TRASH TALK AT FES­TI­VAL

Pro­mot­ers aim to re­duce our waste

Montreal Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - SU­SAN SCHWARTZ ss­chwartz@post­media.com Twit­ter.com/su­san­schwartz

Not so many years ago, gro­cery­s­tore shop­pers with their own re­us­able bags were a rare sight; nearly ev­ery­one used bags pro­vided by the stores.

No longer.

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.

ALLEN MCIN­NIS

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.

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