Practicing What We Preach: Recycling at Our Annual Cooking for Solutions Event

The Cooking for Solutions Gala is a remarkable event that takes place each May. In one evening dozens of restaurants and wineries set up stations throughout the Aquarium and over 2,800 epicureans stroll throughout the galleries sampling outstanding wines, seafood and other fine fare. While all this activity goes on inside the building, others are behind the scenes carrying out a seemingly impossible mission—to eliminate virtually all refuse from this event.

The whole idea of Cooking for Solutions is to highlight sustainable agriculture and sustainable seafood—helping us all learn how to make good food choices that contribute to healthy land and healthy oceans. Yet it might seem a little incongruous that thousands of disposable plates, cups and utensils are used in a celebration of sustainability. Not so with Cooking for Solutions. Each guest is given a wine glass and wooden tray (reusable/recyclable) to hold their food and wine samples. Compostable plates are used for some food samples. Disposable cups are made from vegetable-based materials instead of plastic, and are also compostable. Even spoons, forks and napkins are manufactured from compostable material.

Behind the scenes a dedicated crew of sorters is standing by in the Aquarium’s corporation yard. As trash receptacles are emptied inside the building the bags are brought outside for the sorting crew to examine. They quickly separate out any items that may not be compostable and send the rest on to a special bin that has been brought in for the event. Wine bottles are all recycled. The final result: from hundreds of pounds of refuse, only a few pounds actually wind up in the landfill. All the rest goes to compost or recycling.

In a world where many resources are increasingly scarce, the old saying, “Waste not want not” takes on a new meaning. If we learn to reduce our waste stream, and make smart use of resources and reuse/recycle where possible, we may avoid wanting for those resources in the future. The Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, and our support of sustainable agriculture, are all about the wise use of our land and sea resources so we will never want for food. That’s the solution we’re cooking up and it’s a great recipe for a future we can all savor.

View photos of our Gala event

Learn more about Seafood Watch.

—Jim Covel, Senior Manager of Guest Experience Training & Interpretation


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    Wish Malaysians take this issue more seriously. *sigh…
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About me

The Monterey Bay Aquarium, perched on the edge of a world-famous coastline, is your window to the wonders of the ocean. It’s located on historic Cannery Row in Monterey and is open daily except Christmas Day.

For more information about our animals and exhibits, and to view our live web cams, please visit

Hours of operation vary by season. Daily schedules and tickets are available on our website or by calling
(831) 648-4800.