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.

This Week Think Green

It’s time to bring out the green in you. Boston University (BU) may have just the right dose of treating you with green events to make you want to care for the planet. Earth Day 2011 is this Friday, April 22, but the university, in collaboration with various on-campus groups and environmental organizations, is planning a week-long celebration starting this Monday. From sustainable eating to good waste disposal practices and energy issues among nation-states, students and patrons can look forward to a host of events that highlight the various issues plaguing our planet.

The week kick-starts with ‘Make-a-Difference Monday’ today that will see campus chefs dish out food that is sustainable, organic and locally grown produce across dining halls at BU. The aim is to make the students aware of and appreciate the need to cut down energy consumption and carbon footprint, as well as to save animal species from reckless hunting. Already a part of many BU dining halls, the event will be ever more special for making a difference during Earth Week.

And for those who have questions about on-campus composting, student volunteers as part of the ‘Composting Come-out’ will be present in the dining halls on April 20, from 11.30 am to 1.30 pm, to answer their queries. “We ask the students to compost their waste in front of the dish belt instead of behind the scenes by our dishwashers.  Students volunteers help facilitate and we use it as an educational opportunity,” said Sabrina Harper, the sustainability coordinator at the BU Dining Services.

Stop by for the Sargent College Parfait Giveaway at the GSU Link, which will be promoting the health and environmental benefits of certain foods. And starting 7 pm, head for the screening of the thought-provoking documentary One Water, which explores the diverse ways in which water touches the human life and how our relationship with water has changed – rather turned exploitative. The location of the screening has not been posted till the time of this blog entry, but can be found Environmental Student Organization’s blog.

On April 21, the week’s two biggest Earth Day events will take place. First, a George Sherman University Plaza Celebrations will bring together green activists to educate people about ways to help the planet.

Beginning 11 am, witness a chowder cook-off organized by the Dining Services at BU, taste the healthy goodness of the award-winning cheese from the award-winning  Cabot Farm of Vermont, buy seasonal produce from the family-run farmstead Smaht Fahm, and sign up for the Community Support Agriculture program, in which Ward’s Berry Farm offers fresh-picked, seasonal fruits and vegetables in 20-pound boxes for $20.

What’s more, collection bins will be placed at the GSU Plaza to collect reusable stuff such as clothing and household items not just in the spirit of charity but also in a bid to divert tons waste from landfills. For brilliant ideas on how to make a room sustainable, a room made from 100% reusable items will be on display. For more information about the program, watch the video below:

Bring in corrosive items such as small electronics, Brita Filters, batteries, ink cartridges, and lightbulbs that cannot be reused and pollute the ecosystem (and seriously hurt if thrown away in the trash for the landfills) at the GSU, where the Recycling Cafe will collect them. The BU Dining Services will offer free coffee to those who bring in their reusable travel coffee mugs.

Further west down Commonwealth Avenue, the West Campus Block Party will offer book swaps, free samples and giveaways from local vendors, and a Red Cross disaster relief information booth.

Another special Earth Week event, the Sustainable Seafood Conference follows at 7pm on the second floor of the GSU.  The documentary “End of the Line” will be screened and a panel discussion about overfishing with four local experts (two scientists from the New England Aquarium, a BU professor in Marine Biology and the head of a fisherman’s organization in Gloucester) will follow.

On April 22, the sustainable bakery Bake n’ Joy is offering dessert sampling at the GSU link.

The Earth Week finishes off with the last seminar of the Sawyer series on Energy Transitions and Society, a semester-long series of seminars that discussed energy issues confronting states and sought long-term solutions. This Earth Day, four BU professors discuss the ‘Geographies of Energy’ at the Pardee House. The talk runs from 10 am-12.30 pm.

Check out last year’s Earth Day celebrations.

Here’s hoping this year’s events turn out bigger and better!

Paul Revere: Beyond the Patriot

Happy Patriots’ Day (weekend)! Me and my team of four other classmates headed to Paul Revere’s famed 17th century wooden house in downtown Boston today and attended a book signing event by author Robert Martello, who is an associate professor of history of science and technology at Olin College.

David Martellos book cover

Martello’s book Midnight Ride, Industrial Dawn: Paul Revere and the growth of American Enterprise is the culmination of years of research that initially began as his dissertation. Martello’s book bypasses the larger-than-life patriotic image of Paul Revere and explores his phenomenal entrepreneurial side that sought to make use of the fledgling US economy after the American Revolution to push it in the direction of industrialization through his forays into copper sheet rolling, bronze casting and iron working.

Check out our coverage of the event, including that of other events this weekend, by clicking here.

Looking for Jobs in the Digital Age

The tragedy of the American job market continues. For students about to graduate, the task of finding a relevant job is daunting. But there is a thing or two you can change to make all the difference. Give technology a break and do it the old-fashioned way: personal networking, says Kimberly DelGizzo, director of the Boston University Center for Career Development.

Find out more on what she has to say!