Tag Archives: providence

Orange, Yellow, Red

Fall is here! And with it here in Providence, RI comes the Farm Fresh Fall Veggie Box. It’s a bi-weekly food delivery of a big box of fresh veggies from farmers around southern New England. $25 for each box, and it’s enough to feed you for two weeks, if you throw in some of your own grains and things. I enjoy the challenge of creating dishes with everything in the box.

This last box contained Butternut squash, 6 ears of corn, an array of small spicy peppers, radishes, apples, potatoes, tomatoes, and some other greens (if my memory serves me correctly). The first dish I made was a hearty stew that will serve as this weeks’ lunch. It has a base of lentils, corn, carrots, potatoes, and tomatoes. For the spices, I put in garam masala, salt, black pepper, chopped spicy peppers, olive oil, cinnamon, apple and a few raisons. I forgot to measure things, but it came out delicious!

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The Veggie Box isn’t completely plastic free – they wrap some small things like peppers in plastic wrap or plastic bags. I could write them and request that my box just not have any of the plastic wrapped goods in it ( or just put them in a paper bag ).

I tried talking with farmer’s at our weekend market at Lippitt Park here in Providence about using plastic to wrap some of their greens, and their answer was, “how else do we package things like arugula?” I didn’t have an answer ready, but now I know that you could have a big bin of arugula, and just dish out paper bags full of it, or fill a customer’s container with it after you weigh it. If there’s a will, there’s a way. And if more consumers ask for plastic free veggies, then I’m sure it’ll reach the vendors’ ears.

Farm shares and markets have a big chance to influence thinking and behavior about how we eat, re-use and recycle our food and food waste. Those organizations are reaching those of us who are closest to the earth, and thus have the most to gain or lose from it’s health. What ideas could we start promoting at farmer’s markets and through food shares related to environmentalism? Any small gains we could do this Fall? What about bigger plans that may take a year to implement?

I’m curious to hear how your market / CSA has taken steps to reduce, reuse and recycle, and what you have in store for the future. Remember the power of one, and try asking a vendor for a plastic-free package the next time you’re out shopping. I bet your request sticks with them, and they’ll mull it over for a few days. Who knows, next time you see them, they might have some fancy new non-plastic packaging!

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Innovation in a Plastic World: How Government, Companies and Individuals are Driving Change

Let’s be honest – plastic bags are not easy to recycle. Many programs specifically say to NOT recycle the plastic bags.

Recycling Made Easy!
Recycling Made Easy!

That’s likely the biggest reason why 90 percent of plastic bags in the U.S. are not recycled. Yet an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide every year, with 380 billion of those in the U.S.

So how are government, businesses and individuals moving to reduce their waste and plastic consumption?

Governments have been slow-moving at best to do anything about all the waste we produce. However, the city of San Francisco is on track to be the first zero waste city by 2020. I’m eager to watch how a top-down approach works. Watch and learn about what San Francisco is doing to become a zero waste city here: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/climate-change/jan-june13/recycling_01-25.html

If you do use a plastic bag, you have to pay an additional charge. If you fail to properly dispose of other types of garbage and compost, you could be fined.

According to this article, http://www.no-burn.org/san-francisco-zero-waste-by-2020-on-the-road-to-zero-waste-blog, there’s a few drivers for moving towards a zero waste city.
“One reason for these laws is a citizen base that demands commitment to environmental sustainability. San Francisco has activated and empowered civic leaders, including advocates from the environmental field.

Another driver for passing these waste reduction laws is the cost associated with dumping garbage into a landfill in Livermore, 82 km away, where San Francisco hauls its waste daily.

Increased diversion and hitting zero waste goals will create real savings in landfill costs.

The city government, which produces 15 percent of the city’s waste stream, is committed to lead by example.

Part of the city’s success can be credited to consistent funding – not from the city, but directly from the rates paid for garbage collection. The overall budget for the Zero Waste Program is approximately US$7 million annually, which funds come from the collection revenues of the city’s private waste-management partner.”


The East Coast has some interesting innovations happening in the private sector. In Cambridge, Metabolix is creating growable bioplastics: http://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2013/08/12/cambridge-company-developing-biodegradable-plastic-that-grows-from-ground/zHwQ9OmW3PEpfDq9HpFGbI/story.html

http://www.metabolix.com/

It’s easy to spot the noticeable campaigns that many companies have included in their marketing. Companies make a point to mention how they are going green. Individuals are paying attention and are spending on products that they agree with. (whole foods has new ‘responsible’ plastic packaging. Hey, it’s a start)

According to this industry report, The global biodegradable plastics market in terms of volume is expected to grow from 664,000 metric tons in 2010 to 2330,000 metric tons by 2016, at an estimated CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 20.24% from 2011 to 2016.

Oh and there’s a bioplastics magazine, if that’s your thing: http://www.bioplasticsmagazine.com/en/index.php


How about for individuals and waste reduction?

This morning I talked with Rui who helps run the Hope Street Farmer’s Market here in Providence, and he’s seen a big increase in the amount of reusable bags that buyers are bringing compared to a few years ago.

A bottom-up approach will work just fine when government is slow moving in the direction of zero waste. The vendors at the farmer’s market, and businesses in general, will start paying attention when customers are voicing their concerns, or simply choosing not to buy something that is wasteful.

We are waking up to the destruction that oil based plastics are causing. With changes coming from the government, our citizens, and from companies with a mission to innovate and profit from sustainability, the [insert your own awesome motivational closing line here]