Restaurateurs are looking for more ways to reduce energy and water consumption, as well as reuse and recycle the waste material they produce. Heidi Minora, director of marketing for EatWell DC and assistant general manager of Commissary restaurant in Washington, D.C., talked about her company's sustainability practices.
Q. Tell us about your company’s commitment to sustainability.
A. We source much of the produce we use at our restaurants from a farm we own and operate 30 miles away in Maryland. It doesn’t provide all of our ingredients, so we put a lot of effort into sourcing the rest locally from small, independent suppliers. We also try to reduce our carbon footprint and rely on clean energy, so we participat in the EPA’s Green Power Partnership. That allows us to buy wind energy credits, so our restaurant Commissary actually runs on wind power.
Q. How have these practices impacted your business?
A. I feel like our customers – and people in general – are becoming more concerned about what they are eating and where their food comes from. Because of that, the demand for more local and natural food has grown. Our restaurants have become places our guests can depend on for those foods. As the popularity of sustainable and natural foods has grown, so has our publicity, and that has been fantastic for business. But more than that, we’re really happy to be spreading awareness and educating people.
Q. Why is the local food aspect of your program important to you?
A. We’re committed to farm-to-table food so we make sure everything we serve is as local as we can get it. We offer biodynamic wines, which are produced without pesticides and synthetic fertilizer, and we support local bakers and sustainable fisheries.
Q. By relying on small and local producers and sourcing most produce from your farm, how does the restaurant account for seasonality on its menus?
A. Seasonality can be a hurdle for a sustainable restaurant group, but it empowers us and our commitment to sustainability. We anticipate the seasons changing, and we change our menu every three to six months. We have encountered a few issues with products or sourcing changing, so we made adjustments. For example, our kung pao Brussels sprouts are now kung pao green beans. But if Brussels sprouts aren’t in season, we simply can’t sell them. If we have to make menu changes, then so be it.
Q. It isn’t easy being “green,” is it?
A. It is challenging. There are always hurdles: financial and regulatory, just to name two. But we try our hardest to be as environmentally responsible as possible.