A conscious zero-waste policy can stop trash going to the landfill and reduce carbon emissions

By Lynne Nittler, cross-posted from Davis Enterprise

Our culture teaches us to value what we put on our bodies more than what we put in our bodies.

Folks who might gasp at the price of organic heirloom tomatoes will spend quite a lot on a pair of shoes, jeans, or a handbag, etc.,” says Rhonda Gruska of Monticello Seasonal Cuisine, one of the food providers at the “What’s On Your Plate?” event at Sunday’s Cool Davis Festival.
Every event needs good food, but the Cool Davis Festival asks for something more. Ever true to its principles, Cool Davis calls on food vendors who are role models. They embrace green practices in their restaurants, most have participated in the Commercial Food Scrap Collection Pilot Program, and all prepare healthy food from local farmers.

After all, we are what we eat, and a substantial part of our carbon foot print is our “food print.”

The Cool Davis Festival at the Veterans’ Memorial Center, 203 E. 14th St., is offering lunch for those who come to hear a panel of food experts address “What’s On Your Plate? Practical Ways to Eat Healthy, Spend Less and Reduce Your Food Print.”

We have a long way to go in thinking about how food choices impact the environment, health, the local economy and our sense of community

“We love the term ‘food print,’ ” Gruska says. “People have become much more aware of the term carbon footprint, and in this economy, people really see the benefits first-hand when they save money by reducing energy use, miles driven, etc.

“However, we have a long way to go in the area of thinking about how food choices impact the environment, health, the local economy and our sense of community.

“Hopefully, people will start thinking more about their food print and learn to place a greater value on good food and the local farmers who work so hard to produce it,” she continues.

There’s no contest when it comes to taste.

“Everything tastes best when it is ripe and very fresh,” Gruska says. “An in-season tomato from one of our farmers tastes so much better than a commercial tomato. Eating seasonally gives you something to look forward to.  You also appreciate fruit and vegetables more when you eat them at their peak of flavor.”

That’s why Kate Hutchinson of ciocolat shops at the Davis Farmers Market on Saturday mornings, and Bobby Coyote of Dos Coyotes uses local tomatoes for his salsa when they’re in season.

Adjusting recipes

Silvina Salcedo of Silvina’s Basket in Woodland admits that Mexican cooking favors meat, which has a big food print. But lately she’s been lowering her carbon footprint.

“People think we can’t be creative with Mexican food, but we can,” she says. “I don’t do as much with meat anymore. I’m trying to be very creative here in making dishes with lots of flavors on vegetables so people will enjoy them.

“A lot of vegetarian dishes are very tasty. In our culture we don’t use vegetables so much, but we can learn.”

Salcedo gets her fresh produce from the Woodland Farmers Market, which operates in the vacant lot adjacent to her restaurant.

“Everything tastes best when it is ripe and very fresh”

One way or another, all of the festival restaurants are into composting. Hutchinson, Coyote, the Davis Food Co-op and Shar Katz of Caffé Italia have all joined the DWR Commercial Food Scrap Compost Project and will receive awards at the festival.

Katz has found it saves her restaurant money each month because she’s able to reduce the size of Caffé Italia’s trash bin. Salcedo is working to set up composting at the Woodland Farmers Market.

Gruska sends some compost to Fiddlers Green Farm, while her vegetable scraps feed the chickens at Full Circle Farm, which in turn supplies the restaurant with pastured eggs.

“Everything comes full circle,” Gruska says.

Zero waste

The Cool Davis Festival is aiming for zero waste. Attendees are asked to bring their own bottle or cup.

Food will be served on dishes borrowed from the Whole Earth Reusable Cooperative. Visitors will pay a $1 refundable deposit to use the plates, cups and forks, which will be returned, washed and reused.

Visitors may refill their water bottles or Whole Earth cups with filtered Davis Food Co-op water. All food scraps and napkins will be composted.

Waste will be deposited into four bins for composting, paper recycling, bottle and can recycling and trash.

“We hope to have mostly empty bags at the end of the afternoon,” an organizer says.

Vendors in the outdoor food court will sell lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. They include Caffé Italia’s Pizzas with a Purpose, Monticello Seasonal Cuisine, Silvina’s Basket and Fat Face Popsicles (available all afternoon).

Free food tasting will be available at those vendors from 2 to 5 p.m., as well as the Davis Food Co-op, ciocolat and Dos Coyotes.