This is part of a series exploring the cultural, technological and social trends that are informing the way we dine and select what we eat. Read the rest in the series here.
Sustainability in the workplace is a worthy pursuit, but for real change individuals can take responsibility for what they consume.
We asked some of the most environmentally responsible food and beverage business owners in Canada (and one in the United States) for their tips on how the rest of us can go beyond 100 Mile at home.
1) Start composting
Justin Vrany, owner, chef of Sandwich Me In, in Chicago:
“If you have the space, composting is excellent. There are so many composting websites out there now that can teach you about it. You can convert a small garbage can and just by poking holes into it and turning it you can make your own compost and you can use that in little gardens.
“Even in the city there’s a lot of container gardens starting up and restaurants are turning their roofs into container gardens and using that.
“Also, be aware of what you’re buying. If you can buy in bulk, organic food waste doesn’t have to go to a dump.”
2) Buy local wine
Sandra Oldfield, president, chief executive officer and wine maker at Tinhorn Creek Vineyards in the B.C. Okanagan:
“Simply making sure to recycle glass bottles is really important – 50 per cent of our bottles come from recycled glass, so that’s just a lot of material that can be reused. I think supporting local wineries is a great start because they haven’t really had to ship their wine far afield to get it to the end consumer.
“You can’t really expect a consumer to go online and find out what every winery does before they buy something but if they are able to make a connection with some wineries and ask them questions like: ‘Where does your glass come from? Where does your packaging come from? What are you spraying on the vineyard? How often are you spraying?’
“That’s more information than most people need, but for the people that are interested, the wineries shouldn’t be afraid to answer.”
3) Support farmer’s markets
Chris Whittaker, chef at Forage Restaurant in Vancouver:
“For me an important one is just to shop at your local farmer’s market. If you have the space to grow or community gardens or plots that you can use, then definitely do that, otherwise support your local farmer’s market, that’s a huge step in the right direction.”
4) Find Canadian producers
Sybil Taylor, communications director of Steam Whistle Brewing, Toronto:
“A lot of consumers, when you talk to them about eating well or eating healthy, automatically think of organic.
“But what we’re trying to say is that there’s so many other elements of an operation that should go into determining whether or not you think a company is worthy of being considered to be consumed. It’s kind of looking at the whole package from ingredients to packaging to shipping right through the moment that you’re considering the product yourselves.
“Do a little research and look beyond just the ingredients to consider all of these other things. And certainly looking for local producers and Canadian producers.”
5) Say ‘no’ to disposables
Randall Cook, operations director at Green Table Network in Vancouver:
“Let’s say you go out for [takeout] sushi once a week – leave the chopsticks there, leave the packages of tamari there, leave all the dumb disposable stuff there … just have chopsticks and a good bottle of tamari at home already.
“And if 1,000 people did that every day that’s literally tonnes of disposable plastic packaging getting diverted every year.”
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