Chefs could be the missing ingredient to circular food systems

June 22, 2020 by  
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Chefs could be the missing ingredient to circular food systems Lauren Phipps Mon, 06/22/2020 – 01:00 It’s often said that the way to a person’s heart is through the stomach. The same principle could apply to fixing the broken food system.  Food loss and waste, the carbon-intensive production and distribution of food, hunger and food deserts: These are just a few inefficient and unequal outcomes of today’s global food system. The principles of a circular economy offer a helpful framework to envision a more resilient and regenerative alternative — and chefs might be the missing ingredient to successfully realizing a new model.  “When you talk about biodiversity and conservation, there is no value,” said prominent Brazilian chef Alex Atala, who runs the world-renowned restaurant D.O.M. in São Paulo. “When you taste biodiversity, there’s a new meaning and new value.”  Atala was one of four chefs tuning in from around the world who spoke about cultivating a circular economy for food during the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Big Food Workshop last week. According to these culinary leaders, we have to start with the food itself: the ingredients; the preparation; and the flavor.  Biodiversity, conservation and a shift towards regenerative agriculture is just one piece of a holistic vision for a better food system. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation breaks down circular food systems into three, bite-sized pieces in the report ” Cities and Circular Economy for Food “: Food production that improves rather than degrades the environment; ingredients kept at their highest value and cycled through the biological system; and people that have access to healthy and nutritious food.  It’s not enough to ask people to put something on the plate because it’s the right thing to do. We want people to enjoy it. The report’s analysis suggests that a successful shift not only would benefit the climate and communities, it also would generate $2.7 trillion in annual benefits by 2050. And chefs will play a vital role in driving this transformation.  Chef Kim Wejendorp knows a thing or two about food waste — or in his case, the inventive use of every ounce of an ingredient. Head of R&D at Amass Restaurant in Copenhagen, known for its fine dining and zero-waste kitchen, Wejendorp believes “it’s a matter of deriving flavor from otherwise byproducts or what would be considered waste in commercial kitchens. It’s not enough to ask people to put something on the plate because it’s the right thing to do. We want people to enjoy it. We want people to come back to these ingredients as things with their own intrinsic value.”  Wejendorp recognizes the impact of each ingredient, and the responsibility of the chef — in commercial and home kitchens — to actively avoid waste where possible. “Anybody looking down at a cutting board that’s about to sweep whatever they’ve got leftover in the bin, stop and ask yourself, ‘Have you done enough with what you have there to pay respect to the amount of work and effort and resources it took to get those ingredients in front of you in the first place?’” South African chef and writer Mokgadi Itsweng champions indigenous foods in future food systems. “We’re suffering from malnutrition … social diseases like diabetes, all these things that our great-grandparents never suffered from. The reason being, they ate a lot of the indigenous ingredients.” An unintended impact of urbanization in South Africa is shifting relationships with food. “When people move to cities, indigenous food knowledge is destroyed,” Itsweng said. Itsweng described the indigenous foods that she grew up eating such as sorghum, millet and amaranth. “I’m bringing them back into people’s kitchens. … With climate change, COVID and food insecurity, we need those nutrient-dense foods back on our plates.”  To revive indigenous food systems and cultures, Itsweng has one simple piece of advice: “Speak to your grandmother.” The foods and cooking methods used for generations can inform today’s efforts to improve the food system, and elders are an unparalleled resource to help communities relearn how to eat sustainably.  A well-known figure in the U.S. farm-to-table movement, Dan Barber has long advocated to support local farms and farmers. Author of “The Third Plate” and chef and co-owner of restaurants Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Barber reflected on the shifting trajectory of food culture in the United States. “When I opened Blue Hill in very progressive New York City, I had to have foie gras, caviar, lobster — I had to have those ingredients on my menu. Fast-forward 20 years, those ingredients on my menu make me look old and outdated and anachronistic.” The plates have shifted. I love the Toni Cade Bambara quote, “The role of the artist is to make the revolution irresistible.” When it comes to the art of flavor and sustenance, this responsibility is no different. The role of the chef is to make a regenerative, circular food system tempting and delicious. To drive systems change through the allure of a perfectly prepared carrot rather than the threat of a stick.  “We as chefs are the strongest voice in the food chain in this moment,” Atala concluded. “We have a power, a power to transform a forgotten, an unknown, an undervalued ingredient into a sexy ingredient. Let’s use this power. Let’s feed people with love and maybe food can be a way to express it.” Pull Quote It’s not enough to ask people to put something on the plate because it’s the right thing to do. We want people to enjoy it. Topics Circular Economy Food Systems Food Waste Featured Column In the Loop Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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How to make vegetable broth with scraps to reduce food waste

