The Eighth Work of Mercy — Care for Creation will be defined by creative initiatives that take the level of design beyond the box and into an appreciation for ecology within the creative process of restoration.
Bernadette Sarouli had worked in a packaging firm in the San Francisco area until June 2015. Her office window used to face the back of her building where she saw deliveries and garbage pick-ups day in day out. It dawned on her how many oil containers, cartons and slats came in and out of their food service provider’s kitchen. Her curiosity consumed her so that as early as 2012, she had already started her research and development on a design whose goal was to totally eliminate waste. She discovered that those oil plastic containers were unrecyclable and ended up in landfills due to their exposure to air contaminants. Worse still, billions of these oil containers and packaging wastes occupy volumes in landfills apart from the water bottles that form islands in our oceans. “I thought about this huge problem but I remembered how David defeated Goliath. In my mind I believed I could do something about the problem.” Hence defines the start of Bernadette’s creative process.
Armed with her patented stainless steel fustis, Bernadette quit her job after three years of research and development. Still in the San Francisco area, she and her husband Lane Landry, placed betas for their company, Eco Refill Systems, LLC. Somewhere in the process they discovered something more signficant in the cooking oil distirbution system.
The problem was not only about the plastic oil jugs but all the packaging it included that inhibited these items from being recycled once they were exposed to air contaminants and residual oil. The food service industry would never spend more than they have to just sanitizing these units and packaging. As a result, they moved to integrate delivery and distribution into their business so that food service providers who place their orders would only have to turn the spout of the stainless steel fustis and let oil drip unto the cooking pan. This ushered the inception of the closed oil distribution system which meant total convenience to service food providers for the same cost but minus the hassle and waste when using plastic oil jugs.
The company’s goal is to eliminate all packaging wastes in the delivery of cooking oil to food service centers in the San Francisco area by providing a
closed oil distribution system. Whereas the open oil distribution system exposes oil and its containers to air contaminants, the closed system guarantees that delivery is done directly from bulk storage to kitchen users. This system radically eliminates any use for packaging. Eco Refill Systems delivers and replaces empty oil fustis as often as any food service provider needs to. Bernadette went to Twitter San Francisco and presented her service to their cafeteria. She had not have the chance to finish her spiel yet when Twitter director concluded, “This is a no brainer. We’re on board with this.”
Currently their business is confined to the San Francisco area and is growing steadily. As it is, they are able to eliminate 14,383 plastic gallon containers annually from being abandoned to landfills. This does not count the plastic lids and labels, the contaminated carton packaging and residual oil that are eliminated altogether. Their business has no competition and they have still a long way to go in engaging the food service industry to consider their company’s impact on the industry’s green practices. However, Bernadette and Lane are genuinely passionate about their quest to take down a Goliath in a systemic environmental degradation through their closed oil distribution system.
Eco Refill Systems’ goals are to refill, re-use and restore. Of these is a striking statement that comes from restore: “Our vision captures the ideal of food waste returning to the farmers whose hands and backs nurtures the earth.
This is the cycle that completes our mission and lends California our sustainability philosophy.” This embodies the integral ecology (Laudato Si , #137) which Pope Francis exhorts us to realize – to integrate care for creation in our concrete locations in society and within our relationships. The redemptive value of integral ecology hinges upon our compassion to direct and fashion our ablity to design and create solutions that bind the wounds of the Earth and of our relationships to one another. Bernadette and Lane started their company not only with the needs of the planet in mind but also of the people living in this planet. They have their hearts burning with urgency behind the Eighth Work of Mercy.