Episodes

EPISODE 22: Baby You Can Drive My Car

In search of the truth, Special Agents William Neal and Patrick Cuccaro explore the mysterious Green world of sustainable special events and catering. What myths will they shatter? What will they uncover?

 

The Truth is out there…so we’re told.

 


 

In Episode 21, Patrick and William looked at recyclable materials used by the foodservice industry and how using them may or may not map onto our goal of living a “Green lifestyle”. This week, our special agents look at a subject that is top of mind this time of year: TAXES. We as taxpaying citizens wonder how those tax dollars are used to promote Green concepts and initiatives…

 

WILLIAM: I’m depressed today, Agent Cuccaro, really depressed. Can you offer some Green thoughts to lift my spirits?

 

PATRICK: What has you feeling blue instead of Green today, Agent Neal? It isn’t “Tax Day”, is it?

 

WILLIAM: Well actually, yes, taxes are never much fun, but necessary. It’s how my tax dollars are being squandered that really gets to me. Particularly when it comes to the environment. True, there are tax-funded programs that are helping Green initiatives, but they seem to disappear as quickly as they become law!

 

PATRICK: You must be referring to the electric car issue as an example, correct? Can you believe that the State Senate of Georgia has ended a tax break for citizens purchasing electric cars while keeping similar breaks in place for businesses. In the very last minutes of legislative sessions, the Georgia House and Senate passed House Bill 170, which effectively ends the handsome benefits to new electric car purchasers. In addition, they tacked on a new $200 annual “license fee”, which is equivalent to the fees required for large SUVs.

 

Electric Car

 

WILLIAM: Wasn’t the original bill intended to help fund the state’s backlog of road projects, and doesn’t building new roads cause more driving, more traffic, and, therefore, more air pollution?

 

PATRICK: Probably not, Agent N. It’s a chicken and egg thing. But just as building new schools does not “cause” more students or studying, building roads probably does not “cause” more drivers or traffic.

 

Both schools and roads, like other public infrastructure and housing, are built to accommodate an ever growing population and economy. But despite gains in population and vehicle miles traveled, the nation’s air quality has actually improved as a result of improved focus on efficient road systems, efficient engines and of course many other technologies designed to help off-set pollutants—specifically, according to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) statistics between 1970 and 2002, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) by 73 percent, nitrous oxides (NOx) by 41 percent, particulate matter (PM) by 50 percent, and carbon monoxide (CO) by 62 percent. NOx and VOCs are precursors to ozone deterioration and associated with Greenhouse gasses and climate change. As levels of VOCs and NOx continue to decrease, so will ozone and Greenhouse gases.

 

But the science points to many other ways we can reduce gas-powered emissions. Road improvements are helpful, but not nearly as much as reductions in single-occupant gas-powered vehicles.

 

For example, have you ever really investigated other parts of the globe that have successfully reduced emissions and done so in consistent measurable form? In almost every situation, the real help came from well-designed and well-used public transportation systems.

 

WILLIAM: I do know that cities like Paris, London, New York, Chicago and others have incredible mass transit systems. Where has the greatest impact been made?

 

PATRICK: Most of the significant environmental advancements are a direct result of tax dollars spent on non-fossil fuel transportation systems. Imagine if each one of those cities you mentioned was inhabited solely by car-driving commuters? Not only would the streets be more clogged, but so would our lungs.

 

WILLIAM: Speaking of lungs, I recently ran across this little tid-bit in my investigations. Did you know that according to the World Trade Organization 2013 statistics New Delhi has the worst air quality in the world? Factors include not only transportation emissions, but construction, industrial emissions, dust created by unpaved roads, and even population as contributing elements. New Delhi is on top, followed closely by Doha in Qatar; Kabul, Afghanistan; Dhaka in Bangladesh; and Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

 

PATRICK: Note the absence of developed transportation systems?

 

WILLIAM: I sure do and it just makes me want to focus on more solutions at home.

 

PATRICK: At home in the US, Travel + Leisure Magazine compiled an excellent list of America’s Greenest Cities. They were ranked by taking into account everything from pedestrian travel and great restaurants to alternative power sources and recycling programs. Published in the April 1, 2015 “Green Travel” section, there were highlights from a lot of fantastic initiatives these cities used to positively impact the quality of life for their taxpayers.

 

WILLIAM: Like everything else, it starts local and spreads nationally and hopefully around the globe. For those of us who genuinely care about the ecology and quality of life, we know that paying attention to local tax dollars spent in an environmentally sensitive manner is the responsibility of each and every taxpayer.

 

PATRICK: Well said, Agent Neal. Are you feeling better now that we have “talked it out” a bit? Am I as helpful as your therapist? Or shall I say, any of your therapists?

 

WILLIAM: Take it easy there, Agent Cuccaro! My best therapist is our special agent readership! And yes, I do feel better having some more facts under my belt. But now I am off in a rush!

