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Steve Graham

Steve Graham photo courtesy of Steve GrahamSteve Graham is an award-winning freelance Web and magazine writer living in a Fort Collins, Colorado, neighborhood that will soon produce all of its own energy. He is a former newspaper reporter, editor and designer. He has worked for an alternative weekly and community newspapers in Colorado, and a large daily newspaper in California. Find links to some of his other writing at his Grahamophone blog.

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Can PB & J Save the World Starting This Earth Day?
Wednesday, 18 April 2012 10:00  |  Written by Steve Graham | Blog Entry

Making a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich photo by SyvwlchThis Earth Day, many cafeterias will be celebrating with a simple culinary classic that saves money and resources—while inspiring inexpensive, effortless sustainability: the peanut butter and jelly (PB & J) sandwich.

Sodexo, which runs college, corporate, hospital and nursing-home cafeterias, is turning to PB & J to honor the Earth. The idea is to convince its 10 million customers to eat plant-based meals, such as peanut butter and jam, that are “low on the food chain.”

The menu will include a Fluffer Nutter club sandwich, grilled peanut butter and banana with chocolate chips, toasted peanut butter baguettes with jelly dipping sauce, peanut butter pancakes with jelly syrup and PB & J muffins. Sodexo even offers the recipes and cooking demonstration videos online, in case you’d like to try them at home.

How Peanut Butter Protects the Planet
The Sodexo program is part of a larger ongoing PB & J advocacy campaign. Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs (SEE) wants everyone to pack a peanut butter sandwich instead of going out for a hamburger. SEE estimates that a peanut butter and jelly sandwich requires 133 fewer gallons of water, 24 fewer square feet of land and 2.5 pounds fewer greenhouse-gas emissions compared to a burger.

Sodexo believes that its one-day project will save 1.3 billion gallons of water, 12,400 tons of carbon emissions and about 5,500 acres of land if every customer plays along. Not to mention, a few institutional-sized vats of peanut butter represent a pretty cheap way to serve 10 million meals.

A Better Way to Mark Earth Day
Sodexo’s menu change is a low-key and creative way to mark Earth Day without greenwashing and gimmicks. (I’m looking at you, James Cameron, with your two-disc Avatar DVD release on Earth Day 2010, helping people celebrate by buying overpackaged, disposable plastic. How many times do you really expect people to watch all three hours again before realizing it’s neither an environmentalist treatise nor a particularly good movie?)

The PB & J project is also good marketing for a company that may not have obvious green credibility. I often struggle with the evident waste at cafeterias—the disposable plates and utensils, plastic-wrapped desserts and buckets worth of food likely tossed at the end of the day (or at the end of the meal in the case of diners with bigger eyes than stomachs). Therefore, I was surprised to see Sodexo honored for three years in a row by Sustainable Asset Management, and excited by their creative Earth Day project. I guess I won’t feel as bad next time I am in a hospital cafeteria.

Convincing the College Crowd
Hopefully, creative peanut butter recipes will help show that vegan cuisine doesn’t have to involve expensive arugula, unsatisfying rabbit food or hours of chopping vegetables.

Sure, it’s easier to throw a steak on the grill than to make an eggplant-and-tofu pasta sauce, but a peanut butter sandwich is quicker than either meal. To be sure, Smucker’s Goober-brand PB & J wouldn’t count as real food under Michael Pollan’s rules, but there is certainly peanut butter that is nothing more than mashed peanuts. [Try Crazy Richard’s brand peanut butter, containing nothing but peanuts. Also, some health-food stores let you grind your own. –  Ed] Likewise for jam made with little more than fruit. My great grandmother would recognize that as food.

So Sodexo is on the right track serving the lunchbox mainstay to inspire more sustainable eating. Of course, the main drawback for the company may be a drop in sales if more customers are convinced to pack PB & J sandwiches in their lunchboxes instead of patronizing a Sodexo cafeteria. However, this would make for a happier planet, which Sodexo owners and employees live on, too.

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Comments (1)add
Written by Victoria , April 21, 2010
Peanut butter is certainly a nice alternative to meat, but fluffer nutter? Is that the highly processed marshmallow-like substance? That shouldn't be eaten by anyone, vegetarian or not!
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