May 22, 2020 by  
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Food waste is a major dilemma in today’s world, and throwing out even vegetable scraps contributes to the problem. Not to mention that throwing out unwanted food is also a huge waste of money. Here’s one small way to do your part —  make your own  vegetable (or meat) broths and stocks from scratch. It’s surprisingly easy to make broth and relies on bits and pieces of  veggies , meats and even odds and ends like cheese rinds, all of which would otherwise be thrown in the landfill. Plus, you’ll save money and create a much more flavorful broth than you can find at the store. Each time, the broth will taste slightly different, too, depending on the combination of scraps you have on hand. Get ready to make flavorful, comforting recipes with this tutorial on how to make your own broth to reduce  food waste . Related: Your guide to preserving, storing and canning food The first step is to find a large, freezer-safe container to store your scraps until you build up enough to produce a rich broth. Of course, much of the internet will say to throw it in a  plastic  resealable bag, but here at Inhabitat, we strongly encourage finding a glass jar or silicone resealable bag instead. The hardest part of the process is remembering to save those stems and peelings for the broth. If you are accustomed to tossing unwanted bits, like pepper stems or onion skins, straight into the garbage can or  compost bin , it will take a conscious effort to train your brain and hands to grab up those scraps and throw them into the freezer container. The freezer will preserve the scraps until you are ready to make a broth. Another good candidate for your scrap container? Veggies that are on their last leg at the end of the week. If you didn’t finish those carrots and celery, chop them into smaller pieces, and toss them in the freezer.  Wilting herbs , cheese rinds and meat bones are also fair game, depending on your dietary needs and what you have available. After a few weeks (or less depending on how many people are in your home!), you will be left with a full container packed with flavorful bits and pieces. It’s time to get cooking! Break out a stockpot and  start sauteing  those frozen vegetable scraps with oil and salt. Cook for just a few minutes before adding several cups of water (about 10 cups should do, but add more if you have more scraps and a larger stockpot). Then, simmer away! Simmer those scraps in water for 30 minutes to an hour; then be sure to let it cool slightly. Don’t forget to taste the broth — add more herbs, salt or even nutritional yeast if it needs a flavor boost. Next, remove the vegetable bits for composting. Strain the broth into another pot to make sure all of the scraps have been removed. Once the broth has completely cooled, pour it into airtight containers — glass jars work well — and store in the freezer for up to a month. Then, anytime you want to make an easy soup for dinner (we recommend these  vegan slow cooker soup  recipes) or even more complex, brothy meals, you can grab your own flavorful, zero-waste broth as the base. Images via Monika Schröder , Hebi. B , Rita E. and Snow Pea & Bok Choi

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LEED-seeking apartments house formerly homeless families in San Francisco

May 22, 2020 by  
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David Baker Architects has completed 222 Taylor, an affordable housing complex in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. Designed with more than 100 affordable housing units for low-income households and families and individuals who formerly experienced homelessness, the development is a champion of humanitarian architecture. The project also embodies sustainable principles, including high-density living and energy-efficient design. The nine-story mid-rise building is on track to achieve LEED for Homes Mid-Rise and EnergyStar Multifamily High-Rise certifications.  Located in the heart of San Francisco, 222 Taylor replaces a surface parking lot with a mixed-use building comprising ground-level retail as well as studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom units on the upper floors. Of the building’s 113 affordable homes , approximately one-fourth of them are permanently reserved for families who previously experienced homelessness. Because the building sits just two blocks from the BART & Muni Station and the Market Street corridor, no parking is provided; instead, the development offers 114 secure bicycle parking spaces. Related: The Union Flats is a LEED Platinum-certified housing community David Baker Architects designed 222 Taylor to respond to its site context in both appearance — the variegated brick facade references the local masonry — and orientation, which is informed by solar studies to maximize access to natural light. Ample glazing along the ground level also activates the street edge to build a connection with the neighborhood. The project cultivates a sense of community with the design of a flexible central courtyard , complete with ample seating and play zones. The courtyard serves as a hub to the bike parking room, laundry, community room and shared kitchen. Walls in the airy entry lobby are decorated with super-graphics made from enlarged watercolors by a local artist. The building will eventually be topped with a roof farm for additional outdoor community space. + David Baker Architects Photography by Bruce Damonte via David Baker Architects

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ChopValue recycles 25 million chopsticks into furniture and decor

