24 The NaTioNal CuliNary review • marCh 2014
sustainabilit Y waste not
Mulberry & Vine is cafeteria-style, mainly vegetarian
and organic, and as locally sourced as possible. Customers pick
three items from an assortment of dishes, which might be beets
with chili and pomegranate or Korean braised local beef with
pickled onions. To dispose of waste, the restaurant uses Action
Carting, a company that serves many of the larger restaurants in
the metropolitan area. It is among the company’s smallest clients.
“For a small business like this, you have to go into it saying, this
is what we are going to do, and then make sure that it happens,”
About 45% of the restaurant’s waste is compost, which goes first
into 5-gallon containers and is then put into 50-gallon waste bins
provided by Action Carting and stored in a compost walk-in, which,
Lynch says, was a big upfront cost. With few compost facilities near
the city (some restaurants work out special arrangements with local
farms), Action Carting trucks the waste to Delaware, where it is
processed and sold to Home Depot for gardening material.
Among the leaders in environmentally conscious practices,
Toronto-based Fairmont Hotels & Resorts in 1990 launched its
Green Partnership Program. The company’s pioneering “hang
up your towels if they don’t need to be replaced” is now an
The Fairmont Waterfront is located in Vancouver, British
Columbia, a city with a stated goal and policy initiatives to
make it the greenest city in the world by 2020. Because much
of large establishments’ waste comes from large gatherings and
banquets, Fairmont has launched an Eco-Meet program.
“This is a city that is focused on health and wellness, so we
already have an engaged workforce,” says Indu Brar, general
manager at The Fairmont Waterfront. “We have a sustainability
committee with a representative from every department, so
everybody is aware and involved in our waste management efforts.”
Key, points out Brar, is making sure that numbers are accurate
for all groups so that kitchen and staff do not overproduce. “The
first time we book a group, we finalize the numbers 24 hours out,”
she says. “We monitor patterns and create a history. But what we
are discovering is that groups themselves are becoming adamant
about not wasting food and being precise about numbers. We
manage portion control with plated dinners.”
With a national standard of 90% of trash reused or diverted to
what is considered a zero-waste facility, The Fairmont Waterfront
is at roughly 80%, with monthly reports tracking progress. Bins
throughout the hotel collect scraps and recyclables, and all
pre- and post-food production waste goes for compost. What is
unused or left over goes to shelters and food banks.
Some restaurants work cooperatively to manage waste. In
Chicago, Perennial Virant is Paul Virant’s second restaurant after
his Michelin-starred Vie. Ed Sura, chef de cuisine, sought out
Virant after a stint at the now closed Graham Elliot restaurant.
Virant, a self-described preservation guru, was known for his
early farm-to-table sensibility.
“We started our waste management program from the get-
go, but it was a struggle to get everyone on board,” Sura says.
“No one had actually really done this. It took awhile. It wasn’t
conscious, but people were not used to separating and putting
garbage in a compost bin.”
There was also the issue of where to store the compost.
Luckily, A New Leaf, a nearby event space, offered its garage.
Resource Center, a nonprofit recycling and reuse organization,
collects the material twice a week and distributes it to nearby
farms, including City Farm. In turn, Perennial Virant not only
buys products from many of these farms, but saves the delivery
boxes to return to the farmers.
Restaurant and hospitality institution attention to waste is
a logical extension of the growing commitment to sustainable
practices. This is what has fueled whole-animal use, farm-to-table menus, the inclusion in kitchens of offal and other
formerly rarely used cuts, and seasonal preservation. With the
NRDC reporting that 43 billion pounds of food in the U.S. was
thrown away just on the retail level in 2008, clearly, this is an
issue to be addressed.
waste from mulberry & vine, a small cafeteria-style venue that serves mainly
vegetarian and organic foods, is processed and sold for gardening material.
JAN GrEENBErG, AU THOr OF HUDSON vALLEy HArv ES T (COUN Try MAN PrESS, 2003), IS BASED IN