A Shade of Green Not in the Rainbow

Prior to walking down the emerald isle, I had the chance to talk with friends and fellow classmates about unique attributes of Ireland, and, more specifically, Dublin. One prominent observation was how green the city is. Yes, Dublin is literally green in terms of color, but that isn’t the definition of green I am referring to. I’m rather referring to their awareness of the environment and how our individual actions positively (or negatively) influence it. 

Working with a catering company has placed me in a unique position to witness these initiatives first hand. Since day one, phrases such as ‘food waste’ and ‘composting’ have been clearly communicated as values of Caffe Parigi. This priority is influenced by specific government regulations, along with the demand they are receiving from customers. For as many food operations I have seen or investigated, it’s been rare to have values relating to the environment at the forefront. There are a variety of variables that are different between Caffe Parigi and the other food operations I have seen, but perhaps the most significant is the location. Prior to arriving in Dublin, my look into food systems and supply chains have been limited to what happens in the United States. What’s important to consider is each and every country, and location specifically, is governed by different policies and regulations. Additionally, every country is influenced by different values of the people that make up that country. 

Considering I have been here just short of five weeks, I am unware of the entire picture or all of the factors that make up the food system in Dublin. It’s been interesting, however, to connect the dots between what I have observed simply by being a part of Caffe Parigi. It’s rather subtle. Consider the way food is packaged. A company could easily use an abundance of plastic simply by packing their food a certain way. Caffe Parigi continues to limit the amount of un reusable plastic they use, which limits their costs and the cost on the environment. All of the packaging used in their operation can be rinsed out and recycled at the conclusion of a meal. From what I have noticed, the act of recycling seems much more intuitive that I am used to seeing. There are initiatives that encourage recycling in the United States, but I don’t think it has become a universal action, nor does it represent the majority of what people do. 

I remember a conversation I had with my coworker Paulo last week relating to the environmentally friendly-ness of Dublin. I’ve been so curious about this element of Dublin that I’ve asked the majority of my coworkers about it. Paulo commented on his individual practices of bringing a reusable mug and relying on public transportation have become not only a priority, but a habit for him. Bringing a reusable bag or mug somewhere may seem like a small task, but, in the long run, those induvial actions have an impact on the amount of waste a community produces. It’s universal that grocery stores charge customers for grocery bags, which is something that induvial states are beginning to implement. 

A month in Dublin has allowed me to dip my toe in discovering pieces of their food system and why it is the way that it is. One particular ingredient has caught my attention: butter. A personal decision to not eat dairy means I don’t eat butter, but it’s been fascinating to hear comments about the contrast between the butter here versus the butter eaten back in the United States. Two of the other interns I work with are from the United States as well (one from Boston, the other from North Carolina) and they continuously comment on how delicious the pastries are. My boss commented on the quality of the butter being the potential variant between the quality of baked goods we enjoy here versus back home. As I thought about it more, it dawned on me how butter is an example of a product that is highly processed, which isn’t the case in Ireland. It’s amazing how much you can learn about your own country by going to another one (even if it’s related to something as seemingly mundane as butter). It seems that food in general is much less processed here, which I’m sure is influenced by a variety of factors. I’m hopeful that my upcoming time here will allow me to look into this more and inquire further into the food chain. It’s fascinating to think about how the way food is produced can reflect the values of the society that is consuming the food. I’m incredibly intrigued by this element of society and am thankful to be in a position to learn and discover not only about Ireland, but the United States as well.