3rd Annual Sustainability Talk

On October 3rd, UGSRP held it’s 3rd annual Sustainability Talk with guest speakers Robin Poirier with Ocean Wise, Wasted Food’s Jonathan Bloom and Professor Bruce McAdams. They sparked an engaging, thoughtful talk for over 100 students, faculty, industry and community members that truly made you think the next time you opened your fridge or shopped for your seafood dinner.

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Canadian food activist, creator of Food Day Canada, and our MC, Anita Stewart, started the night off with thanks for our major sponsor, Earls Restaurants, for making this night happen. Anita continued to describe her passion for research and sustainability of our diverse food nation shortly before introducing the first speaker of the night, Bruce McAdams.

Bruce began the topics of food packaging and our progress in the food service industry sustainability game. While we are well on our way, we are reactive to major setbacks in restaurants and hotels, proving that innovation in the workplace is not our main strength. We need to look past the cost thought process and adapt a larger, more educated outlook on our environment.

Robin Poirier of Ocean Wise kept the momentum going by introducing us to the Ocean Wise eco-logo and some staggering statistics. “There is a global loss of seafood. And if we don’t change our methods by 2048, we’ll be out fish.” This fact, along with Robin’s research with the Vancouver Aquarium has shown that certain types of fishing are the main culprits to overfishing. Some examples of irresponsible fishing techniques include bottom trawling, illegal farming, and pelagic long-line fishing. These high impact methods promote mass overfishing, bycatches (unintended catches) and contamination of agriculture. “91% of the population in Canada wants to do the right [sustainable] thing, but don’t know how,” she mentioned.  With this Ocean Wise program, restaurants and buyers are provided with the education they need to do the right thing. The eco-logo highlights the sustainable seafood that comes from low impact fishing methods that are abundant, well managed, and minimal by catch.

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Lastly, Jonathan Bloom, internationally known author of American Wasteland, tied both topics together by taking us through the steps we take purchasing, storing and discarding of our food both at home and in the service industry. Before getting into that, Jonathan noted that while 870 million people go hungry, we are wasting a $750 billion worth of the food produced globally. “If we redistributed this food by 2% – we could end hunger,” he said. Despite the fact that we have this food wastage issue, there are still plenty of ways that we can help, and most of it starts in the home. Conscious purchasing can relieve the ¼ of food that is not consumed in our homes. Stop judging the food by its looks or best-before date and trust your senses. “The expiry date on your foods speak to quality, not safety,” Bloom states. The notion that our food has to look flawless is what is contributing to our wastage. Once in the home or restaurant, careful control of portion sizes, your order, and correct storage can dramatically reduce our wastage. From a restaurant owner standpoint, skip the breadbaskets or make a side dish an a la carte option. As Bruce had mentioned earlier in the talk, “Does portion size equal value? No, quality is equal to value.” The quantification of your habits can lead to change; therefore, measuring what you don’t use can help shift your purchasing behaviour. While some wastage can still occur, Jonathan mentioned the fact that 97% of our food scraps end up in a landfill or an incinerator. Composting and recycling plays a major role in reducing this number, for that reason, there has to be a bigger push by the government and society for this to happen. Overall, we have the prime task of reducing our wastage, and awareness is one of the first steps.

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A special thank you goes to Earls Restaurants for your team’s presence and a wonderful reception following the talk. Some feature menu items included the Bronx Smashed Burger Sliders, Dominical Fish Tacos, and Crab Cakes served on fresh sourdough.

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For more details on this topics, our speakers, and the reception, please check the following resources:

Ocean Wise: http://www.oceanwise.ca/

Wasted Food: http://www.wastedfood.com/

Earls Restaurants: http://www.earls.ca/

Guelph Mercury: http://www.guelphmercury.com/news-story/4142048-it-s-time-to-watch-our-food-waste-lines-experts-say/

Photos by: Matthew Webb & Nicolette Cheng

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