Sao Paulo mall grows roof-top vegetable patch for employees

A “green roof” atop a Sao Paulo shopping center uses compost made from food court leftovers to grow fresh produce for employees.

Waste from the food court in a busy Sao Paulo shopping mall is being transformed into organic compost to grow vegetables and herbs for the mall’s employees, in a drive towards sustainability high above the densely populated concrete city.

The so-called “green roof” project at El Dorado mall follows the simple objective of making food from food and aims to process 400 kilograms of organic waste generated daily in its restaurants and cafes. The project, in South America’s largest metropolis, also makes novel use of the roof-top location in a city where space is at a premium.

After the leftovers are gathered, enzymes are added to accelerate the process of decomposition, as head of recycling Cicero Evangelista explains.

“The recycling process begins in the food court. The employee separates the waste when it comes to the recycling center, which I am responsible for. We weigh the material and add enzymes which were developed by Professor Lazaro. What is the role of these enzymes? They eliminate bacteria, reduce humidity and accelerate decomposition. This is how we turn organic waste into organic compost,” Cicero told Reuters on the green roof above a city of 11 million people.

With the compost, collaborators plant a variety of pesticide-free vegetables including aubergine, onions, peppers, chilies, lettuce, ginger, tomato, courgette, and cucumber as well as basil, mint, strawberries and even lavender.

“We notice that people waste a huge amount of food, so beyond our objective of creating organic compost, we use this to create new food. It is a cycle in which we make food out of food. This is what it means to be sustainable,” Evangelista added.

The project aims to gradually reduce the amount of degradable waste sent from the mall to rubbish dumps, so that none is sent in five years’ time, further reducing carbon emissions from transportation.

In order to achieve this, workshops will be run with restaurant and shop workers to inform them on how best to collect the rubbish from their stores.

And the efforts are repaid, as the produce from the green roof is distributed among collaborators, such as Niene Lopes, who works in the food court, cleaning plates and separating waste.

“The initiative is active, creative and they distribute the produce among us, so it is very good. It is a way of reducing waste, creating this here and we receive food which we don’t have to pay for, that’s the best part!” said Lopes as she picked up her lettuces.

 

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