Loretta Rowe is a trained Climate Reality leader on the NOVA Chapter leadership team, member of the leadership team for Act on Climate Today! of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax, member of various environmental groups, and passionate gardener and vegan committed to spreading the word about what great things planting native plants and eating a whole food plant-based diet can do to help our one common home.

Last year I wrote about post-pandemic partying—but that has not happened yet and won’t, it seems, until we have this virus tamed! However, our first “close to the end of the pandemic” zero-waste shared meal is in the planning stage now, and we are excited about the prospect of breaking bread together in a planet-friendly way.

The “we” is the NOVA Chapter of the Climate Reality Project, and the event is a luncheon for volunteers signed up to remove invasive plants and plant trees as part of Plant NOVA Natives’ Celebration of Trees. The venue will be a bare roadside field in Prince William County on Saturday, October 23. (Interested in volunteering? Let Helene know at 350fairfax@gmail.com, and we will contact you.)

The mission of the Climate Reality Project is to “catalyze a global solution to the climate crisis by making urgent action a necessity across every sector of society.” Many chapter members are Climate Reality Project Leaders trained, by former Vice President Al Gore, to spread the word about this climate emergency. All members are knowledgeable and concerned about the importance of living sustainably. This shared knowledge and fierce commitment led to an automatic assumption that we would prepare and serve the lunches in a zero-waste manner. Our planning conversations are about how, not if, we can avoid the single-use plastics so prevalent at social gatherings. It is a delight to collaborate so naturally from our shared values.

So how do we do a zero-waste, i.e., Plastic Free, almost-post-pandemic luncheon? We provide bag lunches and snacks with whole food plant-based goodies.

To start, we have developed a menu of sandwiches from which people will make their selections using Sign Up Genius to avoid wasted foods. To the greatest extent possible, we will make these sandwiches using whole foods with a minimum of wrapping. Bread bags will be recycled with Trex at the local grocery store. Hummus can be homemade using chickpeas purchased from the bulk section of MOM’s collected in reusable produce bags. The fillings for the sandwiches will be made with foods purchased in glass containers. These sandwiches will be wrapped in compostable bags.

Each lunch also will include fruit (which naturally comes in its own Plastic Free wrapper), a cookie, and some trail mix, each in small compostable snack bags. The lunches will be assembled in brown paper bags, and we will provide a compost container for all of the bags and uneaten foods to be collected and to be composted at a local MOM’s or one of the county composting sites.

We will ask the participants to bring their own drinks, ideally in reusable containers, glass bottles, or cans, which we will collect and recycle. When we are finished feasting for the day, our bellies will be full and the field and trash cans empty of litter.

As I write this, my sense is “this is no big deal,” and it isn’t. That is the a benefit of zero-waste living—it is simple, and for the basics, not terribly difficult. And it feels good to be gentle on the planet.

—Loretta Rowe