My top 5 reasons are:

1. You don't source your ingredients locally or seasonally, preferring to buy from a multi-national wholesaler who only cares for profit and not the amount of carbon their trucks destroy my planet with. Because you don't buy your ingredients seasonally you customers have the choice of bland monocultured fruit and veg that's got as much nutrition as the nasty plastic packaging it came in.

2. You don't care about animal welfare, preferring to buy battery farmed chickens that can't stand up properly, that suffer horrible diseases and live in virtual darkness. The eggs these poor creatures produce taste crap and they have to be fed on coloured feed in order to produce a yolk that looks yellow. I could also mention all the other animals like veal calves, but I think you get the picture.

3. You don't recycle the waste your restuarant produces, preferring to stick it all in a plastic bag and hope the landfill won't contaminate the water you drink. You could instead compost the fruit and veg waste, recycle the cardboard, glass and PET plastic and return the shipping boxes back to the wholesaler to use again. Bit more work, but...

4. You waste energy. Why aren't you using low energy light bulbs? Why haven't you replaced that fridge with a low energy one? Why haven't you turned the thermostat down 1 degree? Think of the money you'd save - oh, so now you're interested...

5. You are still serving cod and other endangered fish. Your argument is "it's what the customer wants..." So what are you going to do when those species have gone? Over fish another one?

Of course, you could say "So what? I don't what this guy as a customer", but what if I'm not the only one who won't eat at your restaurant, what if there were more, hundreds even, would you care then?

What's it going to take?

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Comment by Jeff Klemetsrud on April 29, 2008 at 3:17pm
I am not the best at this but when you want to make a point you should proofread your rant so that it seems a little bit more credible. Other wise some points are good although nothing grows in MN in the winter.
Comment by Julia Rose on April 29, 2008 at 11:25am
It isn't that hard to reuse, reduce, and recycle the waste that comes from a restaurant. Our latest addition to help saving the environment is our food compost bin. It's right by the dish, next to the "other trash bin." We also recycle glass, plastic, aluminum, and when menus are changed out we use the paper as scrap paper and coasters for a few dishes.
Comment by Randy Caparoso on April 29, 2008 at 7:47am
Thanks for your frank and concerned response, Mark. I'm 100% with you -- these issues need to be addressed by every one of us. Not just our businesses, but also individually. Most importantly, I think since consumers themselves are moving in that direction, they will respond positively to changes made by restaurants benefitting the environment, making it more than worthwhile to go that extra mile.
Comment by Mark McKellier on April 29, 2008 at 2:35am
Thanks for all the comments.

I wrote this as a customer, rather than as someone who knows how restaurants work and the economics involved.

It was written deliberately to provoke the reactions it's got, to make it's readers defend their current operations and to make them consider changing where possible.

No restaurant exists that has achieved my top 5, but I have found a few that are making positive steps to change and their customers are changing with them.

I'm not some loony environmentalist going around asking the impossible, you can't ignore these issues any more, or greenwash your business to look like you care. The time to change, however small, is NOW.
Comment by Randy Caparoso on April 28, 2008 at 7:38pm
... although ironically, tday we went to another alternative style store and bought bulk cereals, grains, pastas and rices... but the only thing they give you to put them in is plastic bags...

Then again, what else are you supposed to put them in? It would be a disaster to try to pack three pounds or rice or flour in paper bags!
Comment by Randy Caparoso on April 28, 2008 at 7:33pm
How about that, Carol... here in Colorado, even the health food stores (from small independents to Whole Foods) still offer paper or plastic. Of course, this past Earth Day we were gifted with a reusable cloth bag by Whole Foods (Safeway was offering them for dollar donations to a local cause), adding to our collection of about five of 'em. Today we went grocery shopping and remembered (for once) to bring it...

Like I said, it's slowly but surely for each and every one of us. Meanwhile, I would hate to see any good, well meaning restaurant go out of business because they are not lily white pure environmentalists. As you well know, cost cutting is getting hairy right now...
Comment by Randy Caparoso on April 28, 2008 at 6:31pm
Gathering from everyone's responses, I guess things are a lot more peachy keen over there in the UK where Mark is eating out. Or are they? Mark, I think maybe you need to defend yourself here. Just how "green" are all your restaurants? If you're going on a high horse, perhaps you better draw us a picture of that horse.

Here in the U.S., we're not all philistines. More and more restaurants are implementing many green philosophies. At the moment, I'm consulting for two different projects (restaurants opening later this year) in two states, both planning as many green policies as possible (purchase of local vegetables, support of free range, humane, hormone/antibiotic-free livestock ranchers, recycling material in the furniture and recycling disposal, etc., etc.).

Yes, we can make the world a better place; and after being in the restaurant business for over thirty years, all I can say is that it takes one step at a time, and an effort from entire communities as much as individual businesses.

In the meantime, speaking for many American restaurateurs: right now our priority is to maintain costs through a difficult economic period. If we can do it while also being environmentally pure, we will. But given the choice between possibly going out of business or giving out the occasional plastic bag for someone's takeout... I think we'd most of us would say screw it, take the f-ing plastic bag.
Comment by Chris Moyer on April 28, 2008 at 8:49am
I get where you're coming from, I just try and remind people that when you want a salad, you want a salad. There's a very limited supply of locally grown lettuce in Chicago, in January. I'm not paying $20 for a side salad and neither are you.

The issue isn't as simple as many people make it seems. I have read and witnessed first hand the realities of blanket statements like"locally grown" has a better carbon footprint. That's not always true.

The bigger issue really is "what are we putting in these transportation vehicles?" We find a solution for fueling the delivery vehicles, we find part of the solution for decreasing carbon footprints associated with the delivery of food.

I recommend reading "Plan B 3.0" by Lester Brown. He thinks very globally on "greening".

As far as the animal welfare thing, just remember that human race uses over 25% more resources a year than the Earth can support and there is still people starving to death. Some concessions will have to be made. Compromise is the backbone to reasonable solution. Dealing in absolutes will only lead you down the path of the "Dark Side".

I like what you have to say. Keep it up!




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