by Sandy McLeod
Shortly before Earth Day in April,Huffington Post writer Jeff Biggers wrote a piece focused on Asheville, NC as a Green Dining Destination. Biggers’ observations about Asheville are of interest to communities that wish to emulate this model. In Downtown Asheville and South Asheville near Biltmore Estate, dining destinations are retrofitting their operations to include energy saving, green features that reduce consumption of water and power and increase profitability. At the same time, these projects have helped the community to come together and create something that many in the Asheville area believe in – conservation of natural resources, support of locally owned small businesses and consumption of locally grown agriculture.
Public/Private Funding for Green Restaurant Project in Asheville
Asheville Independent Restaurant Association (AIR) is a well-respected organization. AIR partnered with the Blue Ridge Sustainability Institute (BRSI) to execute the Green Restaurant project. Funds from the North Carolina Green Business Council and the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act were used for the project. Assigning resources in this way helps restaurants to shift from traditional water and energy usage devices to green energy sources and practices that reduce consumption. According to BRSI, seventeen participating restaurants will save an estimated 3 billion BTUs annually.
Methods of Greening Asheville Restaurants
Some examples of green features include installation of solar powered hot water heaters, energy efficient lighting and bulbs, energy efficient appliances and low flow spray valves and aerators on faucets. Restaurants are also being guided to incorporate green practices that impact daily work routines and the environment such as: composting food waste, recycling bottles, cans, plastic, cardboard and paper, and using green cleaning products in reusable plastic spray bottles.
Some Asheville restaurants are collecting and donating used cooking oil for reuse as fuel. Most have relationships with local farms and are fully committed to purchasing and serving locally grown food. This helps to emphasize Asheville restaurants’ reputation for serving high quality, farm-to-table food.
Obtaining Funding for Capital Improvements and Changing Behaviors
Some, though not all, of the systems that are installed in local restaurants are costly. The funding from the BRSI Green Restaurant Project has been a critical component in assisting Asheville’s small businesses in obtaining public/private funding to implement them. The Green Restaurant initiative also helps these small businesses to begin using less expensive conservation techniques (such as composting and recycling) by educating staff about a change in daily procedures and behaviors.
Some of the restaurants participating in the Green Restaurant project include establishments that have been in Asheville for many years such as: Rosetta’s Kitchen, Jack of the Wood and Laughing Seed Café. Others are relatively new to the Asheville restaurant scene, like the French Broad Chocolate Lounge, Luella’s Barbeque and The Corner Kitchen – but are equally committed to greening their operations for a lower impact on the environment and a higher profitable yield. For a complete list of restaurants participating in the project, visit the Blue Ridge Sustainability Institute website: www.blueridgesustainability.org/green-restaurant-initiative/.
The Green Restaurant project brings positive visibility to the Asheville area. This ultimately generates more curiosity about this unique city. While other cities may be just beginning the process of greening their restaurants, Asheville continues to be a place that is well known and respected for pioneering the green living lifestyle.
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