18 February 2011

Eco-Reps RecycleMania Party

Guess what February and March are! Why, yes, they are the two months in which 600+ colleges across the US and Canada participate in a competition called RecycleMania! The winner is the school that recycles the most/wastes the least. According to the people who I've talked with in the Penn Environment/Facilities department, Penn came 5th out of 8th in a competition with the Ivies. However, does that mean that
1. We don't recycle that much
2. We don't use that much recycleable stuff/plastic bottles in the first place?

I've become skeptical of pretty much every statistic now... even RCTs! I don't NOT believe, but I'm starting to have qualms about any statistic presented to me, because in some way another, it can be interpreted differently. Confounding factors will never cease to exist.

Anyway, my college house had an Eco Reps party and I don't think any of the stuff we bought was environmentally friendly. They included Frito-Lay brand foods, sodas, Papa John's pizzas, Jimmy John's sandwiches and Insomnia cookies. Oh, and a fruit platter.

Within 30 minutes, perhaps 30 or 50[?] people devoured all 15 large pizzas, all 30 cookies, a whole party tray of [50?] sandwiches, and most of the fruit.

[Image: Insomnia Cookies puts its cookies in pizza boxes. Funny how they don't advertise themselves.]
As a member of the bureaucratic Eco Reps group, I think that this was quite a liberal party we threw. Actually, who am I kidding? This was the cliche party that every club can produce, and it's exactly what they expected from us. They/Penn didn't expect a party with sustainable food. They didn't expect local/slow food. Nuh uh.

One triumph was that Papa John's gave us a zillion red plastic plates and a huge stack of napkins and I hid them. People in my dorm house are conditioned to bring their own plates/utensils, so generally people DO follow that rule. I may be over-reacting, but I saved two plates.

I'm sure you think that I was really mean for hiding the plates, but the whole point of this party was to educate people about not being wasteful. One person asked me where the plates were and I said that she had to get her own reusable plate, because the whole point of this was to raise awareness of all the waste we generate [considering we ditched basically every other point of being non-wasteful in transportation of food/ingredients, and being thrifty...]. She seemed kinda irked but ... hey, free pizza comes with your own plate. Or no plate at all. Really, is it necessary to get a plate for lukewarm pizza?

[The pizza was quite nice; I've never had Papa John's pizza before. Even the olives weren't overwhelmingly salty! The vegetable sandwich from Jimmy John's was kind of boring though, despite the fact that there were bean sprouts in it [which were nice...]. Greek Lady sandwich platters are much better for vegetarians, as there was onion and tomato in the one I had last time when my dorm house ordered Greek Lady sandwiches]

The party was a success, the message of recycling got through, but this was all trite and typical. There was no LOCAL, no SEASONAL [watermelon is not seasonal in February...], no organic/pseudoorganic/farmer/non certified but close to the certification [did you know that certification costs money? Do you know how much that sucks for farmers who actually make real organic stuff, but don't have enough profit to certify it?], no VEGETARIAN/LOW ON THE FOOD CHAIN, no PASSION TO SPREAD THE MESSAGE THAT WE ARE MESSING UP THE WORLD.
[Image: I somehow took a really interestingly tinted picture.]
In retrospect, however, the best way to make the environment better is to just kill off everyone. "But, what about the world for future human generations?!" Okay, kill off all the people who can't reproduce anymore, and the ones who use up all of Medicare and are responsible for the Dept. of Defence.

The point is that, despite not really making a really environmentally "friendly" party, anything we do is pretty bad for the environment.

In terms of waste, instead of each of the 30-50 people obtaining food in disposable styrofoam/plastic/ceramic/paper containers covered in plastic bags [think food carts], we fed them all using 15 to-be-recycled pizza boxes and a few to-be-recycled plastic containers.

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