The First Rule of Soup Club

David Suzuki is a personal hero if mine, so naturally I am subscribed to the David Suzuki Foundation e-mail newsletter. Back in the fall, an article caught my eye by Lindsay Coulter the ‘Queen of Green’. It was about a soup club she started at the DSF headquarters in Vancouver.

It’s very simple; you get some people together once a week, each is assigned a week to bring soup for everybody, everyone brings a bowl and spoon and you reduce the amount of take-out containers being consumed. Brilliant! I thought, I’ll do that in my office too! And I did. I sent out an e-mail to everyone on the floor and posted a sign up sheet in the lunch room. Before long I had six others willing to give a seven-week long Soup Club a try.

At the fist meeting we had some delicious soup and lively conversation, but more than half of them forgot to bring a bowl and came toting disposable dishes instead … one member, who happens to be my manager, used his daily morning Starbucks coffee cup for the entire duration of soup club. Not really the ‘R’ I was looking for. No matter, thought I, it’s the first day, next week will be better. But it turns out every week an average of 2/6 of my companions would use disposable bowls and spoons.

Week by week the amount of waste got progressively worse. People started bringing bread and using paper towels as plates to serve it on.  There kept being this sense of one-upmanship that by the sixth week (the week before it was my turn to bring soup) the member who was hosting used a disposable tablecloth, matching paper napkins, candles, and an assortment of bread dips and chutney that were all served in disposable bowls and spoons.

I was heartbroken. My little club that had set out to reduce waste while having a bit of fun had nearly filled a garbage bag after 7 people sat down for one lunch!

What was I supposed to do? Chastise my co-workers and manager for hijacking my idea and turning it into a waste-producing monster? End the club? We were all still having fun, getting to know each other, eating healthy meals, taking time out to re-charge in the middle of a busy day. There is value in all of that. But how to bring back the green component? By leading by example.

My week, the last scheduled Soup Club meeting, happened to be right before the Holidays. I set out to get my members a little gift that would kindle the green spirit in all of them. I went to the dollar store and bought seven simple bowls ($7) I went to the craft store and bought two porcelain paint pens ($10), and I got to work decorating.

Soup Club Bowls

I found a simple label template, which I taped on and used to outline the border. The letters and dots were freehand and are the extreme edge of my artistic ability. The beauty of the paint pens is that any mistakes (and there were many) are easily rubbed off if you move quickly, or use a bit of nail-polish remover. I am very happy with how they turned out and was very excited to present them at my Soup Club day.

I know everyone was expecting me to try to out-do the last host. But there was no tablecloth, no fancy dips, or candles, or napkins. Just a crock-pot full of home-made soup, and an individual bowl for each member who had joined me in Soup Club. Maybe no one got the message, they all said ‘thank-you and that the bowls were adorable. To each of them I said something like, You’re so welcome, thank you for joining the club! The idea is that you have a bowl you can use leave here at the office for Soup Club -if you want to sign up again- or you can use it at all the potlucks and bake sales throughout the year. And I left it at that.

Soup Club starts up again this week. We are 9 member s now, and almost all the originals are back. I have seen my bowls in-use at the office; drip drying in the sink or rotating in the microwave. So I am very hopeful that they will make an impressive appearance at our first meeting of the New Year and inspire our new members to follow suit. Because the first rule of Soup Club … you don’t produce garbage at soup club.

Dexter can't resist a photo shot.