You might picture environmentalists as denim-and-fleece-clad types milling about the woods foraging for grubs and gnawing grimly on the edible parts of pine trees. But in fact, for part 2 of their eco-series Thursday night, the Dade County Public Library and "Dade Tree Hugger" Jennifer Blair went for glamour.
Hors d'oeuvres were served to the 50-odd guests by white-coated waiters--unlike the library's first eco program, the Aug. 22 gala was a cocktail hour rather than a full dinner--and bevvies for the do were mixed with some panache by The Bitter Bottle's Kaleena
Goldsworthy. Manager Marshana Sharp struggles to keep even grownup programs at the library family friendly--you should have seen her cringe every time the censors failed to bleep out a damn in the feature film--so the cocktails were nonalcoholic, but they were multicolored herbal concoctions it's a safe bet you don't see that often in this sweet-tea part of the world.
Besides the drinks and upscale eats, plus some nifty door prizes, all provided by generous local sponsors, the main attraction was a documentary, Wasted! The Story of Food Waste. The film, mostly interviews with chefs, shows the magnitude and seriousness of the food waste problem (mostly in America) and also presents solutions to it (mostly from other countries). In many countries, laws have actually been enacted to stop food wastage.
Why's that? It's not just the pure Mama-done-tole-ya shame of wasting food when children are starving in Africa (or wherever your mama told you they were starving). Before we move on, though, the film pointed out that that shame is more or less universal. All the chefs expressed hatred of food waste, and a Korean one speaking through a translator reported he'd been told as a child: "If you don't eat all your food, you'll go to hell and eat it there."
The more serious problem is that 90
percent of the wasted food in our country--and according to the movie, that's a third to 40 percent of all food--goes into landfills, causing vast environmental damage. Not only does organic matter take longer to decompose in landfills--25 years for a head of lettuce, the film said--as the masses of food rot, they release methane, which is an exponentially worse greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
Dade Commissioners Allan Bradford (left) and Lamar Lamar Lowery attended the fete with their wives, both called Kathy. Commissioner Bradford has been coordinating the eco series with Tree Hugger Blair.
Solutions abroad included some interesting ones: An English company turns wasted bread into a designer beer punnily called Toast. The Japanese have developed designer pork brands by feeding pigs different kinds of food waste--pigs fed on pineapple scraps apparently make a different flavor pork than ones fed on tuna trimmings. One entrepreneur in Japan collects food scraps on a huge scale and turns them into a commercial animal feed.
South Korea has banished virtually all food waste from landfills by making special collection boxes for it in residential areas, after which it is processed into compost, fertilizer and bio-gases. Residents are discouraged from wasting food by being charged for how much they put in the boxes.
(Photo: Library employee Faith McBrayer, Tree Hugger Jennifer Blair and library manager Marshana Sharp glammed up a bit for the gala.)
It sounds a little too authoritarian to go over in America but you gotta figure the Koreans take it more seriously, lying awake at night thinking about all that kim-chee they wouldn't eat at 7 waiting for them in hell.
Another interesting waste solution was not just in America but right next door to us in Tennessee: A yogurt plant in Murfreesboro has figured out how to turn the whey from its Greek yogurt production into methane, then use the methane to generate electricity that helps power its operation.
As for what people can do at home, the film offered some practical hints there, too: First of all, don't buy more food than you can eat! But if you must waste it, and you have chickens or pigs, you know what to do. If not, you can--as was discussed more thoroughly in part 1 of the series--compost food scraps easily and naturally, getting rid of it and improving your garden soil in one fell swoop.
The library and Tree Hugger Blair will have a part 3 in their environmental series in the fullness of time, though they did not yet announce either a date or a subject.
Ms. Sharp and Ms. Blair thanked not just the listed sponsors (right) but an unnamed benefactor whose large and anonymous checks are funding the lion's share of these environmental programs.
The Planet will faithfully pass announce the next installment in this series as soon as a date is announced. Until then, The Planet thanks Ms. Sharp, Tree Hugger Blair, the
sponsors and the always-gracious library staff for a lovely evening.
"Footnote": Yes, that was a pun. But did you really think The Planet could end a library article without the time-honored shot of Ms. Sharp's extremities? For this occasion, Dade's favorite shoe fetishist stuck to the classics: A restrained medium-heeled pair of black pumps.