Just how far can a restaurant dive into earth-friendly practices? Deeper than the owners of The Perennial in San Francisco ever imagined.
Owners Anthony Myint and Karen Leibowitz have made great strides since opening The Perennial in early 2016. It’s often cited as greenest restaurant in the country and the model for other operators exploring similar paths.
“You’ll have your share of trial and error,” Leibowitz says. “Costs and saving may have cancelled each other in the past but the advances in technology and a greater awareness among our customers, especially younger diners, mean it’s easier than ever to be green and make green.”
Navigating through the plethora of options can be overwhelming. Here, we offer suggestions based on the practices that Myint and Leibowitz implemented to help you determine the depth of your interest and commitment.
Adopt standard practices. Reducing a restaurant’s carbon footprint can be as simple as recycling, purchasing energy-efficient equipment, composting, eschewing bottled beverages and using post-consumer recycled take-out containers. Purchase local ingredients and tailor the menu to include as much seasonal ingredients as possible.
Look beyond the surface. Use reclaimed and recycled materials for tables and countertops but also consider such materials for decorative purposes. The Perennial has a lattice ceiling made from recycled wood shavings. They also purchase napkins that can be fed to worms when they fray at the edges.
Support regenerative agriculture. The Perennial’s bread features flour milled from Kernza, a type of wheatgrass that grows year to year, resulting in healthier soil. Myint and Leibowitz established a greenhouse offsite where they grow fish to fertilize the plants as part of a closed-loop approach to agriculture. They also launched the Perennial Farming Initiative, which helps farmers transition to regenerative agriculture and find a market for their crops.
Call in the experts. Myint and Leibowitz helped launch ZeroFoodprint, which works with restaurants to reduce their carbon footprint. Scores of restaurants have signed on, and many are participating in offsetting emissions with carbon credits. Participants receive carbon credits in exchange for donating to projects that help communities reduce their emissions, such as working with families in rural Honduras to build stoves that use less wood.