TRASH TALK AT FESTIVAL
Promoters aim to reduce our waste
Not so many years ago, grocerystore shoppers with their own reusable bags were a rare sight; nearly everyone used bags provided by the stores.
These days many, if not most, shoppers have their own bags; some also carry other reusable containers now that zero-waste grocery stores are springing up: their own jars, tubs, bottles. (Google “Montreal zero-waste grocery stores” for locations.) So attitudes change.
They don’t change all at once, mind you. Thinking about how much waste we produce is the first step toward reducing it — and it’s to explore the subject that the Zero Waste Festival of Montreal was conceived.
The event, taking place Saturday and Sunday at Marché Bonsecours, includes nearly two dozen presentations and panel discussions on topics ranging from learning to adapt to zero-waste cooking and reducing what goes in our trash to the challenges of living as a zerowaste family. It also features more than 20 workshops and demonstrations on specific waste-reducing actions and about 50 exhibitors on hand.
Organizers say they expect at least 2,500 visitors. “For a movement that is not all that well known, that’s something,” said co-organizer Florence-Léa Siry, one of 11 volunteers with the Association québécoise Zéro Déchet. It is their hope that the event will draw not only those who have already incorporated the practice of reducing waste into their lifestyles but also those considering it.
Daniel Vézina, a charismatic Quebec chef and standard bearer for the zero food waste movement, is the festival spokesperson. He and his wife, Suzanne Gagnon, own the restaurant Laurie Raphaël, with tables in Quebec City and at the Hôtel Le Germain in downtown Montreal.
In their bouillons, sauces and elsewhere, restaurant chefs use what others toss, he told the Montreal Gazette in a 2016 interview on the publication of his third cookbook, La cuisine réfléchie: bien manger sans gaspiller (Les Éditions La Presse, 2015).
“We try to throw out nothing,” he said. He asked readers to do the same.
“We are near a showdown,” he said. “By 2050 there will be nine billion people on the planet — and there will not be enough food. We throw out 30 to 40 per cent of what we produce. We have to find a solution.”
To him, wasting less means, among other things, thinking before buying, as we draw up menus and before discarding food; it means buying less, buying better, cooking more and learning to create dishes and meals from ingredients we already have. The peelings of vegetable such as potatoes, celery and carrots contribute to a flavourful broth, he observed; the greens of beets, turnips, radishes and Swiss chard make a fine filling for samosas, and limp lettuce can be the base for an excellent lettuce soup. Vézina will give a demonstration and tasting workshop Sunday on making the most of celeriac — while using the entire root vegetable, of course.
Disturbed by the extent of the waste she encountered when she began to cook for a film production company, festival co-organizer Siry worked hard to create menus that minimized the waste and also to raise awareness generally of the importance of reducing waste.
“A human being has great power as a citizen to change things,” she said in a 2016 interview with the Montreal Gazette following the publication of her cookbook/ manifesto L’art de cuisiner sans gaspiller ni se ruiner (Les Éditions Caractère, 2015).
Siry, 32, has since given up her cooking gig and responded to a growing demand to give workshops and conferences on reducing food waste. These days she gives two to three such presentations a week to audiences from high school students to conference delegates.
She acknowledges that, for some, the notion of zero waste is an extreme one. So start by simply aiming to reduce waste, she suggests. “It is in small daily actions that we are able to make a difference.”
Citing five popular greening principles — refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle — Siry provides this advice:
Refuse all bags at the grocery store, including those small ones in the produce section. Use your own bags. Save those you already have and reuse them. Or reuse those net bags that hold lemons and onions.
Don’t limit reusing to bags: Siry gives a second life to plastic egg cartons, for instance, as containers for balls of dough she freezes.
Say no to the packaging in takeout places. Consider retractable plates and cups available in camping-supply stores.
Give up plastic wrap; substitute waxed-cotton wraps, such as those by the Quebec company Api-flex.
Choose products with as little packaging as possible.
Zero Waste Festival co-organizer Florence-Léa Siry lives, cooks and shops — as here at zero-waste store Vrac & Bocaux — using five popular greening principles: refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle. “It is in small daily actions that we are able to make a difference,” she says.