Clean catering: How to minimize waste when feeding a crowd

Clean catering: How to minimize waste when feeding a crowd

Teri Kent runs Charlottesville’s Better World Betty, a non-profit organization and online resource for locals looking to shrink their impact on the environment. Every month, Betty—Kent’s ’50s-housewife-meets-earth-goddess alter ego—answers the most burning eco-questions from our readers about energy use, water, waste and recycling, transportation and green buying.

Has Betty got any advice about takeout meals for public meetings?

What should I buy that is nourishing and helps a committee maintain energy for work, is not extravagantly priced, but is sustainably packaged? It’s two events: one needs dinner, the other needs lunch. Both need snacks and drinks. Also plates, cups and napkins. I was thinking Whole Foods prepared foods would have it all in one place, convenient to the venue. Do you have a better tip on sourcing?

We have struggled with this both at Better World Betty and when I was at LEAP. The Better Business Challenge website is a handy local resource, and includes an example of a catering policy from VMDO Architects, one of our Challenge winners. In addition to placing emphasis on recycling and local sourcing, VMDO lists several Charlottesville food businesses known for their eco-friendly practices, including Revolutionary Soup and Mona Lisa Pasta ( loads/2012/03/Policy-for-Ordering-Food.pdf).

This is what we learned first-hand from the Business Challenge:

Dinner: Harvest Moon Catering is the best, but it might not be in your price point. Whole Foods is a great idea. I think we used them once and kept the platter for future events.

Lunch: Baggby’s. Sandwiches come in a brown paper bag, and pretty much everything is recyclable except for the chips bag.

What are some options for creating a green driveway with permeable pavement?

Permeable driveways are wonderful because they allow the water cycle to enact itself naturally by providing a means for precipitation to seep back into the groundwater table. Additionally, in accomplishing this, they decrease flash floods and runoff traffic through storm drains. To upgrade your driveway to a permeable driveway, you have a couple options:

Get it done by the professionals. There are many reliable local contractors who can do a great job and complete the work quickly with the proper tools and equipment. This will be a more expensive option, but also a more secure option. According to the folks at Allied Concrete, a 15′ x 6′ foot driveway would cost about $1,100.

Do it yourself. First, you’ll need to pull up the old driveway. Once you’ve done that, you’ll have to install a 6-8″ bed of sand or gravel where the permeable driveway once stood and level it (or a layer of gravel under a layer of sand). Finally, select your permeable surface: permeable pavers, open-concrete blocks or porous pavement.

For a project of the dimensions listed above, materials would cost around $500, plus your time and the special tools required to successfully install them. And remember that whichever method you choose, you will need to do some annual upkeep by sweeping or vacuuming your driveway to prevent debris accumulation that prevents seepage.

What should I do with my old jeans —they’re too destroyed for Goodwill, so is there a way to recycle them?

With old denim, there are some neat recycling programs that allow worn-out jeans to be upcycled into insulation, much of which is donated to initiatives like Habitat for Humanity. Blue Jeans Go Green is a great and easy-to-use program, and you can mail your jeans to:   

Blue Jeans Go Green

Denim Recycling Program

431 North 47th Avenue

Phoenix, Arizona 85043

You can also make your own denim drive with friends—instructions and support for starting it can be found at the Blue Jeans Go Green website: www.bluejeans

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