Karl Bruskotter and Josephine Miller are Environmental Programs Analysts for the Office of Sustainability and Environment for the City of Santa Monica. Together, they oversee many of the green initiatives taking place in the city, including the implementation of Meatless Monday.
Santa Monica’s campaign is off to a fantastic start, with participation from local restauranteurs, farmers, students and civic leaders. Members of the community have even come together to create a free Meatless Monday cookbook. We had a chance to chat with Karl and Josephine about the inspiration behind the campaign and what’s next for Meatless Monday in Santa Monica.
What inspired you to focus on food when looking at ways to go green?
Karl- There are just so many facets when discussing sustainable food: more than any other green topic that I’ve looked at. There’s the labeling issue, which is huge… the greenhouse gases and environmental issues, the personal health issues. Not to mention animal treatment and humanitarian issues. That’s why going meatless is so important to me. We’re lucky enough to have a city council that has directed us to make sustainable food a priority in this community.
Josephine- Because of my own passion for food, it’s really my number one favorite thing to do. I’m happy forming alliances with business owners, restaurants, retailers and the Chamber of Commerce.
Santa Monica’s food and sustainability efforts are all based on the guiding principles of the Cool Foods Campaign- can you tell us a bit more about that?
K- The Cool Food Campaign comes out of the Center for Food Safety and offers five points for reducing our food’s climate impact: eat organic, reduce meat consumption, avoid processed foods, eat locally grown and reduce packaging.
J- Having a Meatless Monday, shopping at the farmers market and using the Eat Well Guide are all easy actions people can take to support the Cool Food Pledge. In Santa Monica we have also been able to ban Styrofoam and other non-reusable food service containers.
Why do you think Meatless Monday is such a popular tool in communities?
J- It’s a great model for both individuals and complex organizations: the buy in is really quite easy. Employees or university students or school children can understand this and look at the impact of reducing their meat consumption one day a week; measure it.
It’s really helpful for the community to see one action they can take to make a difference and to know that there is a movement backing it up on a national level: that this is happening all around the country.
Your largest Meatless Monday project thus far has been a crowd sourced cookbook, featuring over 50 dishes from community members and supporting restaurants like Border Grill and Locanda Del Lago. Why did you decide to create this free recipe collection?
J- The mission was to get food vendors committed to [Meatless Monday] and to offer the community some creative options. So we asked our most famous chefs, our favorite farmers and great cooks from every stake holder group in the city: people in our senior centers and our community centers, in our school district, college and the local cooking schools. We asked them to share a recipe to celebrate Meatless Monday and the cookbook was based on that.
K- One thing that is really important to me when I’m talking to people about going meatless is the performance issue: is it going to taste good? Will it be nutritious and easy to figure out? So one of the things that I really wanted with the cookbook was to have a range of recipes that are complete with protein, taste really good and are easy enough to make. I’m a single dad with a daughter so I use myself as the test: can I pull this off?
What other Meatless Monday initiatives have you taken on? Are there more on the horizon?
J- Famous chefs in the community had a Meatless Monday competition at the Santa Monica Festival in May. They created sustainable meatless salads with produce provided by the farmer’s market. Everyone got to watch the competition and then judges shared their feedback with the chefs. It was really great, that kind of modeling -getting everyone conscious of how they can create a simple, inexpensive meatless meal in ten minutes or less- is such an important factor.
September is sustainability month, so we’re having four famous chefs meet the public and go to the farmer’s market to shop for produce. Then they’ll walk up to our community cooking school, learn how to cook with the produce they bought, and share the meal together. That will be our more official launch of the Meatless Monday campaign.
We’re also working with students at the cooking school this summer, teaching them about vegetarian options. Plus, the cookbook will continue to grow as we start sustainability month; more community members will contribute to the recipes and the group of people who feel ownership about it will keep climbing.