Happy hearts & Happy Bellies: Merakos & UBC students bring zero waste community building to

As UBC students with the Urban Ethnographic Fieldschool, we hosted a zero-waste community meal at Riley Park on June 14th with Merakos and the newly constructed community garden. For our class we were placed with the community garden, but with the collaborative nature of the community structuring, we were also granted the amazing opportunity to work with Merakos. Working with the two organizations really illuminated the commitments and aspirations of the larger community, which was exemplified throughout our inaugural community meal.

The organizers of the dinner!

Community members share with each other by circulating information, inviting each other to events, working collaboratively to develop a garden space and by recycling/sharing objects between each other to reuse and enact sustainability. Walking along the vibrant and lively Main St. we entered a variety of shops to ask for donations of food that would have otherwise been discarded to contribute to the zero-waste meal we were hosting. We invited employees, spoke to enthusiastic managers and received boxes of donations from Whole Foods, The Juicery Co., The August Market, Caffe Artigiano, Nesters and The Continental. Additionally, some shops did not donate any food because they already practice Zero-waste, which really demonstrated how community members and shops are aligned with their underlying philosophies of sustainability and zero-waste. Without the donations from our sponsors, this event would not have been possible so we would like to say a huge thank- you for allowing us to feed approximately 45 people!

From the help of encouraging and enthusiastic donors, in conjunction with a sponsorship from Merakos through the Vancouver Small Neighbourhood Grants and the ‘Greenest City’ initiatives, we were able to put this event together in the short time frame of two-weeks. Selina and Rebecca, the two directors of Merakos, provided us with great guidance by checking in constantly to ensure that we were well supported throughout the rganizaiton of the event and during the actual event itself. The event was based in the narrative of ‘zero-waste’, illuminated by our ability to feed a community with food that otherwise would have been discarded. Community members of all ages came complied with our request and came with plates and cutlery in hand to decrease paper and plastic waste! A community band came and played amazing Jazz music creating a welcoming ambiance that people could converse over or get up and dance post-food consumption.

Using food as a means to gather community members allowed us to teach people about zero-waste methods and to create a connection between individuals who live in the neighbourhood by networking with community organizations. When community members work together to support each other, sharing food, plates, cutlery, laughter and conversations, connections are made and relationships are formed. We are so grateful to have had the opportunity to throw a community event with Merakos and the Riley Park Community Garden and will forever remember that when people work to support each other, bellies can be fed and great things can happen!

Superstar students Kiarmin, Madison and Ivan!