BU’s Green Fest

The George Sherman Union Plaza celebrations for Earth Week were held today at Boston University amid gushing winds that kept the participants on their toes chasing flyaway props and possibly made the response to the selling and information booths somewhat lukewarm. The best attendance was seen at the Dining Services Chowder Cook-off that attracted a horde of people from different walks of life.

“It’s cold and windy today. So its a great day for chowder. Not so much for the other stalls though,” said Scott Rosario, marketing director of the Dining Services.

The chowder cook-off has become a regular feature after it was introduced as part of the Earth Week celebrations last year. Eight chefs from BU’s different dining halls had cooked chowders in their individual styles and laid it out for the public to taste and vote. The ingredients used are locally produced, organic and sustainable.

Last year’s winner Chef Christopher L. Bee from the GSU arrived with his tried-and tested award-winner Hard Shell New England Clam Chowder, an innovative concoction of bacon, thyme, potatoes and apples. Hearing a reasonable amount of “good” about the chowder, he hoped to grab the trophy again.

Last year's winner Christopher B. Lee

Chef Jose Guevara from Myles Standish Hall cooked his chowder the Manhattan style, with celery, pepper, bacon and potatoes cooked in a tomato base.

Vicky Jue, a sophomore from the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) from upstate New York remarked, “How can you go wrong with Manhattan?” Lindsey Setia, a senior at the School of Management couldn’t agree more. “It had a different kick to it.”

Chef Alton of the Towers put forth a cheesy concoction of clam chowder with a clam, fish and lobster base and extra cheddar kicked in. It was a tad bit too heavy for some people’s taste, including Jue’s, who said traditional clam chowder is better than the cheesy one which is “all weird.”

Warren Tower’s Sammy Slammin Clam Chowder which the chef described as “very traditional” tasted pretty flat. “It was alright. Not really well done,” said Alex Poterack, an Economics PhD student and his friends.

Chef Bill Bailey of the SMG, born and bred in New England, presented the New England Haddock Chowder with a twist: he added fennel seeds to his stock of the traditional clam chowder. And it was well received by the tasters.

But Rosa Disalvo and Colleen Scura, two New York women on a visit to BU for their daughters’ prospective students campus tour, had on two thoughts about who their winner was. Chef Carlos Pareja of the Shelton Hall outdid everyone in their opinion with his very traditional, yet slightly tweaked his own style with thyme and extra cream for flavor, clam chowder. It was indeed very tasteful.

But one couldn’t predict a clear-cut winner. It seemed the constant friendly banter of Chef Walter Dunphy was not the only thing attracting people; his Newport Clam Chowder cooked with bacon was privately winning him stunning reviews. “It was so complex. It was magnificent!” said Philip Rubin-Streit, a Math Finance grad student.  “There were so many things in it with just the right amount. I feel sated.”

Next to him, Residential Dining Executive Chef Grand Banks was receiving favorable reviews too. He had a bowl of goldfish crackers to top his chowder and a list of his sustainable ingredients. But in the end it all boiled down to the taste. “It is good. I would say, points for goldfish, not for the chowder,” said one student.

There were 22 participating groups – a few of which were remotely, although not entirely irrelevant, related to the betterment of the earth. Cabot Farms was offering free tastings of their flavored reduced fat, pepper jack and chipotle cheese, and the representative at the booth took a while to be able to recount how cabot farms were committed to sustainability.

Zipcar, the car sharing service that allows for pay-as-you-go, signed up two BU students under a college discount, doing away with the need to buy a car and drive around unnecessarily, coughing out carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Urban Adventours' biofuel truck

Parker Musselman from Urban Adventours, a bicycle tours and rental company, also claimed to promote “alternative transportation, which is healthy and active.” He added that the company used green cleaning solutions and had a delivery bus that ran on vegetable oil.

Some even wondered how the Clam Chowder Cook-off related to Earth Day.

Clam chowder is just for fun. We are using so many cups… they are not really telling people that they are using sustainable foods,” said Catherine Buchholz, a history junior.

But there was plenty of stuff for the serious environmentalist.

Natalie Swenson, an Engineering senior and president of the US Green Building Council BU Chapter, was signing up students interested in studying for the LEED certification qualifying exam. Purely a student initiative involving group studies, provision of relevant books, green building tours and volunteering events, it can qualify students to rate green buildings as per USGBC rules. A separate stall asked faculty and staff, “How green is your office?” and offered a BU green office certification to those who follow in the footsteps of Sargent College, a pioneer of green buildings in BU. Members of the BU Vegetarian Society, now in its third year, were giving out information about their upcoming events. Sign-ups were underway for the Community Supported Agriculture program. Volunteers for the BU greenhouse atop the building on 675 Comm. Ave. were also promoting their work. Bountiful Brookline, conducting local farming and garden share at the Brookline Community Foundation and home backyards primarily for food donations to the Emergency Food Pantry at Saint Paul’s Street, Boston, was also present. Evelyn Kimber, president of the Boston Vegetarian Society related that a 2006 UN report stated that livestock farming contributes more to global warming than all transportation combined.

Beeswax hand cream

Beeswax soap

Organic jams

Erin Willett of Smaht Farm

Amid a plethora of groups, Smaht Farms was perhaps most successful in attracting the most people after the chowder cook-off (albeit much fewer people in comparison). Stay-home mom Erin Willett had a range of edibles and skincare products to sell, from free-range eggs and home-made honey to beeswax lip balms and hand creams. With some sixty chickens, a few turkeys and rabbits, five beehives producing 150 pounds of honey a year, a vegetable and herbs farm patch at home, Willett operates out of her kitchen and sells on sidewalks and BU farmer’s market. “We have been doing it for 6 years now. I don’t want to get too big because I have seen people who do, like beekeepers going commercial, and they lose touch with their product,” Willett said.

The Willet family applies ingenious ways to maintain their farms. They plant rosemary and thyme to keep the deer away, and their children pee marking the perimeter of the farm to keep away the fox and the coyote, chimed in husband Keith. “People don’t know, they don’t care. They will say how disgusting, but they will eat poisoned eggs from the supermarket,” said Willett.

The GSU Plaza Celebrations may not have attracted too many people, but it brought together, and reminded us of all the different ways we can make a difference for our planet. From choosing to donate old clothes instead of throwing them away or buying from green businesses – change may not be so cumbersome after all.


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