 

PATRICK: Where are you headed now, Agent Neal?

 

WILLIAM: I’m headed out to the “Don’t Sit in Your Car and Idle” rally down at the local post office. As the taxpayers line up around the post office block tonight and tomorrow, my team of Green ambassadors will be talking to them about how to positively influence their local politicians to be more GREEN!

 

PATRICK: Don’t call me for bail money when the Feds round you up for trespassing!

 

WILLIAM: Not to worry. We have plenty of donuts and coffee for the coppers! They love us!

 

To be continued…

 


 

Do you make your Green voice heard at the polls? Do you drive an electric or hybrid car? Are you using part of your tax refund to do something Green? Please share with us in the Comments section below…we’d like to hear your thoughts on the topic!

 

Join us next time when we’ll take a look at “green space” and how environmental factors affect our ability to play, recreate and exercise. But don’t worry too much…there’s good news, too!

 

NOTE: Our special agents are going undercover for some in-depth investigations and will be back in two weeks.

 


 

This week’s 3Rs…

 

What is Revealed?

 

REVEALED: Georgia Commute Options

 

 

 

 

What is Revered?

 

REVERED: Atlanta Bike Share

 

 

 

 

What is Reviled?

 

REVILED: Transportation-related Air Pollutants

 

 

 

 


 

Agent Cuccaro

Special Agent
Patrick Cuccaro
UNIT: Legacy Green
Affairs to Remember Caterers
Special Agent Patrick Cuccaro possesses an analytical mind and keen intellect. As Past Chair of the Georgia Restaurant Association (2012)—representing more than 4,000 restaurants and 100,000 employees—he casts a studied eye towards one of the country’s largest creators of waste—the food industry. Armed with a vision for…[more]

Agent Neal

Special Agent
William Neal
UNIT: Legacy Green
Affairs to Remember Caterers
Agent William Neal is a hardened professional in the culinary industry. Well…maybe not hardened, since his favorite quip is “Never trust a skinny chef!” Agent Neal has held some interesting posts throughout his career. Starting as a chef, he became a…[more]

 

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Episodes

EPISODE 21: Of Fine Wines and Disposable Cups – My Bordeaux vs. Your Bamboo

In search of the truth, Special Agents William Neal and Patrick Cuccaro explore the mysterious Green world of sustainable special events and catering. What myths will they shatter? What will they uncover?

 

The Truth is out there…so we’re told.

 


 

In Episode 20, Patrick and William presented their investigative results about the shifts in the “Green revolution”, changes in the residential building industry and about how we consumers have altered some of our habits. This week they focus on the food and beverage industry,  about how “food culture” has been positively affected by sustainability and how as a nation we are striving for new levels of awareness.

 

PATRICK: William, do you like going on picnics?

 

WILLIAM: Of course, who doesn’t?

 

PATRICK: Me for one. There’s something about the smell of bug spray, paper plates and wine from a plastic cup that’s just unsettling to me.

 

WILLIAM: I’m shocked! Leading the active life you do, Agent Cuccaro, I would presume that you’d be a regular at the park, have a well broken-in picnic blanket and an entire closet devoted to the equipment needed to picnic in style!

 

PATRICK: Nope. Give me china, fine flatware, crystal glasses and a dining room table, please. No bugs and no disposables for me! How about you?

 

WILLIAM: Well, like many Americans, I’ve learned that picnicking is an art. Whether it’s at an outdoor concert, tailgating, a family outing or a romantic alfresco dinner, the tools of the trade have come a long way, and sustainability has piggy-backed on the trends.

 

PATRICK: Although it’s not my thing, I cannot ignore the trends when in the midst of a full-fledged investigation. According to TrendHunter.com, a website dedicated to tracking worldwide pop culture and consumer trends, there are six very BIG trends in picnicking, the most relevant to our field of expertise being extravagant posh picnics. As a luxury caterer—one with a strong focus on sustainability—there are major opportunities.

 

WILLIAM: How right you are. Picnics aside, we have seen disposable products in the catering industry do a “360” with intense movement AWAY from polystyrene products—the most infamous brand known as Styrofoam—non-compostable materials and environmentally harmful products overall. Fallen leaf bamboo and palm fiber products, corn-based utensils, as well as biodegradable plastics have appeared in the foodservice industry disposable products supply chain in a big way.

 

Bamboo Plate

 

Consumers have demanded more “environmentally friendly” packaging. Sustainablefoodservice.com has an extensive list of resources for many of the leading industry products. For the average consumer, many of those products can be ordered online. But keep in mind one important factor: Even the processes by which some of the products are manufactured still use potentially harmful chemical agents and binders to help items, such as plates and utensils, hold their shape. These chemical substances can leak into our food, and the jury is still out on just exactly how Green these items prove to be.

