Before governments started banning plastics and other non-recyclables, the Green Market Santa Cruz in Trinidad started encouraging ‘green’ behaviour by inviting patrons to use recyclable/reusable bags and containers at the weekend farmer’s market over the last few years. Founded by Vicki Assevero and Wendell Mottley back in 2012, the outdoor market is a calling card of the Santa Cruz area known for its luscious greenery and neighbouring cocoa plantations.
Canopied by a bounty of leaves from the trees and flowering plants just above, the wooden huts erected as vendors’ stalls are nestled into hill; creating a warm, rustic space filled with natural light. Once earmarked for agricultural use and initially used as an anthurium and orchid farm, the Green Market now hosts dozens of local artisans whose sustainable philosophies are aligned with the market’s eco-initiative.
“I wanted to understand the practice of sustainability and I particularly wanted to figure out how to create a a new relationship between consumers and producers of food; and whether a more circular relationship would lead to a healthier food production system. It was very important to give value and worth to local products so that consumers are not dazzled by foreign products cleverly marketed, but not necessarily healthy. I have noticed people are happy when they visit because of the trees, flowers and plants growing. It’s stress reducing and there is a sense of community, which people are longing for,” Assevero added.
Among the bread sellers and cocoa tea makers, there are also invited representatives from local and global organisations whose mandates are designed to aid developing nations by supporting healthy lifestyles, highlighting cultural and culinary heritage, as well as encouraging public dialogue between governments and the general public. At a recent Saturday morning talk to celebrate World Food Day, Devern Calvin Smith from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), reinforced the importance of using local agriculture as part of a healthy lifestyle.
“These include increase our intake of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and whole grains, as well as limiting the consumption of foods that require an excessive use of natural resources, such as water, to be produced. Consider the environmental impact of the foods we eat and as much as possible, eliminate consumption of industrialised and convenience foods to favour more diverse and traditional foods, in an effort to support local biodiversity. Learn or revisit lessons about local, seasonal foods, their nutritional values and how to cook and preserve them.”
Assevero also noted she sees a path forward especially since more Caribbean countries are banning toxic non-recyclables and investing in alternative energies. Wanting to engender more involvement in the market, she adds, “I want to encourage greater inclusiveness and participation by all the stakeholders in advocating and creating a healthy population and environment. I would like to see the model replicated with special emphasis on the deep ecology, which means creating the market in the midst of the economic activities that generate and sustain it. Finally, I want to motivate a cadre of young people to create innovative careers in the areas of agro-ecology, food system development and environmental protection; and to see a transition to new younger innovative leadership at the Green Market.”
Echoing Assevero’s sentiments are the political declarations outlined in the UN draft resolution of political declarations based on the discussions held during the recent UN General Assembly high-level meeting to review progress made in addressing the priorities of small island developing states through the implementation of the SAMOA Pathway.
While Assevero and her team are focused on maintaining a sustainable and enjoyable experience, the market is first and foremost a beautiful outdoor area designed to welcome people from all the world; both human and pets alike. Coming off numerous festivals celebrating local food, from avocado to vegan, the market is a bustling affair filled with the sights, sounds and smells of Trinidad.
Popular items include natural fruit ice lollies that taste exactly like the fruit they’re made with, mouth watering empanadas made on the spot, artisan breads made with vegetables, the freshest of freshly made juices and savoury and sweet crepes. Adding even more value to the Green Market as a sustainable resource hub, the space also became a drop-off point for local company, Ecoimapct. The company’s sole service is to collect used cooking oil to be filtered and exported to the Europe and some parts of the US to be turned into bio-diesel.
As citizens become more interested in sustainable living, businesses and governments are also taking the issue of climate change and the impacts on the environment seriously. It bodes well for both large and small businesses, especially local enterprises focusing on using Trinidad’s bountiful natural resources. The Green Market Santa Cruz is a prime example of a “green” initiative that can have positive effects on local culture, economy, tourism and influence more mindful purchasing behaviours.
When asked if more can still be done, Assevero answered frankly, “Always. We have a degraded environment in many parts of T&T. I would really like to see urban and spatial planners re imagine and re plan how we live, work and play together.