Originally posted on The Vacaville Reporter: This week we celebrate Earth Day, which focuses on responsibly using the resources of the planet.
Being “green” means we use what we need while we minimize the waste we produce. When I began working at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, I didn’t realize that we were also an environmental organization. Our primary mission is providing food to people in need and one of the main ways we are able to do that is by acquiring food surplus that would otherwise go to waste.
California grows enormous amounts of fresh produce which has a limited shelf life. Refrigeration and other technology extend the life of the fresh food, but millions of pounds of produce would go to waste if food banks did not exist.
Today more than half the food that the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano distributes is fresh produce. Because we have contacts in the agriculture industry, we receive donations of produce by the trailer load.
Local residents are also saving perfectly good food from being wasted in residential backyards.
Often people have fruit trees and gardens that produce much more than their family and neighbors can consume. An orange tree, for example, can produce hundreds of pounds of fruit; far exceeding the needs of a few individuals. We are thankful that groups like Urban Farmers, Food Rescue and the Concord Diablo Rotary club have volunteers who are willing to gather and donate fruit from backyard trees. Instead of the fruit falling to the ground and perishing, these volunteers ensure that it goes to the people in need within our community.
We try to make sure that we conduct our business of feeding people in need, in the most environmentally responsible way possible. This includes working to conserve natural resources.
We installed solar panels on the roof of the 30,000 square-foot warehouse that we own in Concord. Those panels produce nearly all the energy we need for our commercial refrigerators and freezers, as well as for our computers, lights, etc.
In both of our Fairfield and Concord warehouses, we had an analysis of our energy use done by PG&E so we could take steps to limit our energy consumption. We have screens in our refrigerator doors to help keep the cold air inside as our forklifts transport food in and out of the refrigerators. We installed energy-efficient lighting throughout our warehouse and offices.
We also use a software program called Roadnet that helps us track our drivers as they drive their routes, allowing us to divert them so they can immediately pick up items, saving gas in the process.
The people we serve benefit from us working with the agricultural community and backyard gardeners to save over ten million pounds of food from waste.
The environment benefits from us using solar technology and adhering to other “green” ways of doing business.
Our society, as a whole, benefits when we all try to honor Earth Day every day.