Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Local Nonprofits Use Food and Creativity while Addressing Sustainability

What a wonderful summer full of inspiration and positive changes we have had in San Diego. Here is an update on organizations that are doing amazing work with a health and sustainability-oriented focus.
I had the pleasure of attending the “A Taste of Summer,” the nonprofit Ecoffiency’s San Diego event and meeting with nonprofit co-founder Chrissy Gray to discuss the event, program mission and goals for the future. Ecofficiency, an Orange County-based organization runs a few projects and highlighted its program, “Positive Plate” which expanded to include Carlsbad at the beginning of the year. Its mission is “to inspire an ethic of responsible lifestyle choices and individual actions that result in positive impacts on society and the environment.” In preparation for its introduction to San Diego, Ecofficiency selected two San Diego-based nonprofits as benefactors for its collaboration: Olivewood Gardens and San Diego Hunger Coalition. Gray states that the goal was to continue to grow deeper relationships with both entities through involvement in this event.
The event was held at San Diego's Liberty Station on a Friday evening and was sustainability-themed including chefs from San Diego-based restaurants Alchemy, CafĂ© Chole, Carnitas, Casa de Luz, and Gabardine. Each restaurant created unique appetizers and small plates; all dishes were created using local and organic ingredients. Attendees enjoyed local wine and craft beers while enjoying local art and learning about other sustainability driven businesses and organizations. Ecofficiency focuses “on the demands and actions of individuals…yet only with the goal of contributing to a larger grassroots movement that demonstrates and demands change.” I felt that their San Diego event was a great way to introduce their concepts as well as encourage the local community’s support and participation.
Through the Positive Plate program, Ecofficiency works with restaurants in Orange County and San Diego to implement sustainability plans addressing areas such as product sourcing; energy and water efficiency; recycling and waste reduction; employee training and development as well as community engagement. The restaurants that are part of their programs are generally part of the community events that they create. I asked about the organizers’ observations, processes and challenges in the planning of an introductory event in a new community and new companies. Gray states she researched organizations to find out the best match for their mission and hopes to strengthen relationships with partnering organizations and businesses on the last event. Some of the challenges were a lack of volunteer assistance as well as funding and sponsorships. In their first San Diego event, Ecofficiency was able to generate $5,000 for their nonprofit, promote local businesses and donate ten percent of their proceeds to the participating nonprofits.
What’s Next for Ecofficiency: “Taste of Fall” is scheduled for Thursday, October 18, 2012 with more dynamic restaurants where attendees can experience unique small plates created by conscious Orange County chefs and using local and organic ingredients. Tickets are $65. For more information see www.ecofficiency.org. By Brigitte Taylor on Twitter @SuiteBrigitte

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