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Column: Local restaurants stand out as sustainable leaders

Cara Lindberg

In my last column I put out a call to all Northland restaurants chefs, owners and managers to join Sustainable Twin Ports (STP) “Dine Sustainably” week-long event, April 27 through May 7. Dine Sustainably is a celebration of our local food ecosystem and the practices required to sustain long-term health.

The following restaurants answered that call: The Duluth Grill (2009 STP Early Adopters), Canal Park Brewing Company (2013 STP Early Adopters), At Sara’s Table/Chester Creek Café, Fitger’s Brewhouse, How Sweet It Is Cakes and Tycoon’s Alehouse & Eatery.

In addition, STP was able to secure sponsorships from a number of like-minded producers, suppliers and distributors that wanted to support the effort but were unable to provide a host venue in the traditional sense. They include local favorites: Locally Laid Egg Company, Alakef Coffee Roasters, Lake Superior Brewing Company, Duluth Coffee Company, Upper Lakes Foods and Vikre Distillery.

The purpose of this event is to celebrate the sustainable progress the participants have made, encourage others in the industry that have not yet started their journey to do so, educate the public on sustainability and how it relates to our food system and ecosystem and as a fundraiser for Sustainable Twin Ports.

Eager to harness collective knowledge and commitment of these conscientious, trailblazing businesses, STP hosted a roundtable session in Duluth. This event encouraged dialogue and best practice sharing between participants and sponsors. The group was able to share information on environmentally superior products, vendors and distributors. Although these restaurants are ultimately competitors, there was an atmosphere and attitude of inclusiveness. Participants were able to share their personal successes and failures and best practices to overcome the challenges and obstacles of creating a sustainable restaurant.

Using The Natural Step framework (the program that STP follows and trains) to guide the roundtable session, the meaning of sustainability was discussed. According the The Natural Step, sustainable development is “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

With a clearer understanding of what sustainability means, participants completed exercises designed to create critical thinking about their own operations. They worked through their successes with each other and each came up with a new initiative that they would begin working on over the next several months. These new initiatives will be displayed on each individual restaurant table top tents. Make sure you ask them about their plans and progress!

If you don’t see your favorite restaurant on our 2014 Dine Sustainably Roster, don’t fret. It doesn’t mean they aren’t following some of these practices. In fact, next time you visit ask them what they are doing to be better stewards of our environment. Here are a few examples of what you could ask:

• Do you purchase from local farmers and producers when possible?

• Do you have a composting and recycling program set up in the back and front of the house?

• Do you use compostable to-go containers?

If they are doing some of these things, tell them you support them for it. Better yet, ask them to share it with their customers. If they aren’t, encourage them to do so! Sustainable Twin Ports is always available to answer questions and provide sustainable consultation and training. We can be reached at 218-626-7511 or at info@sustainabletwinports.org.

Please show your support for these local leaders by patronizing their restaurants April 27 through May 4 for Dine Sustainably 2014. And don’t forget to tell them that Sustainable Twin Ports sent you!

Cara Lindberg is the board president of Sustainable Twin Ports, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. She is trained in The Natural Step, a science and systems based sustainability framework. Cara can be reached at lindberg.cara@gmail.com.

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