Boston Film Festival

The 29th annual Boston Film Festival took place this weekend at the Revere Hotel’s Theatre 1.  The festival usually has a feature film that pulls in a celebrity or two – Andy Garcia this year.  I am happy to see that organizers are allowing this event to be a platform for discussing environmental issues.  Last year there was a screening of a nearly-finished copy of Greedy Lying Bastards, a film that put the spotlight on climate change denial and those behind the PR campaign to confuse the public and prevent meaningful discussion on the topic.  This year journalist Angela Sun presented Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.  The documentary chronicles Sun’s journey to Midway Atoll to investigate the effects of the swirling mass of trash in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  Circulation is concentrating North American and East Asian trash, particularly plastics, here and enormous amounts of it wash up on shore at Midway.  Sea birds, albatross in particular, and other animals are at great risk – the contents of the stomachs of dead ones opened up reveal the extent to which they ingest plastic.  The only solution is to stop creating so much trash – refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle – and responsibly dispose of what we do create.

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A local film by Billerica-based Brian Dorrington made its debut on the last night of the festival.  George of the Center focused on the efforts of one man to preserve the historic town center of Billerica from a highway project.  While I think the film suffered a bit from a lack of context, it was more about the person of George Simoularis leading the fight against the town council than the issue itself.  The film suggests the board of selectmen were subverting democracy by purposely keeping the construction plans quiet and holding an unpublicized special election, essentially hoping public disinterest would allow the project to pass.  A large group of Billerica residents turned out for the screening.

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Vegetarian Food Festival

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The 18th annual Vegetarian Food Festival took place this weekend again at the Reggie Lewis Athletic Center in Roxbury.  Compared to last year it was even bigger and busier!  It was utterly packed mid-day on Sunday when I stopped by.  Organized by the Boston Vegetarian Society, this free event draws in crowds to sample new vegetarian products and become acquainted with local businesses such as vegan bakeries and restaurants.  Programming also included cooking demonstrations and speakers focused on health topics such as weight-loss and disease prevention through nutrition.  Like the Local Food Festival, bins for recyclables and composting were actively managed to keep waste to a minimum.

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Other vendors and organizations at the festival were those concerned about animal welfare and the environment.  There were several companies exhibiting products made from vegan leather as well as organic cotton and hemp clothing.  The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (seen on Animal Planet’s Whale Wars), Humane Society, Mass Voters for Animals and other such activist and non-profit groups had tables as well.

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Local Food Festival

The Rose Kennedy Greenway was lined with white-tented booths last Sunday for the Local Food Festival put on by the Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts.  Touting “healthy local food for all”, this free event was bustling despite the drizzle.  Local farmers, restaurants, specialty food makers and other organizations convened to offer samples and demos as well as to spread the message of sustainability.  This was also a zero-waste event with separate bins available for compostable and recyclable trash and plenty of volunteers to help you figure out what to do with that plate in your hand!  The website also says that they offset the energy for the event but it doesn’t detail how.

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Among the companies that caught my eye was Valley Green Feast which is a co-op that partner with Boston Collective Delivery to bring organic and sustainably grown produce (among other foods) to your door on bikes.  Currently they deliver to some towns in western MA but are soon expanding to Boston.  What appealed most to me was the option to customize your produce box.  Customers provide a list of items that they don’t want.  There are also options to supplement the regular produce with extra fruit and greens.  Signing up for a standing order reduces the delivery fee to $4 per delivery.  I am very excited to try this as I always wanted to purchase a CSA share but am too picky about the contents (my “no” list is quite long!).

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Another interesting find was Enterprise Farm located in South Deerfield.  They offer year-round organic CSA shares which as far as I can tell is quite rare in New England.  A yearly small share, enough for 1-2 people, is $952 which comes to less than $18/week!  They have pick up locations around Boston and Cambridge but also offer the option to have your box delivered to homes and offices through Metro Pedal Power.  Additionally, memberships help to support their Mobile Market, a converted school bus bringing fresh produce to underserved communities in Springfield and Somerville.

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Also at the festival were investment companies promoting their socially and environmentally responsible mutual funds.  Among them was Green Century Funds which has two funds – Green Century Equity (GCEQX) and Green Century Balanced (GCBLX) – which are 100% fossil fuel free.  This is defined by the company as no investments in oil, coal or gas companies.  Both funds have relatively low turnover (not surprising since they are constrained by their objectives to avoid fossil-fuel based energy companies and to invest in companies with respectable environmental records) but higher than average expense ratios.  The flyer they handed out advertised a 4-star Morningstar rating but as of today they are both 2-star rated.

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Let’s Talk About Food Festival

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Copley Square was bustling this Saturday with the Let’s Talk About Food festival, sponsored by the Boston Globe and Whole Foods Market.  Part of a 3-day event which began Thursday at the Trinity Church, the mission is to foster “conversations” about food, emphasizing its centrality in everyone’s life and the need for greater awareness of how food is grown, distributed and prepared.  Talks were convened in the last few days to discuss food supply and sustainability in New England and issues concerning food and ethics.  The festival included cooking demonstrations and panels about such topics as school meals and sustainable fisheries.

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Vendors set up stalls to give samples of their products alongside non-profits promoting their causes.

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The Mahoney’s display showing how to grow food in various sized planters was intriguing and a potential project for my deck next spring.

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Along the St. James side of the square, the Museum of Science (a Let’s Talk About Food partner) had set up the “Endless Table”, a string of booths with themes like food justice, agriculture, labels and marketing.  Experts manned these tables to answer questions from the public.

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This is the largest annual event the organizers put on but they sponsor several others throughout the year with partners like the New England Aquarium and the Chefs Collaborative.

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