In her latest music video, pop star Katy Perry is doused in flour, kneaded like dough, draped with chopped vegetables, and stirred into a pot of bubbling liquid by a team of young, attractive male cooks. At one point, celebrity chef Roy Choi of socially minded fast food joint Loco’l tastes her and purses his lips in satisfaction. Whether you fall for Perry’s “Bon Appétit” video or find it unappetizing, there’s no denying that it targets a huge demographic: Today’s restaurant-obsessed, foodporn-sharing, cooking-show binging millennials.
According to a survey by data analytics firm YPulse, 46 percent of 25-33 year-olds consider themselves “foodies.” A quick look at Instagram erases any doubt: There are currently over 57 million posts tagged with #foodie, 122 million with #foodporn. And millennials appear to be passing this obsession down to younger generations: A study by investment bank Piper Jaffray found that teens now spend more money on food than they do on clothing.
But not everyone spends their free time choosing filters for close-ups of lemon cream pie or sending Snapchats of their activated charcoal lattes. Political junkie Dylan Matthews, 27, who helped found Vox, lives and works in Washington, DC, a city enjoying quite the food renaissance. And yet Matthews, who joined us on our latest episode of our food politics podcast Bite, says he’s just not that into food. “I hate that food occupies the role it does in my life, and in society at large,” he once wrote.
“I eat to survive,” he tells co-host Tom Philpott. “I actively loathe cooking.” Matthews guesses his aversion may stem in part from his upbringing, which had a “pretty utilitarian view of food. I think if I grew up in a household where food was more of a cultural component, it may have been different,” he said. He also says that he’s on the autism spectrum and “there are certain textures that I just sort of reject.”
At one point in 2015, Matthews tried Soylent, Silicon Valley’s much-hyped meal-replacement drink. Matthews thought it was going to solve all of his problems—until he decided it was too hard to make and required too much planning, because once mixed, it only lasts 48 hours. (The current version of Soylent comes already mixed in individual bottles—Matthews says he drinks it for dinner from time to time.)
When Matthews does have to appease foodie friends or colleagues, he turns to certain restaurants. Here’s his list of DC eateries for people who aren’t that into eating:
- Little Sesame Hummus Shop, 18th Street NW. “It’s connected to a fancier restaurant so it’s got great seating and I’ll have lunch with a lot of sources there.”
- Keren, an Eritrean restaurant on Florida Avenue NW. “It’s very inexpensive, and nice, and a really great sit-down place.”
- DuPont Market, 18th and S Street. “A great little bodega with a great sandwich counter. If you like meat, they have an amazing Italian sandwich with salami, prosciutto, and pepperoni. I like their hummus and feta and avocado sandwich.” (Which smells suspiciously like a foodie recommendation to us).
Please credit The Wilderness Society for any and all use of these video files.
Businesses Tell Congress: Act on Climate!
Businesses want action from government on climate. Over 1,000 firms have already shown support with statements on the Paris agreement, internal carbon pricing policies, and sustainable business practices.
We want to make sure members of Congress are aware of these developments. Last month, on the heels of the People’s Climate March, business leaders from across the country traveled to Washington, DC for the National Business Climate and Clean Energy Advocacy program.
In addition to a half-day conference on current US climate and energy policy, our coalition held 70 meetings with members of Congress and their staffs from both sides of the aisle, to tell them why climate action makes business sense.
The American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) and E2 led the event, with support from the Sustainable Furnishings Council, Sustainable Food Trade Association, Partnership for Responsible Growth, Health Care Without Harm, Climate Action Business Association, Vermont Energy Investment Corporation, Business Climate Leaders, New Hampshire Businesses for Social Responsibility, New Jersey Sustainable Business Council, and Green America.
Speakers from World Resources Institute, R Street Institute, Natural Resources Defense Council, Citizens’ Climate Lobby, Climate Leadership Council and others forecast the chances of a carbon tax, continued EPA and DOE program funding and Investment and Production Tax Credits, and honoring the Paris climate agreement.
Later, Congressional aides offered their first-hand perspectives. Overall, as Meehan (R-PA) staffer Jimmy Gray, noted, “There is growing recognition among Republican members that climate change is a threat to the economy, but resistance from traditional energy interests remains strong.”
At breakfast, Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Ed Markey (D-MA) said business must lead Congress on climate change. Whitehouse urged big companies especially to speak up; stating to be silent for fear of antagonizing the Trump Administration is an act of civic irresponsibility. He said, “The credibility of corporate America is at stake here.”
Business leaders’ presence at events like the People’s Climate March is a good step, said Joule Energy’s Kevin Fitzwilliam. “Policies that promote a stronger country must reflect the consensus of the scientific community and the reality of a changing climate people face around the country. Being visible in the streets of Washington shows politicians and the country that motivated citizens from every state are doggedly determined to protect our environment and promote clean energy.”
During their meetings with policymakers, business leaders stressed that climate change is a fundamental danger to industries throughout the US. They also noted the clean energy sector employs over two million people and attracts significant capital investments. “With supportive public policies and investments, clean energy will not only save our environment but reaffirm America’s world leadership,” concluded ASBC’s Richard Eidlin.
As Washington rolls back key environmental protections, ASBC members like Ben & Jerry’s and Patagonia have redoubled their efforts and companies of all sizes are joining in. Between meetings in Washington, ASBC members – 60 in April alone — meet representatives in their home districts during recess to make the case for climate action.
