Restaurant Brands Leading the Way with Sustainable Practices

Do-you-like-kiwi-pitaya! [sung to the tune... do you like piña coladas🍹] #laneyandlu #eatconsciously #livevibrantly

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By Kerri Adams, Editor-at-Large

With research and science making us acutely aware of the impact we have on our environment, the sustain movement is building momentum. 

The future generation’s food supply depends on the eco-friendly efforts we make today. With that in mind, many restaurant brands are doing their part to reduce their carbon footprint. 

We decided to sit down with operators from three restaurant brands paving the way with sustainable practices to see what advice they have for other restaurants wanting to adopt more of these types of programs.

What are some of the sustainable practices being used by the restaurant?

Jennifer Desrosiers, founder of Laney & Lu:

Laney & Lu is a vibrant food community café, and our actions and mission are guided by our core values; one of which is mindfulness and personal accountability. To me, sustainability is all about being mindful of our precious resources: our own, our community’s, and our planet’s.

Building and inspiring community is at the heart of everything we do, and we believe we have a responsibility to make a meaningful contribution beyond just serving delicious food. The 'right' food nourishes our souls, fuels our joy, and connects us with the earth. We work with over a dozen farmers and merchants throughout New England to source locally whenever possible and positively impact local eco-systems.

L&L also utilizes compostable, recyclable, and reusable smart packaging with a commitment to being 'zero waste' to the customer. We compost our food waste or give it to local pig farmers. In addition, our cleaning and sanitizing agents are Green Seal Certified and our paper supplies are made from 100% recycled materials. I could go on. 

Tanya Li, assistant director of operations at Flour Bakery + Cafe: 

Whenever possible, we reuse food items that cannot be sold but can be repurposed. Some examples would be day-old focaccia bread or sticky buns made into bread pudding, day-old multigrain bread made into multigrain croutons for our salads, or the crushed raspberries which remain after making raspberry syrup become the filling for our lemon raspberry cakes.

Additionally, any food items we cannot reuse are donated to Lovin’ Spoonfuls (a food rescue program in Boston) which they then distribute to food banks or shelters. All of our bakeries and our commissary kitchen compost their food waste and recycle. 

We use compostable to-go containers in our Cambridge bakeries, where we also do not carry plastic bags. We also have a special "green coffee" price, which is $1 for drip coffee if a guest brings in their own mug. This has been a great initiative to reduce cup waste with our guests.

Kathleen Richardson, founder of The Urban Farmhouse Market & Café:

First, we're very mindful of every product we use within our cafe or market. We research every ingredient and manufacturing process as thoroughly as possible. We are always looking to improve and find better, cleaner and more sustainable products. This has gotten somewhat easier since we first opened in 2010.

We source sustainable products, from food to our paper goods. We have always paid a premium to ensure our paper and cutlery products are utilizing recycled materials and will have less impact in the landfill. We source products made from corn, wheat and sugarcane for ToGo Ware. We recycle and compost. Sometimes this can be challenging in some urban areas and because of our small size. We often have to lug our recycling to the nearest Recycling Center because we do not have the space to have dedicated Recycling Bins.

We compost - partnering with a wonderful local organization, Tricycle Gardens, who uses it to fertilize their urban gardens. We also have our own Compost Bin for our suburban cafe, because we have land to support it. This means more effort on the part of our Farmhands but we believe we need to "walk the talk" that our customers are passionate about.

We have also implemented for many years, a unique wine purchasing program called O-B-S-L. We ask our Wine Distributors to vet through a 3rd Party that the wines we carry in our markets are either Certified Organic, practice Biodynamic or sustainable practices or are local (within 100 miles). We are always looking for new opportunities to be mindful of the importance of sustainability.  

What advice do you have for restaurants looking to implement eco-friendly initiatives? What immediate changes can they implement?

Jennifer Desrosiers, founder of Laney & Lu:

First and foremost, I recommend that restaurant owners evaluate what sustainability means to them and their team. What excites you? What excites your team? If you set forth sustainability initiatives based on things that are meaningful and you are passionate about, it is likely you will be more willing to invest the time, energy and money, again all precious resources, into making the change successful.

People want to feel like they are contributing to something bigger than themselves. In a lot of ways, sustainable practices will cost your business more. Smart packaging, environmentally friendly cleaning agents, etc. are at a premium over their counterparts, but I believe they set forth a better experience for our customers and team. 

Consider forming a Sustainability Committee with team members across all levels of your restaurant. Get them involved and empower them to identify opportunities to reduce waste and add value.

Tanya Li, assistant director of operations at Flour Bakery + Cafe:

I would recommend other restaurants take a look at what can be reused and what gets thrown away daily- there are so many options for day-old bread! 

If you care as much as we do about giving back to the neighborhood, researching food rescue programs or food banks in your neighborhood will ensure that unsold food goes to a good home. Composting food waste and recycling are also easy, immediate changes that just involve changing waste management organization. And with our "green coffee" initiative, offering incentives to your guests to bring in reusable mugs is a great way to incentivize being green.

Kathleen Richardson, founder of The Urban Farmhouse Market & Café:

Start with what is easiest to execute and following through with education for your staff. They need to understand the importance and work with you to follow through. When it gets down to it, doing the right thing is sometimes harder, especially for a smaller organization. There is additional work involved to Recycle, Compost and put in the time to source better products. Sometimes these products cost more but we're finding the cost difference is becoming less and those are the areas to start.

Partnering with local organizations can help - we have been partnering with Tricycle Gardens for years and they have supported us as we've grown. Also, our Landlords recognize the importance of providing facilities to help recycle. This has become less expensive. We started with an idea in mind to be more mindful but we are finding that we are still able to incrementally improve each year. This is a great story to share with our customers.