In Chef Dan Barber’s TED talk, “How I Fell in Love with a Fish,” he paints a picture - a depressing one - about the state of fish and the otherwise dismal state of sustainability in food sourcing. He says, “For the past 50 years, we've been fishing the seas like we clear-cut forests. It's hard to overstate the destruction. Ninety percent of large fish, the ones we love -- the tunas, the halibuts, the salmons, swordfish -- they've collapsed.”
Overfishing is a big thing and the truth is, there aren’t that many fish left in the sea. In 2012, it was found that 5 out of the 8 tuna species are at risk of extinction, that the Mekong salmon carp population has been reduced by over 90 percent and that 1,414 species of fish are at risk of extinction. When you know the facts, it certainly makes that tuna sandwich seem a bit less appetizing.
Not to bat you over the head with statistics, but the depressing state of the industrialized food industry doesn’t stop there: 35,000 miles of rivers in the US have been contaminated by hog, chicken and cattle waste; 2 in 3 farm animals in the world are now factory farmed, which anyone who has a Netflix account knows is a bad thing, not only for animal rights, but also for the environment and our general health.
Documentaries like The Cove have shocked us into caring about where our food comes from, and documentaries like Food Matters have made us think about how food not only affects our weight, but our minds and health as well.
Our collective consciousness is rising largely because of new research. More than just a hipster fad, the whole organic “trend” is definitely helping with sustainability. It’s cool now to think about the food we put in our bodies. And locally sourced food is not only good for our bodies...it’s good for local economies.
Not convinced that the green movement is for you? There’s evidence that going green could actually help your restaurant business grow. A recent study stated that 79 percent of those surveyed said they would be more likely to dine at a certified green restaurant over a non-certified green restaurant. The survey also showed that if a customer has “three favorite restaurants nearby” and one becomes green certified, 64 percent of customers would go to the green certified restaurant more often than the other two.
There’s another reason us food lovers should care about sustainability: Taste. If we source food from sustainable sources, with the environment in mind, the food we consume will invariably be better for us… and more delicious. As Barber said in his TED talk, “Farmers are not just producers, but experts in relationships. Because they're the ones that are experts in flavor, too. And if I'm going to be really honest, they're a better chef than I'll ever be.”
So what can you do? Where does one even begin to make their restaurant greener? How can you reap the benefits of organic and do your part to make a difference? The list is long. And making the leap can be expensive. Here, we’ve made a quick checklist of ways you can make your business greener and more sustainable.
Go local: Source locally grown and farmed ingredients
Seasonal menu: Feature dishes made from in-season crops
Be informed: The sustainability of agriculture differs from the sustainability of seafood. Keep yourself in the know by keeping tabs on resources such as:
Reduce your carbon footprint: Ditch the takeout Styrofoam containers for containers made of recycled materials.
Big ticket items: Restaurant expert Lorri Mealey suggests low flush toilets, and energy efficient fryers, steamers, broilers, ovens, refrigeration and ventilation.
Water: Flow restrictors on faucets, dishwashers and sinks. Serve filtered water, and ditch those plastic bottles.
Your clean routine:
Green supplies: From vinegar to Green Seal, there are lots of ways to clean green. Use biodegradable cleaners- so that the ingredients within them will break down, thus not polluting the water.
Compost! Recycle! Donate! Make soup, use every part and pay attention to expiry dates.
Essentially, you don’t want to just “go green” – you want to ingrain sustainability as a value in your restaurant’s culture, extending from the dish pit to the bar to the table. Because at the end of the day, the littlest steps make a world of good.
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