Monday, October 15, 2007

Sustainable restaurants - myth or reality?

Associating food with environment usually takes one of three avenues:
  • Local production and consumption. - The notion underlying the 100 Mile Diet and other similar ideas is that when we consume food that is locally produced we also reduce our ecological footprint by minimizing transportation effects (e.g. carbon emissions from air freight) and other externalities.
  • Food security.- Closely associated with the previous item, the idea of food security is also associated to the availability of land (or lack thereof) and the varied uses this land can have. Ensuring that we protect enough land and designate it as are able to grow crops for human consumption is part of the food security debate.
  • Greening restaurants.- This idea arises from an understanding that food production does have environmental impacts, and that we can minimize those impacts through rational decision-making. The idea of 'sustainable restaurants' may sound counter-intuitive, but it is not that strange. The remainder of this post will describe a couple of ideas I discussed with Jason Antony from Green Table, a Vancouver-based group dedicated to greening restaurants.
Jason and I had a nice chat where we discussed the two basic pathways that Green Table is championing. The first is "greening restaurants" - that is, reducing the environmental impact your current food operation has. The second is "sustainable restaurants" - this idea is related to being the leaders of sustainability in the restaurant business. For example, if you are a small Indian food kind of hole-in-the-wall, maybe you'll want to switch from styrofoam containers to recyclable ones. Or maybe you'll increase the post-consumer recycled content (paper, plastic containers, etc.) of your operations.

Now, if you want to be at the forefront of sustainable restaurants, you may want to engage in a full-fledged green marketing campaign, and include a full in-depth analysis of your operations so that you can find ways in which your restaurant can meet high standards of sustainability.

Green Table also promotes an eco-labelling system (for participating members of the network). Their philosophy can be found here. I think this is an excellent idea and I look forward to knowing more about this!


Erika said...

Those are great ideas!

Terra Breads gave us two plastic platters with our large studio-wide order, and unfortunately they weren't the recyclable kind. I should go over there and throw a gentle, encouraging fit. ;)

I'm bracing myself for a few months of little else but potatoes, squash, carrots, onions, pears and apples when it comes to fresh produce. I think it's worth it. What about you?

Raul said...

Thanks for commenting Erika!

I agree, although I have to say that my favorite fruits always tend to be tropical (mango, melon, watermelon) and I have an obsession with berries (particularly blackberries). But these fruits are not going to be locally produced soon (with the cold temperatures!)