Edible Beats’ owner has proven six times, that running a sustainable restaurant is not only possible, it’s a responsibility to this planet. When Justin Cucci started out in the restaurant business, he didn’t know anybody who was interested in sustainable practices. To him, launching meant creating a new culture.
“I was worried, because I wasn’t sure if anyone was really interested in that ( a sustainable restaurant). At that time, I lived in a bubble. There really wasn’t anyone I knew. It was about making it a part of our culture.”
Thankfully, Justin took a leap of faith and created the environmentally friendly restaurants we know today ( Root Down, Vital Root, Root Down DIA, Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box, Linger, and El Five). Below is his how- to guide for designing a sustainable restaurant from the get-go ( or at least moving in that direction).
Use Existing Buildings Instead of Building New Ones
In its formal life, Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box spent its days as a gastro brothel. Caretakers prepared bodies inside what is now Linger. Root Down still bares the marks of having been a gas station. Repurposing spaces in the food business was one of the clear takeaways from our interview with Justin. As he pointed out, lots of chain restaurants will tear down a building only to put a new one back up .
“I always wanted to honor the building. Not cover up its history, (but to) expose its history, and use the ingredients that were there in the building. Those ingredients could be the existing floors. In every one of these buildings as much as we could, we used the existing floor. If it was concrete slab we used it or if it was concrete brick we used it. If the ceiling was made of crappy popcorn plaster we used it.”
Ask Your Contractor
When it comes to construction, contractors don’t always offer up all the options. They offer top sellers, what their bosses push for them to sell, or the first thing that comes to mind. Ask your contractor about American made products. Who knows, maybe they’ll be able to give you a price that’s on par with what was made overseas.
Choose Energy Sources Wisely
Oil & gas, wind power, water power, or solar power. For a place like Colorado, solar power and wind power are an option, water power, not so much. Depending on where you want to start your restaurant (or where your restaurant is located) makes an impact on which resources can be used.
Source Locally But Source Wisely
Not all chicken eggs are created equal. Ma and Pa shops tend to be pretty good about humane treatment with their animals, other farms maybe not so much. Just because a farm is local, doesn’t mean that it’s always the best option. Do some research and don’t forget to ask questions.
“….the guy that says he has a sustainable farm, year one, by year three sustainable could mean so many different things. You have to ask well where is this farm, where do you get your water for this farm, where do you get your electricity? What kind of seeds are you using? The conversation has to go on.”
Offer Alternatives Without Sacrificing Quality
Plastic is one of those things that seems to do nothing except multiply. Discontinuing the sale of bottled water is just one of the many ways Justin suggests moving towards truly living up to being a more environmentally friendly restaurant. He does however offer a few words of caution. Whither it’s eliminating the use of tin foil, discontinuing the sale of bottled water, or changing out a brand of napkins, the restaurant experience has to be just as good. The alternative to plastic bottles has to be more than plain tap water. Bottled water can be offered as sparkling, regular, etc. Tap water should be too.
Check What You Put in Your Bathrooms ( and All of Your Other Cabinets)
Bathrooms are probably the last place anyone would think of as sustainable . Bathroom products, although a small detail, may contain chemicals that are both harsh to human health and the environment. Cleaning products are very much the same. To-go containers? Try and find a retailer that offers up corn based or biodegradable products as an alternative to that nasty Styrofoam.
= a sustainable restaurant experience
Can’t completely dive into it yet? Don’t worry, even chefs with years of experience like Justin, say that it’s all about taking steps towards improving your restaurant.
“… I think it has to be as much as you can. But it has to start sometimes with taking a risk and saying if you don’t do bottled water, what do you think that means to your restaurant? Do you think that it can still survive and if it can I think you need to find other ways to make that money and that ethos work for you.”