool, the town hall launched "Project Oasis". The plan is to remove asphalt from school yards and increase green space.

READ MORE: Trees to trams: How French cities are adapting to summer heatwaves

As schoolyards take up over half a million square metres in Paris, this offers a large amount of space that can be radically cooled down. In 2020, the city started with just three schools, and will continue expanding throughout the decade.

The plan goes beyond simply adding grass to courtyards - the holistic approach involves creative engineering intended to increase social cohesion and inclusion at French schools.

Sustainable Christmas

In 2020, the mayor of Bordeaux, Pierre Hurmic, made headlines when he announced that the city would no longer put "dead trees" on display in its squares during Christmastime. Instead, the city of Bordeaux unveiled an art installation by a local artist, which was made up of recycled glass in the shape of a tall Christmas tree, holding true to the seasonal colour of emerald green.

More recently, the town of Évian-les-Bains, located in the Alps in south-eastern France, continued their 16-year tradition of 'alternative' Christmas markets in 2022. The items offered in the market - most of which are sculptures and artistic objects - are all homemade and completely free with the primary goal of decreasing waste.

As a result, many people opt for driftwood to put together their Christmas-themed sculptures.

All food offered is local, offered on reusable cups and plates. In 2022, there was a lit-up Christmas tree, which was powered by the peddling feet of several members of the public who kept green energy flowing into the lights.

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