March 19, 2020 by  
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A Canadian-based company called ChopValue has found some unique ways to reuse single-use chopsticks — think of it as upcycling food utensils into chic, sustainable decor and housewares. The process starts in coordination with restaurants by collecting used chopsticks. The wood then goes through a micro-manufacturing process, which turns it into usable material for other products. ChopValue keeps the production carbon-neutral while maintaining an overall carbon-negative status for the company. Consumers can select products with complete transparency regarding the overall carbon footprint and number of recycled chopsticks that were used to make a specific item. Related: Kwytza chopstick art transforms single-use chopsticks into stylish home decor The founder of ChopValue, Felix Böck, developed and engineered the innovative material while earning his PhD. The idea came one night while having sushi, when Böck and his partner were discussing their frustrations over construction waste in the city. They looked down at their chopsticks and were instantly inspired; the rest is history. Taking an interest in the environment and corporate responsibility, Böck hopes to lead by example and inspire others to rethink resource efficiency. The company offers a variety of decor items, including a hexagonal display shelf and honeycomb-shaped pieces that can be used as a single unit or in conjunction with other tiles for a geometric look. There is also a selection of cutting board options with designs specialized for charcuterie boards, cheese and cracker displays or butcher blocks. There’s even a zero-waste kit that comes with a cheeseboard, coasters, key chains, toothbrushes, chopsticks, stainless steel straws and straw cleaners; the kit comes in a box that can be used to donate used chopsticks back to the company. As an incentive, the company will get you a product equal to the amount of chopsticks you donate. For example, 75 chopsticks will net you a 75-chopstick coaster. In addition to the standard selections available on the website, ChopValue can produce custom wood furniture and other items. For example, a community table created for Little Kitchen Academy diverted 33,436 disposable chopsticks from the landfill. Another big project saw the creation of wall paneling, restaurant tables and entrance flooring for Little Bird Dim Sum that utilized more than 330,000 disposable chopsticks. According to the company, its efforts have recycled more than 25 million chopsticks to date. ChopValue has created a virtual interactive trade show booth in partnership with WireWax as a result of the many canceled trade shows stemming from the COVID-19 outbreak. Check it out while scrolling through the website, and it might just inspire the designer in you. + ChopValue Images via ChopValue

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Earth Day 2020 goes digital

March 19, 2020 by  
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Earth Day will take a surprising turn this year by relocating to the internet. Due to the global coronavirus pandemic, events for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22 will be digital. “At Earth Day Network, the health and safety of volunteers and participants in Earth Day events is our top concern,” said Kathleen Rogers, president of Earth Day Network. “Amid the recent outbreak, we encourage people to rise up but to do so safely and responsibly — in many cases, that means using our voices to drive action online rather than in person.” Related: How Earth Day began and how it helps the planet To keep track of the global Earth Day conversation across several digital platforms, participants will use the hashtags #EarthDay2020 and #EarthRise. Interested people can follow Earth Day Network’s social media accounts (@earthdaynetwork) for live coverage. Individuals and groups may also participate in environment-related online teach-ins, virtual protests and social media campaigns. Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson founded Earth Day in 1970 after a devastating oil spill off the Santa Barbara coast. He wanted to capture the energy of the student antiwar movement to shift public awareness and policy around the environment . His coalition originally chose April 22 because it fell between spring break and final exams. At the first Earth Day, 20 million Americans, or 10% of the country’s population at that time, participated in events related to environmental science. “Our current pandemic demonstrates that governments must embrace science early,” Rogers said. “As we see now, many governments were slow to respond or even indifferent about the science of the coronavirus pandemic. But the last few weeks have also demonstrated that our society, even at the international level, is capable of mass shifts across all sectors to meet a crisis head-on. We must apply the same scale and urgency of our response to climate change .” Because the pandemic is affecting regions in different ways, some people might choose in-person gatherings to celebrate Earth Day. People should take precautions and check current guidelines from the World Health Organization before planning or attending gatherings. + Earth Day Image via NASA

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Vegetarian diets could help avert one-third of early deaths, new research finds

April 26, 2018 by  
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Vegetarians, rejoice! While scientists have long touted the health benefits of  plant-based diets , they may be even more effective than we thought. According to new calculations from Harvard University scientists, one-third of early deaths might be avoided if people switched to a  vegetarian diet. The scientists’ research suggests that we have underestimated the positive effects of a vegetarian diet. For example, while figures from the United Kingdom’s Office for National Statistics  suggested that 141,000 deaths a year in Britain were preventable, the new research from Harvard has produced a much higher figure: about 200,000 lives could potentially be saved each year if people removed meat  from their diets . Related: Here’s what could happen if America went 100% vegan Harvard Medical School epidemiology and nutrition professor Walter Willett, a speaker at the Unite to Cure Fourth International Vatican Conference , said, “We have just been doing some calculations looking at the question of how much could we reduce mortality shifting towards a healthy, more plant based diet, not necessarily totally vegan , and our estimates are about one third of early deaths could be prevented. That’s not even talking about physical activity or not smoking, and that’s all deaths, not just cancer deaths. That’s probably an underestimate as well as that doesn’t take into account the fact that obesity is important and we control for obesity.” Committee for Responsible Medicine president Neal Barnard, another speaker at the conference, agreed that people should be more aware of the health benefits of vegetarian and vegan diets. He said, “I think we’re underestimating the effect. I think people imagine that a healthy diet has only a modest effect and a vegetarian diet might help you lose a little bit of weight. But when these diets are properly constructed I think they are enormously powerful.” Via The Telegraph Images via Lefteris kallergis on Unsplash and James Sutton on Unsplash

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