“Strong government policy is essential to limit global warming to levels that avoid catastrophic consequences,” said Katie Clark of Happy Family Brands. “As a small brand, advocating for climate policy is one of the key ways we can magnify our actions to ensure future generations a healthy, happy planet to thrive in.”
ASBC mobilizes business leaders to help persuade government that companies want environmental regulations and other actions to protect our economy from climate change. To learn more about ASBC, please visit our website, and add your business voice to our carbon pricing action letter.
Zero Waste Q&A with Jen Dickman
Thanks to dedicated volunteers like Jen Dickman, cities are making progress on keeping waste out of landfills and incinerators. As chair of the DC Sierra Club’s Zero Waste Committee, Jen works with other volunteers and the DC government to bring DC closer to zero waste, keeping in mind the city’s sustainability goal of an 80% trash diversion rate by 2032.
We asked Jen what her committee is working on and what people can do to help their organizations and cities go zero waste.
How did you get involved in the Sierra Club?
I grew up as an environmentalist and have always been a big recycler. I led volunteer committees on recycling in college and law school, and when I saw that my local chapter of the Sierra Club had a Zero Waste Committee, I got involved.
How do you define “Zero Waste”?
We have this definition on our website:
Zero waste is a waste management approach that benefits people and the environment by reducing toxicity, conserving resources, and facilitating economic development in communities. The goal of zero waste is to conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them.
The Zero Waste International Alliance has developed a more in-depth definition that also mentions designing products to avoid waste, but that’s more difficult to address as a local group like ours.
We aim to follow a hierarchy that puts source reduction and reuse at the top, then recycling and composting for what can’t be reduced/reused. The members of my committee live out the concept of zero waste really well – they have so many great ideas and I learn a lot from them. (Check out these blogs from committee members Catherine Plume (DC Recycler) and Jane Crosby (Jane & Simple!)
What projects is the DC Sierra Club's Zero Waste Committee working on now?
We have a few active projects.
One is our business composting campaign. Because DC doesn’t require composting (yet!), we want to encourage more businesses – restaurants, cafes, and offices mostly – to compost. In the first phase, we’ve completed interviews with businesses that currently compost to develop a set of best practices.
Another big project is to get restaurants and bars to only give out straws if people ask for them. Straws aren’t recyclable through our city recycling program, so we’re trying to make businesses aware of that.
And finally, we’re trying to figure out a way to encourage the reuse of residential building materials in the city. A significant portion of DC waste by weight is building materials. The regulations applying to commercial construction already have requirements for reuse or recycling. We’re working to get an amendment to the residential building code that would require reuse of a small percentage of building materials in projects involving new construction, substantial renovation, or demolition.
We’re impressed by the work you did to help the annual Kingman Island Bluegrass & Folk Festival in DC (attended by 12,000 people) go zero waste. What did you learn from that experience?
Last year was the first time the DC government got involved in trying to make a big event zero waste by providing composting services. We knew beforehand that it was important to get all the vendors (food trucks) on board – to make sure they gave out only recyclable or compostable food packaging – but sometimes it’s difficult to reach them.
The Sierra Club supported the DC government by organizing volunteers to help monitor waste stations on the festival grounds – made up of recycling, composting and trash bins – so that people knew how to sort their trash. Our presence not only cut down on waste at the festival, it had an educational component too. We opened people’s eyes to what could be recycled or composted.
Since then, we’ve been fortunate to be asked to help with waste-monitoring opportunities like this. Some other events we’ve volunteered at include an urban gardening and food justice forum called Rooting DC, a STEM fair at a local high school, and the Cherry Blossom 10-Mile Run. We’re learning best practices as we go, like the importance of identifying ourselves as zero waste volunteers with the help of matching t-shirts or pins!
You also work on environmental issues in your day job. How do you find the energy?
The Zero Waste Committee has been busier since the election because more people have come to us looking to get involved. But our committee has subcommittees, so it’s not just me and the vice chair, Doreen, in charge. Each subcommittee leader takes responsibility for their campaign and delegates tasks to other volunteers, helping to keep more people engaged and do more overall.
If someone wants their organization to go zero waste, where should they start?
Public awareness is a good place to start. What’s recyclable varies by city, so find out what and how your local government recycles and make sure that staff and management know this information.
I also recommend taking a look at the recycling and trash bins at your place of employment to see what items don’t belong and use that as a basis for education, or you can just print signage from your local government website and post it near trash and recycling bins.
Getting your employer to start a composting program is a heavier lift but removing food from the waste stream is a great idea for reducing trash volume and limiting methane emissions from landfill disposal.
The challenge with plastics is that it can be difficult to know whether they’re recyclable and it isn’t always easy to tell what number you're dealing with. Another tip is to check if recyclables at commercial properties are required to be collected in a clear bag (in DC, they’ll probably be put into the trash if they’re in a regular trash bag).
On a personal level, it’s a good idea to pack your own utensils (or straws) for whenever you might need them (check out this EarthShare guide for some ideas). You can also bring your own reusable takeout container to sit-down restaurants! The One Less Straw campaign has also developed an educational program to teach kids to reduce plastic waste.
The first Colorado Public Lands Day is set to celebrate the places we all love that define the state’s unique appeal.
We have just weeks to tell Interior Secretary Zinke national monuments deserve to be protected.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) – a non-partisan agency responsible for oversight of government agencies for Congress – just released a report evaluating practices related to the management of publicly-owned oil and natural gas.