8th Annual Chili Cook-off: Great Idea. Execution, Not So Much

Want to lose your craving for chili in a heartbeat? Just surround yourself with styrofoam.

I just got home from the 8th Annual Chili Cookoff, taking place at Parque Parota, an empty lot located next to Puerto de Luna Hotel in Puerto Vallarta’s Hotel Zone. The event, scheduled from 12 to 7 pm, offers a variety of food vendors competing for the best chili in town, along with a number of live bands to keep folks entertained. This is what I saw:

I know nothing about the Jay Sadler Project—the organization that presented the event—nor do I know if this is the first year they take over the cook-off, but it was pretty much impossible to disregard the outrageous amount of styrofoam being used.

Mexico began a fierce campaign against disposable plastic and styrofoam with laws approved by Congress in many states, including our state, Jalisco, on June 12, 2019. These new laws went into effect on January 1 with the expectation that supermarkets would stop using plastic grocery bags. Also in January, Jalisco approved a reform to gradually decrease the use of plastic and styrofoam in favor of the environment and to reduce contaminants that find their way to the Pacific Ocean.

In an effort to minimize my personal impact, I chose to be served on the same cup as I went from one chili presenter to the next, but more than one refused to serve me. “You’ll get your flavors mixed up,” a vendor said. I’d pretty much lost my appetite already, anyway.

Admittedly, I did spot a handful of brownish styrofoam trays, the color probably indicating that they are better for the environment, but this was the exception, rather than the rule.

One of the vendors present at the event was the Marriott, a company known for environmental programs. When I inquired about their decision to use styrofoam the guy in charge said “we got all materials from the organizer.” At that point, I walked over to the Jay Sadler Project booth to talk to someone. This is what their booth looked like. It was not even 2 pm and the event was scheduled to go until 7 pm:

Among all the attendees, I bumped into my dear friend Candace Shaw, who was the only person that I saw ready to tackle the event with the right environmental attitude:

For all I know, the Jay Sadler Project is a wonderful organization that brings goodness to a lot of people. But seriously, when it comes to looking after our environment, they have to do much better than that. Next year they should consider any of the following:

  • Encourage people to bring their own mugs.
  • Use paper cups instead of plastic and styrofoam.
  • Sell commemorative sampling cups made of recycled materials.

Participating chili vendors could also make a difference by bringing their own recyclable cups and put up a big sign to that effect. Even if their chili is not the best, they would get my vote over others.

Last but not least, other participating non-profits (Fundación Punta de Mita is mentioned among the sponsors/organizers), might do well to consider the environmental impact created by events such as this one before signing on again.

When it comes to protecting our environment, we all can and should do better than this:

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