One of the events that our family will never miss is the MCC Festival for World Relief held each year in Abbotsford in September. This huge event has auctions, crafts booths, and garage sales. There’s a children’s area (and kids have their own auction with kid-friendly stuff to bid on) and displays describing the work of MCC.
And there’s food. FOOD, people. Oh my. Everything from BBQ Bison burgers to sausage on a bun, to borscht and Vereniki (the Low-German word for perogies, these made with cottage cheese filling and served with cream sauce: heart attack on a plate. So good.) There’s samosas, African snacks, sushi, pizza, pie and ice cream. There’s watermelon and rollkuchen (dough fritters) and Portzelky (pronounced Port- tsel-cheh) which are deep-fried raisin fritters (probably not wise to combine these with Vereniki.)
This festival is like so many others: a great event for a good cause. But when you consider each of these festivals, start imagining the waste. The MCC Festival runs a Friday evening and most of the day Saturday and they estimate that 20,000 people attend. Imagine something like the Mission or Vancouver Folks Festivals, the Jazz Festival, the Deer Lake Blues Festival, the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) – each one with its fantastic array of culinary delights that draws zillions of people and generate truckloads of garbage.
The organizers at the MCC Festival have begun to take baby steps in making the food court area greener by offering coffee in recyclable/compostable cups. But that doesn’t make a dent in the tons of Styrofoam plates and plastic cutlery that gets handed out. Now that Abbotsford is able to compost paper food containers, the easy thing to do would be to switch to paper plates and then force attendees to separate their garbage.
Friday’s Vancouver Sun had an article that offers yet another alternative that I think is brilliant. Greenmunch is a Calgary-based company that creates disposable wooden cutlery, compostable dinnerware and paper straws that are gaining popularity around the world.
They also sell products from other companies including glass straws made on Vancouver Island and spill-free lids that are designed to turn mason jars into drinking cups made by Cuppow (which is an awesome name.)
Especially for organizations like MCC who always have to balance the amount of money they spend to put on an event versus the amount they bring in which will support their relief, development and peace work around the world, it’s important that these products are affordable. But at the end of the day, one has to take the long view: we must start making hard choices to use sustainable products wherever we can.
As consumers, we have the power to affect change by demanding products that make a difference. I have a friend who brings her own cutlery to our weekly Sunday lunch at the local Wendy’s. By doing this, she doesn’t have to use the plastic cutlery that they offer. She is also faithful in taking home the recyclable and compostable garbage because Wendy’s doesn’t have a system for separating this garbage – all they recycle is bottles. I’ve started to do the same. And I’m wondering if I shouldn’t just bring my own plate and spork to the MCC Festival – it might be worth it just to see the look on the faces of the people serving the food!
How do you work at being green outside your home?