How Devour Goes Green

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We celebrated the Devour Culinary Classic’s tenth anniversary in February by upping our sustainability game.  With our love for our home state comes the responsibility to ensure it's protected for generations to come. Find out how we put environmental sustainability at the forefront for this event.

Towards Zero Waste
Events create a ton of trash.  In an effort to combat this, the Local First Arizona team follows the “reduce, reuse, recycle” mantra.  Reducing focuses on simply producing less waste overall. One area where we’ve significantly reduced our impact is with our volunteer t-shirts. Instead of creating a new t-shirt each year, we have a standard shirt which volunteers borrow for their shift, then we launder and put back in rotation.  Not only does this greatly lower our environmental impact (the conventional fashion industry is a well-documented polluter) , but it saves us staff time and money.

For reuse, we design most of our banners and signage with generic, non-date specific language so they can be used year after year.  Any signs that cannot get reused go to the Art Resource Center, which offers the signs for reuse to teachers and artists or Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest which turns the banners into bags. Wine glasses left over from the event get reused at our Arizona Fall Festival, which in turn helps us eliminate plastic cups from Beer and Wine Garden at that event.  Empty wine bottles head to Refresh Glass where they are repurposed into drinking glasses.

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Another important reuse strategy is to reuse any food to feed people. This was the first year we attempted to donate food leftover food from participating restaurants.  ASU sustainability graduate student Lexie Fields-Austin coordinated getting food to a local kitchen so that it could feed hungry people rather than feeding landfills or compost.  Over 500 pounds of food headed to a nonprofit focused on helping the refuge community.

We recycle as much as we can from Devour.  Our amazing Green Team volunteers are based at eco-stations throughout the event which have a recycle, compost and trash bin.  The Green Team helps attendees get their items into the appropriate bin and ensure that each individual waste stream does not get contaminated.  The Green Team and the eco-stations are also an excellent way to educate the community about recycling properly.

This year’s hard work resulted in 45% of the waste created being diverted from the landfill! We appreciate Devour attendees who utilized the eco-stations and a huge thank you goes to the volunteer team who made this happen.

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Sustainable Seafood Demo
Our efforts in sustainability went further than waste diversion as we incorporated environmental awareness into more areas of the event.  This year we were thrilled to present a demonstration focused on sustainable seafood. Sheila Bowman, head of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, shared information about the work being done to protect fish populations and how citizens can drive change by talking to their local dining establishments about where and how they are sourcing their seafood.  Chula Seafood, based in Scottsdale and Phoenix, shared how their fishing operation in southern California practices sustainability. Attendees were also treated to a fish filleting demonstration by Chula Chef Juan Zamora who showed attendees how to properly fillet a tuna and utilize as much of the fish as possible (and then we promptly composted all leftover pieces).

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Sustainability Award
Another component that we are proud to introduce is the Excellence in Sustainability award, with Gina Murphy-Darling of Mrs. Green’s World  as the judge. Criteria focused on each restaurant’s booth décor (low impact decorations and handouts), the ingredients in their dishes (locally, sustainably sourced), plating materials (compostable or recyclable) and how the establishment practices sustainability in their daily operations.  It was impressive to hear that many chefs and restaurateurs are very conscious of sustainability in their operations. Judge Gina shares her reasoning behind picking the winners:

“Saturday’s award-winner was Gertrude’s Restaurant, which stood out from the crowd due to their focus on local sourcing, seasonal menus, their comprehensive recycling efforts and their commitment to fresh! I was so impressed with the fact that they have NO freezer and use a blast chiller for their ice cream. No frozen food at this restaurant. Sunday’s winner was The Parlor who stood out for their compostable plating, bamboo forks, extensive adaptive reuse in their building, hyper-local sourcing from on-site gardens at the restaurant and their absolutely stunning and sustainable booth display.“

Going Forward
We have a lot of work in front of us to continue to lower the impact this event has but we are proud to say that we are making great strides. Huge thanks goes to the City of Phoenix’s Reimagine Phoenix initiative, Recycled City and Refresh Glass for sponsoring the Towards Zero Waste efforts and making our waste diversion goals a reality.