October 2009 Issue
From using compostable plates to choosing gas grills over charcoal, a few small changes will help to make your game-day tailgate greener.
With football season in full swing, fans are pouring into stadium parking lots across the state to take part in pregame celebrations. Of course, anyone who has seen the post-game look of these lots knows that the cleanup is no party. And when you think of the cumulative impact of even a season’s worth of cans, bottles, plastic cups, wrappers and other garbage, it’s enough to make your green conscience feel defeated.
So it’s no surprise that this time-honored tradition has come into the crosshairs of the modern environmental movement. As a result, some stadiums are cleaning up their act, adding recycling bins, switching from plastic cups to recycled paper and taking other initiatives to make their game day greener. Their efforts are adding up. At Ohio Stadium in Columbus, tailgaters deposited more than 54 tons of materials into new scarlet recycling containers during the 2007 and 2008 seasons, with an additional 135 tons of recyclables collected inside the Shoe. In Cleveland, Browns fans can also deposit their cans and bottles into Browns Stadium’s newly added recycling bins, not to mention feel good about that order of fries, since the fryer oil is sent off to be turned into biodiesel fuel after the game.
Of course, the real effort is with each individual fan. Making your tailgate just a little more environmentally conscious doesn’t take much. Tips from the Everyday Environmentalist page of The Nature Conservancy’s Web site will help you go green at your next game-day celebration.
Chef Ben Cyr says he isn’t out to change the world. Still, the environmentally conscious chef founded his Cleveland company, Green Planet Catering (gogreencatering.com), on the premise of improving the way his customers eat, one meal at a time.
“The current formula for catering is to make 20 percent more than you need, just in case,” he says. “It’s so wasteful.” Add to that the stacks of one-time-use plastic trays, lids, plates and cups caterers send out, and Cyr knew there had to be a better way.
“I wanted to do something different,” he says. “Not to preach, just because it mattered to me, and I knew it mattered to the customer, too.”
For that reason, Green Planet’s clients can expect their orders to be delivered on reusable or compostable serveware and to contain as many seasonal ingredients from local producers as Cyr can access. Instead of choosing from a preset menu, Cyr says many of his customers sit down with him to discuss “chef’s choice” options that let him opt for fresh, organic and sustainable ingredients instead of frozen, bulk and out-of-season choices (an undertaking, it should be noted, that’s much harder to execute as a caterer than in a restaurant kitchen). Order his chicken pasta entree for your next lunch meeting, and you might get locally raised free range chicken in alfredo sauce served over Ohio City Pasta. And while Cyr could be viewed as a catering business model of the future, he humbly sees himself more in line with ideologies of the past.
“If you look back at the 1920s and ’30s, our grandparents were way more environmental, using rubber bands over and over, recycling things until they were truly worn out and eating what they grew,” he says. “I’m just following their good example.”