Greening of the Restaurant Industry and Home Kitchens

Reader Contribution by John Ivanko
1 / 2
2 / 2

Beside my ecotourism blogs, I’ve delved into some of the latest happenings within specific industries, like toys or recreational boating. This blog is no different, exploring the restaurant industry.

Even the hardiest of homesteaders may find themselves out on the road (perhaps at a MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR), looking around for a place to eat. In fact, the restaurant industry’s share of the American food dollar has risen from 25 percent in 1955 to 47 percent today, according to the National Restaurant Association. Of course, many of you grow upwards of 50 to 70 percent of your own food. Like us, you prepare much of it in your own kitchen, too.

However, during a visit to the NRA’s Restaurant Show this past May, my wife and I had a chance to taste how eating out — or in our home kitchen — can be better for the environment and our pocketbook.

Below are a few of our green finds, some for the home and others to bring up with your waiter next time you’re out for a bite.

1. Sip wine by the bag.

For those of us who don’t make our own wine from dandelions or farm-fresh fruit, Bonfire Wines’ Ignite and Ember, white and red wine blends respectively, ingeniously solve numerous issues associated with savoring wine at the same time. Their portable wine pouch uses fewer raw materials, chills in 65 percent less time, and has a fraction of the weight and space needs of traditional bottles — thus cutting down both transportation costs and carbon dioxide emissions related to hauling them around. The wine pouch’s innovative built-in spout keeps the wine fresh for four weeks after opening.

“Our packaging has fewer raw materials and an improved product-to-package ratio,” says Eric Steigelman, Bonfire Wines Founder and CEO, as he serves up a glass of his Ignite wine at the show. “Overall, our packaging creates 80 percent less carbon footprint than the equivalent glass bottle.” The math: one truckload of pouches saves fourteen truckloads of glass bottles; each pouch is 98 percent less weight than the equivalent glass bottle.

We sampled and enjoyed both their Ignite sweet white wine and Ember sweet red wine blends. Can’t wait until they come out with an organic option.

2. Skip the aluminum foil or parchment paper.

Instead, use the COOKINA Cuisine Reusable Cooking Sheet from Poirier Richard Inc. The cooking sheet creates a non-stick, easy-to-clean alternative to aluminum foil, parchment or wax paper. Place it on your sheet pan or baking tray to bake without oil. The sheet is easy to clean with soap and water afterwards and does not hold odors or flavors from previous uses. It is 100 percent non-stick and PFOA-free, reusable and reversible. The company also makes a COOKINA Gard Oven Protector to catch spills and a COOKINA Grilling Sheet for barbecues.  We should have picked these up years ago, given all the time, energy and water saved just in cleaning our cooking sheets before we discovered these.

3. Compost Your Disposables

Thanks to products like Stalk Market, Jaya and Planet+ Compostable Products from Asean, when using a reusable container is not possible, choosing disposable cups, plates, boxes or cutlery made from rapidly renewable natural materials like sugar cane, corn sugars, plant sugars and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood pulp is the next best thing. After all, compost is essential to any organic farming operation. Styrofoam is, well, so last Century.

4. Eat More Mussels

For seafood lovers, farmed mussels are one of the better options when dining out, especially given that more than 75 percent of the planet’s fish stocks are overly exploited. Rope-grown mussels do not require supplemental feeding since they filter tiny plankton from the water as their food, actually improving the water quality as they grow. Nor are they raised in crowded pens.

Quality, food safety and environmental stewardship guide Atlantic Aqua Farms’ certified organic mussel farming and processing in the pristine waters of Prince Edward Island in Canada. Marketed under the Canadian Cove brand, the rope-cultured mussels have been certified as an Ocean Wise Seafood Choice by the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program. The company also introduced the first 100 percent recyclable mussel pack.

5. Support Restaurants That Go Green

When you’re on the road and hunger pangs hit, consult the Green Restaurant Association’s listing of certified restaurants that had to exceed comprehensive evaluation criteria that cover everything from food sourcing to restaurant material décor and energy efficiency. Their Dine Green section lets you research possible restaurants to try out, many in cities where MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIRS are held, like Asheville, North Carolina.

The National Restaurant Association’s Conserve program, started in 2008, also helps push operators to implement conservation practices that are good for the environment and their bottom line. “Diners want to learn as much as possible about what they’re eating,” said Jeff Clark, director of the NRA’s Conserve sustainability program. “They want to know why something tastes a certain way, how a farmer planted it and how far it traveled to get to a restaurant. Chefs and operators know this and are embracing it. They understand their guests are seeking foods that are good for them, flavorful, and minimally impact the environment.”

6. Savor Numi Organic Teas

Certified organic, verified non-GMO, Fair Trade Certified and made with 100 percent real ingredients (aka, not “natural” flavorings), Numi Organic Indulgent Teas feature Chocolate Rooibos, Chocolate Mint, Chocolate Earl Grey and Chocolate Spice. With 45 to 55 percent cacao blended into each tea bag, these aromatic, flavorful and rich teas live up to their chocolaty names but without the calories and expense of a mocha latte.

(Top) Photo courtesy Bonfire Wines.

(Bottom) Photo courtesy COOKINA.

John D. Ivanko, with his wife Lisa Kivirist, have co-authoredRural Renaissance, Homemade for Sale, the award-winningECOpreneuringandFarmstead Chefalong with operatingInn Serendipity B&Band Farm, completely powered by the wind and sun. Both are regular speakers at the Mother Earth News Fairs. As a writer andphotographer, Ivanko contributes to MOTHER EARTH NEWS, most recently, 9 Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living. They live on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin with their son Liam, millions of ladybugs and a 10 kW Bergey wind turbine.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.