 

PATRICK: As we say, “Not everything about Green is black and white.” But most of those products are certainly the result of huge environmental advancements compared to the manufacturing methods used in the past, even with some of the potential pitfalls you mentioned, Agent Neal.

 

And let’s not forget about a whole different angle on this topic. Items that are re-used over and over, such as glass and china plates, might make more “Green sense”. For example, over time the carbon footprint of a china plate might prove to be far less than a compostable plate that is used once and disposed of. But the question is one of specific usage, volume, delivery systems, cleaning products used, etc. These factors when investigated thoroughly become a Green subject that is truly not black and white.

 

WILLIAM: So many of our Green issues are complicated. But here is something that is NOT complicated and is a song I sing almost every time we investigate. If we as consumers become informed, employ efforts toward making better sustainable choices and combine this all with a sense of pride in entertaining, we are having the proverbial cake and eating it too.

 

PATRICK: How do you mean that exactly?

 

WILLIAM: Well, Agent Cuccaro, as you know, many of our investigations have shown us that consumer choice and preference have a fundamental effect on our culture of living.

 

The food sense of Americans has multiplied times 100 over the past couple of decades. The emergence of The Food Network and the meteoric rise of food oriented media outlets has proven that. Along with this development, food manufacturing practices, distribution systems and the overall style of the American diet has changed. In the United States, we can actually say now that we have a true “advanced food culture” and that it compares favorably on numerous levels to other popular food cultures around the world. Along with this development has been the emergence of sustainable food sourcing, the focus on more environmentally friendly foodservice products.

 

PATRICK: Most importantly, the conversations about food have changed and seem to now always be “seasoned” with a hint of the desire to be sustainable. Last episode we talked about how corporate entertaining is almost at full speed again, albeit with a focus on the value for their spent dollars. But along with the emphasis on value has come corporate demand for Green practices applied to entertaining, meetings and major events. This is a direct result of the population growing as “foodies” and an enhanced understanding of the environmental impact.

 

WILLIAM: The restaurant and catering industries have changed along with the times. A few municipalities around the country have mandated certain Green health codes and practices, such as mandatory recycling in Seattle, Washington. I would love to see the day when this is nation-wide AND used as a part of the criteria for licensing restaurants, caterers and hotels.

 

PATRICK: I believe that the momentum is in the right direction, but it will be a very long time before we have mandatory recycling across the nation. The fact is that money talks and unfortunately,  many business owners and legislators take the short-sighted view that it’s more expensive to have a comprehensive recycling program in place than it is to simply dump waste in a landfill.

 

WILLIAM: Well, that won’t stop me or any of our readers from doing the right thing. We all know the day will come when our Green Revolution will prevail!

 

PATRICK: For sure! Now it’s just about that time, Agent Neal, for a great glass of Bordeaux. Round up some beverage ware and let’s have a glass or two of France’s version of Welch’s grape juice.

 

WILLIAM: We don’t need the glasses, Patrick, I have some great new biodegradable plastic cups in my desk drawer!

 

PATRICK: If you think I’m going to drink this fine elixir out of plastic, you are insane!

 

WILLIAM: Such a wine snob! Okay, I’ll get you the crystal…but YOU wash the glasses tonight, Mister!

 

To be continued…

 


 

When you’re eating on the run or going on a family picnic, do you think “Green”? How deeply does sustainability permeate your day-to-day life? Please share with us in the comments section below what your greatest challenge in “Going Green” has been.

 

Join us next week just before “Tax Day” when your agents will look at how your tax dollars are spent and in some instances wasted on ineffective transportation projects. They also investigate other regions of the world with progressive transportation policies and practices that are having a positive environmental impact.

 


 

This week’s 3Rs…

 

What is Revealed?

 

REVEALED: Verterra

 

 

 

 

What is Revered?

 

REVERED: Atlanta Airport Recycling Program

 

 

 

 

What is Reviled?

 

REVILED: Why are polystyrene products so yesterday?

 

 

 

 


 

Agent Cuccaro

Special Agent
Patrick Cuccaro
UNIT: Legacy Green
Affairs to Remember Caterers
Special Agent Patrick Cuccaro possesses an analytical mind and keen intellect. As Past Chair of the Georgia Restaurant Association (2012)—representing more than 4,000 restaurants and 100,000 employees—he casts a studied eye towards one of the country’s largest creators of waste—the food industry. Armed with a vision for…[more]

Agent Neal

Special Agent
William Neal
UNIT: Legacy Green
Affairs to Remember Caterers
Agent William Neal is a hardened professional in the culinary industry. Well…maybe not hardened, since his favorite quip is “Never trust a skinny chef!” Agent Neal has held some interesting posts throughout his career. Starting as a chef, he became a…[more]

 

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