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A taste of the future 

The Fifth Annual "A Taste of the Future" fundraiser at Cal Poly will present Michael Pollan, the author of The Omnivore's Dilemma

Like most Americans I’m diligent about recycling, especially my old copies of New Times, trash mail, and wine bottles, yet it seems as though I’ve only begun to stick my toe into green waters. Honestly, it bugs me when I watch the clueless (far too many of them) throw Styrofoam cups into recycle bins.

However, I’ve realized that it’s time I learn more about going green, particularly when it comes to fresh water, plastics made from toxic materials, and our food sources. I believe every one of us is obligated to be concerned citizens when it comes to our future. As such environmentalists as the highly regarded American author Michael Pollan frequently say: “Small steps can lead to sea change.”

Here in SLO County we’re fortunate to have a great resource for learning how to protect our natural resources at Cal Poly. For those like me who want to learn more about becoming green, Cal Poly’s Sustainable Agriculture Resource Program (SARC) is offering an educational forum that’s open to the public, and it won’t cost you the nickel you can get from a recyclable plastic bottle.

The Fifth Annual “A Taste of the Future” fundraiser, held October 14 through 15, will provide locals the opportunity to hear Michael Pollan, professor of journalism at UC Berkeley, when he lectures at the SARC dinner Wednesday night and during the Sustainability Fair on Thursday. Pollan will discuss the challenging issues in food production, after which guests will be invited to SARC’s Sustainability Fair. Both the lecture and the fair on the Oct. 15 are free to students and the public. Though you won’t need a ticket to get in, you will absolutely need to arrive early to hear Pollan at the Cal Poly Performing Arts Center (PAC), who is sure to draw a huge crowd.

The events by SARC, which are tax deductible, provide Cal Poly the funding to expand its sustainability programs within the College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. In past years, I’ve attended several of these outstanding dinners that are prepared by our best local chefs. On Wednesday evening, Pollan will be the guest of honor at a gourmet dinner fundraiser at Rancho Arroyo Grande Winery. Tickets to the dinner were priced $150 per person and sold out as fast as they went on sale. This dinner also features several great local chefs in SLO County, each preparing a different course. I’m as bummed out over missing this sold-out event as my readers will be. But Cal Poly more than made up for it by providing the free public service where you can hear Pollan discuss his books, The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, as well as his articles on sustainability for the New York Times. One of his latest articles, which appeared in that newspaper on September 10, “Big Food vs. Big Insurance,” provides compelling reading about the American health care debate. Here’s a brief excerpt:

“No one disputes that the $2.3 trillion we devote to the health care industry is often spent unwisely, but the fact that the United States spends twice as much per person as most European countries on health care can be substantially explained, as a study released last month says, by our being fatter. Even the most efficient health care system that the administration could hope to devise would still confront a rising tide of chronic disease linked to diet. That’s why our success in bringing health care costs under control ultimately depends on whether Washington can summon the political will to take on and reform a second, even more powerful industry: the food industry.” Visit nytimes.com to find the entire article by searching its site for Michael Pollan.

SARC’s Sustainability Fair opens Thursday morning at 10 a.m. at the Cal Poly Performing Arts Center (PAC), so you can visit it before the 11 a.m. lecture and return after Pollan concludes his lecture. The outdoor fair will feature a cross-section of groups from SLO County’s food, wine, and agricultural community. The on-campus groups include: the Green Campus Program; Cal Poly SLOW Food Club; Cal Poly Meats Lab; Biodiesel Club; and the Cal Poly Floral Team. The off-campus groups include: the Central Coast Vineyard Team; Central Coast AG Network; Sweet Earth Chocolates; Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance; and the SLO Botanical Garden, and many other contributors.

According to SARC’s website (sarc.calpoly.edu) it was founded in 2000 to advance the sustainable food and agricultural programs at Cal Poly: “SARC has served as a catalyst for cutting-edge ideas and projects offering solutions to pressing needs in agriculture.” They also played a pivotal role in establishing the Cal Poly Organic Farm. They encourage you to become involved. Check out the SARC calendar on their website to learn more. Whether you simply attend their events or donate to SARC in care of the HCS Department, you’re well on your way to becoming a responsible steward of the land.

The Green Book

I’ve found many great tips on becoming environmentally conscious in: The Green Book, a New York Times bestseller. It’s filled with easy to follow tips on everything from recycling and technology to work, shopping, sports, and going carbon-neutral. Here are a few of their simple steps that allow you to make a big impact on the environment with the least amount of effort.

“Try to buy products with minimal to no packaging. If just one out of ten products you bought had little or no packaging, it would eliminate more than fifty pounds of waste per household per year. $1.00 of every $11 that you spend at the supermarket pays for the packaging of the products you buy.

If you’re asked, ‘paper or plastic” at checkout, choose paper. While neither is an ideal choice—it’s best to sack your groceries in reusable cloth or canvas bags—paper bags have a better chance of being recycled.

Switch to bathroom tissue made from 100 percent recycled paper. If every household replaced just a single twelve-roll pack of regular bathroom tissue with a recycled variety, it would save almost five million trees and enough paper waste to fill seventeen thousand garbage trucks.”

There’s much more to be found in the book or through easy searches online, so do your best to help the planet and thereby help yourself.

You can reach New Times’ Cuisine columnist at khardesty@newtimesslo.com.

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