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July 17, 2016

The Coconut Hunter: Combating Food Waste.

Author Photo: Cori Carlo

Did you know that falling coconuts kill more people world-wide than sharks each year?

I live in sunny South Florida—Fort Lauderdale to be exact. We’re a lucky bunch here with beaches, parks and waterways galore. We’re a thriving tourist destination and happen to be one of the yachting capitals of the world. It’s a melting pot of culture with tons of seasonal residents. I’m a native, raised in between horse farms and orange groves. I care deeply about the landscape, the old traditions and the (now scarce) pieces of undeveloped land. 

That being said, a few years ago just as the coconut oil/water trend was taking off, I noticed something that was appalling: coconut waste. I’m not talking about the waste products of these big coconut oil producing companies. I’m talking about the waste from our backyards. We have coconut trees everywhere. You can drive down any residential street on “bulk trash” day and find pile after pile of fresh green coconuts. They grow in such abundance that the residents regard their production as a nuisance and the fruits are thrown to the sides of the streets as yard waste. I have always used every coconut I have come across for every resource it provides and this new awareness haunted me. I know I can’t save every coconut out there. I mean after all, they do kill unsuspecting tourists…

Here’s what I do about once a week: I hop in my vehicle with my pole saw and machete, knock on people’s doors, scavenge through piles of palm tree debris, sometimes risk trespassing penalties just to save these wonderful joys of life. I’ve made friends pull over on the side of the road for me at a house while I run out and grab a bunch or two. I can’t resist! The thought that some landscaping company is going to come in with their electric saws and throw them all to the curb drives me crazy! I’ve found myself sprinting out of my car with no tools, literally hanging from a tree for a good bunch that I just can’t pass up. There are times I drive away from the scene thinking I’m insane for doing it, but once I get home with a trunk full of coconuts those thoughts wash away.

All good things are wild and free.” ˜ Henry David Thoreau

It’s a lovely ritual for me. I get into a rhythm. I thank each and every coconut I open for the life it is giving me, for the nourishment it is going to provide to my body. It connects me to the Earth. I fill glass bottles of the water for my loved ones. Even Molly, the French Bulldog, likes the meat for a treat. At the end of it all I feel that I have been of some kind of benefit. I am so grateful that these nutrient-rich, green and glorious coconuts didn’t end up in a landfill somewhere…at least for today.

Sidenote: I feel that by telling this to the Internet world, I am letting out a big secret…that all of a sudden the big, mass-production companies are going to move in and kick us all out of our homes and demand fields of coconut trees instead. But I guess until then, I’ll be here cleaning up the streets of Fort Lauderdale, one coconut at a time.

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Author: Cori Carlo

Image: Author’s Own

Apprentice Editor: Clifford Henry; Editor: Travis May

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