AREN'T ALL RESTAURANTS GREEN?
October 23, 2011
I have entered
many restaurants in the past year with the expectation that I was in for
a fine meal. In two instances, I got more than I expected and came away
with a positive attitude about the ecological and environmental stance
of the restaurant owners.
One of the
restaurants, in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., was called
Farmers & Fishers. I use the past tense because the restaurant had
to close following the flooding of Washington Harbour from Hurricane Irene.
According to its website, it hopes to reopen next spring. The other is
known as The Restaurant at the Willcox in Aiken, S.C. Both restaurants
serve "green" food--of the environmentally friendly type not
the Dr. Seuss green eggs and ham variety--and both operate on the principle
that they will serve food produced through sustainable agricultural practices.
& Fishers sustainable agriculture includes "raising food that
is healthy for consumers and animals" and that does no harm to the
environment. From a social perspective, sustainable agriculture also "supports
and enhances rural communities." Why would anyone object to a conservation
ecology approach that preserves natural biodiversity, is economically
viable, and provides excellent restaurant food to boot?
I spoke with
Shannon Ellis, owner of the Willcox, which is a hotel as well as a restaurant.
The theme of sustainability runs throughout the enterprise, and Ellis
and her staff are committed to a plan that makes it work. Their sustainability
statement includes a commitment to "seasonal cooking and procuring
ingredients that are grown and harvested from sustainable and local food
sources whenever possible." The menu features pasture-raised beef,
naturally farmed pork, organic chicken, and farmed and line-caught fish.
Processed and chemically preserved foods are excluded as is most food
that arrives in plastic containers. The restaurant simply does not do
business with companies that cannot meet its standards.
commitment to minimizing its environmental impact is evident through the
full dining experience, from acquiring the food to disposing of the waste.
The organization embraces the conscientious waste management strategy
promoted by environmentalists: reduce, reuse, recycle. We would all benefit
environmentally if every business were to strive to meet those same goals.
The restaurant's menu is "printed on 100% recycled product"
and "used cooking oil is collected and converted into biodiesel fuel."
The Willcox also strives "to conserve water and energy, reduce greenhouse
gas emissions, improve air quality, and minimize waste." They educate
their employees and encourage them to practice environmentally sustainable
approaches. In addition, they advise their commercial suppliers that management
values "the importance of environmentally respectful conduct."
That position is reinforced by having "an environmentally preferred
Ellis views her management of the Willcox as having a triple bottom line.
First, the business has to be financially sound. Otherwise, additional
bottom lines will be meaningless. Her second commitment is to the local
community, a plan borne out by purchasing the restaurant's food from regional
suppliers whenever possible. And finally, the environment is a key part
of the overall business plan. She notes that some economic decisions cost
money in the short term but pay off later with positive environmental
returns, a sustainable approach for a long-term business plan. All three
bottom lines described by Ellis should be the concern of responsible business
and restaurants, the idea that "going green" is good for the
financial bottom line is not a new one. National organizations such as
the nonprofit Green Restaurants Association (www.dinegreen.com)
and the Green Hotels Association (www.greenhotels.com)
were established in the early 1990s. State organizations also exist. The
South Carolina Green Hospitality Alliance (www.greenhospitalityalliance.com),
founded in 1993, is a nonpartisan program that focuses on environmentally
responsible food services and lodging throughout the state. The Willcox's
hotel and its restaurant have the admirable distinction of having earned
the highest ratings given by the alliance.
restaurant followed the green lead of the Willcox (www.thewillcox.com)
and Farmers & Fishers (www.farmersandfishers.com),
we would have a better, sustainable environment, not to mention some very
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