Since TreeHugger launched, locally grown produce has become a mainstay of restaurant menus everywhere. But alongside that welcome growth have come questions: Is local always greener? Aren't there other factors to consider in the ecological sustainability of our food?
That's where a new breed of restaurants comes in, looking beyond the labels of "local", "organic", or "humanely raised" toward a more systemic, holistic approach to truly sustainable food production.
The pay-as-you-feel restaurant serving food made from waste was one example, but there's plenty more where that came from. Take the forthcoming San Francisco restaurant, The Perennial, for example. The team behind this experiment in truly sustainable eating has already successfully raised over $28,000 to create an aquaponic greenhouse in Oakland, where unused kitchen waste will be composted by worms and larvae, and those larvae will then be used as fish-food in the aquaponic system.
Here's a rundown from the (now completed) Kickstarter campaign:
But aquaponics is just one part of what makes The Perennial special. The restaurant will also focus on ingredients from producers who don't just minimize their negative impact, but rather seek to have a positive, regenerative influence on the landscape:
We have partnerships with The Land Institute, to serve bread made from perennial grains, and with The Carbon Cycle Institute to serve meat grown in a manner that encourages carbon sequestration. Our kitchen and restaurant design are maximally green, and we are collaborating closely with Zero Foodprint, a non-profit that helps restaurants lower and offset their greenhouse gas emissions. Everything we do is motivated by a desire to push the restaurant industry to lead the way on climate change.
The Perennial aren't the only folks aiming to dig deeper, and do more.
Over in Brighton, England, Silo Restaurant and Bakery describes itself as being designed "back-to-front", with the bin (trash can) in the front of their minds. That means a zero waste philosophy, including food deliveries in reusable containers, using ingredients in their wholest possible form, an in-house composting machine and brewery. The restaurant is even looking at shipping non-local items like coffee using sail power, reducing or eliminating the need for fossil fuels:
With many farmers getting serious about both cutting their direct carbon emissions and finding ways to sequester more carbon in the soil, it's exciting to see restaurants—which are often taste-makers for the broader public—getting behind a more systemic approach to sustainable eating.