My Experience as a Youth Ambassador for the United Nations: Initiating Sustainable Practices

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On Thursday, February 14, 2019—yes it was Valentine’s Day—I showed the earth some love by attending a Civil Society Briefing at the United Nations Headquarters entitled Bridging Sustainable Practices Across Industries: Focusing on Food, Film, and Waste Industries. The briefing was educational and truly inspirational. There were panelists who discussed their sustainable practices and shared stories of how they use their own communities to spread their sustainable vision. The speakers were admirable earth activist who had great advice on how we all can practice more sustainable lifestyles. Two of the speakers that stood out the most to me were Erycka de Jesus and Tama Matsuoka Wong. Other speakers discussed great topics pertaining to international agriculture development, New York City initiatives, the power of plants, and more. I personally connected with de Jesus and Wong because they exuded a passion and sense of curiosity that I felt many of the students here at The Culinary Institute of America also display.

Tama Matsuoka Wong is a forager, weed eater, and meadow doctor who turns wasted food and scraps into plentiful meals. The message that Wong was spreading was “cook before you compost.” That is something that all of us, especially those of us in the food industry, should be practicing, especially during a  time where hunger is a serious problem. Not only can waste be expensive, but it is disrespectful to the earth. As leaders, we must not neglect our responsibility to preserve our resources and use them wisely.

The world endlessly consumes major crops like soy, corn, wheat, and rice. These crops show up in nearly everything we eat, but there are millions of other edible plants available out there. According to Wong, our stressed food system can be helped by adding foods that we consider “wild.” A lot of the plants that we pass by every day are edible and nutritious. For example, the East Coast Juniper, grows wild and has a pine-citrus flavor that could make for a great granita. According to Wong, the East Coast Juniper taste even better when it is “under ripe.” That naturally lead to the question, “Who decided when fruit was ripe or over ripe?” However, we collectively agreed to that decision, it has given too many people an excuse to throw out flavorful fruits and vegetables simply because they had a few harmless brown spots. Its really time we start questioning more rules and creating solutions.

Erycka de Jesus is an “inner-sustainabilist” who works to empower youth and educate communities in New York City. She talked about the important of understanding the cycle of food—where it really comes from and where it will end up. Many people think that food just appears in grocery stores and on their plates, but by connecting people to food’s origins and roots can start the conversation about how to make real changes. de Jesus had a very empowering message. She asked everyone at the briefing, “What is sustainability?” Many came up with phrases like “maintain resources” and “ecological balance,” but what she really wanted us to ask ourselves was “What does sustainability look like in our own lives?”

For some, the answer to that question is clear, but for others, it is a journey of learning and applying lifestyles that will allow them to be more aware and take initiatives in their own community. Then we can all show the earth some love.

By Khori Eubanks

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