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Posted on Tue, Jun. 21, 2011 10:15 PM

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Restaurants, recyclers become partners at the plate

Jeremy and Stacy Neff own One More Cup, an environmentally and family-friendly coffee shop in Waldo. Their  children are 13-month-old Hazel (left) and son August, 4.
Tammy Ljungblad
Jeremy and Stacy Neff own One More Cup, an environmentally and family-friendly coffee shop in Waldo. Their children are 13-month-old Hazel (left) and son August, 4.

Order pizza and a beer at Waldo Pizza, and it comes with a side of green. Not salad, but rather a range of environmentally savvy practices the pizzeria has adopted at its Waldo and Lee’s Summit locations.

Employees haul cardboard, plastic and other recyclables to a collection site each week. Glass goes into a nearby Ripple Glass bin. Most paper goods are biodegradable, and the restaurant’s red melamine plates contain enough natural material to make them compostable.

What’s on those plates also matters. Waldo Pizza sells locally made Babycakes cupcakes and Olivia’s Oven gluten-free pizza crusts and prepares pizza toppings, chili, ice cream and other menu items in-house to reduce waste and cut the amount of energy required for transport.

“It’s a matter of priorities,” manager Heather Rama said. “It’s at the forefront of everyone’s mind. It’s definitely worth the effort.”

Sustainability is indeed on people’s minds these days. A recent National Restaurant Association survey showed 65 percent of restaurants nationwide recycle, and 60 percent of consumers prefer those that do. But recycling is just the start.

More Kansas City eateries than ever are composting food waste, using environmentally friendly supplies and featuring local food. That such strategies also pay off with increasingly eco-conscious diners means they’re here to stay.

“Going green is no longer a trend,” said Chris Moyer, director of the National Restaurant Association’s Conserve: Solutions for Sustainability Initiative. “It’s the way business is being done.”

Greening a restaurant takes three things: commitment to environmentally sound choices, customers who appreciate the effort and partners that make it doable.

Eden Alley Vegetarian Cafe has had plenty of the first two since opening on the Country Club Plaza in 1994, but lack of local resources made every change challenging. Employees for years hauled glass, paper, aluminum and cardboard to a distant recycling facility. Biodegradable paper goods options were limited and pricy.

Packaging concerns prompted owners Greg Clootz and Sandi Corder-Clootz to quit selling bottled water. The two fought the city to forgo cleaning with bleach and added the restaurant’s vegetable trimmings to their home compost pile.

Then things changed.

“Anything you want is out there now. It’s accessible,” Clootz said. “It wasn’t that way 10 years ago.”

Recycling is easier, thanks to bins in the parking lot. The restaurant’s paper supplier, Berlau Paper House, stocks a growing selection of take-out containers, cutlery, cups and lids made from renewable materials like corn, potato starch and sugar cane. The Clootzes’ preferred green cleaning supplies won city approval, and Eden Alley won the Kansas City Health Department’s Food Excellence Award in 2010.

Bottled water is back, thanks to the Dlo Water stocked by Fresh Connect KC, a natural food delivery service. Dlo uses biodegradable packaging and donates profits to global water projects. The Lee’s Summit-based Dlo also shipped water to tornado relief efforts in Joplin.

All of the restaurant’s food waste is removed by Missouri Organic, which combines it with yard waste to produce compost for wholesale and retail customers.

“Produce scraps, everything that’s scraped off the plates — it’s all composted,” Clootz said.

Composting can be more expensive than traditional garbage pickup, but using it cuts other costs, said Robert Padilla, executive chef at Trezo Mare Restaurant & Lounge in Briarcliff Village. The restaurant contracted with Missouri Organic almost a year ago, and it now recycles or composts about 75 percent of its waste.

The industrial trash compactor that once dominated Trezo Mare’s loading dock is long gone, along with the trash buildups, leaking hydraulic fluid and the occasional fire caused by its breakdowns. Odor and pest control are easier, and there’s space to store pecan wood the restaurant buys from a Spring Hill, Kan., grower to fire its grill.

“We were just trying to control the problem before. Now we’re helping solve the problem,” said Padilla, who also cooks with produce from nearby farms and sustainably produced beef and fish.

As the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Missouri Organic found value, if not treasure, in food waste, but it doesn’t stop there.

“Waste in general is not being viewed as waste any more,” the NRA’s Moyer said. “It’s a potential resource to be recovered.”

The Bristol Seafood Grill and J. Gilbert’s Wood-Fired Steaks & Seafood restaurants have collected 25,000 wine corks from locations in Kansas City, St. Louis, Chicago and elsewhere since July 2010. They’re shipped to ReCORK, the brainchild of wine closure company Amorim, which turns them into shoes.

Missouri Organic is on pace to collect about 20,000 tons of food waste in 2011 from customers as diverse as Cargill, Hallmark, Whole Foods, Briarwood Elementary and Walmart. And Boulevard Brewing Co. founder John McDonald hopes the company’s Ripple Glass initiative will eventually recover at least 30 percent of the estimated 150 million pounds of glass Kansas Citians throw away each year.

More than 80 bars and restaurants already participate in the project, which launched about a year ago, and countless individuals are also helping fill its distinctive purple bins. Glass is then processed at a local facility and sold to Kansas City businesses that use it to make products like fiberglass.

The brewery also recycles metal, plastic and cardboard; has an electric vehicle charging station; installed solar panels on its green roof; reduced water use; collaborated with cement maker Lafarge to dispose of all burnable waste; and contracts with Missouri Organic to compost food waste from its catering operations.

The company’s Southwest Boulevard brewery is a zero-waste facility, largely thanks to collaborations with other local entrepreneurs.

“I’m into this idea of connecting the local and regional dots,” McDonald said.

Certainly those dots made it easier for Stacy and Jeremy Neff to shape One More Cup into the kind of Waldo coffee shop they wanted to own. Customers sort plastic, paper, aluminum and other recyclables into bins, and food waste goes to Missouri Organic.

The coffee is organic and Fair Trade from Roasterie, and the food is local: Shatto Milk, Nutty Girl sandwiches, gluten-free goodies from Olivia’s Oven, and SodaVie and Lost Trail sodas.

The counters are paperstone, the floors cork, the paint low-VOC and the furniture mostly used. Take-out cups and lids? Biodegradable. T-shirts are printed on organic cotton. The payoff? A growing customer base that wants to support an environmentally responsible business.

“People want to hear what places are doing,” Stacy Neff said. “Some customers don’t care, but most really appreciate it.”

Bristol Seafood Grill, www.bristolseafoodgrill.com

Dlo Water, DloWater.com

Eden Alley Vegetarian Cafe, www.edenalley.com

J. Gilbert’s Wood-Fired Steaks & Seafood, www.jgilberts.com

Missouri Organic, www.missouriorganic.com

One More Cup, www.onemorecupkc.blogspot.com

Ripple Glass, www.rippleglasskc.com

Trezo Mare Restaurant & Lounge, www.trezomare.com

Waldo Pizza, www.waldopizza.net

Anne Brockhoff writes from her farmhouse outside of Kansas City and blogs at fooddrinklife.wordpress.com.

Posted on Tue, Jun. 21, 2011 10:15 PM
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