Posts Tagged ‘sustainable seafood’

What makes a restaurant sustainable, and why does it matter?

Let’s address the second question first. With its emphasis on super-efficient operations, sustainability brings obvious financial advantages to virtually any business, which is why is has become a core consideration for successful businesses worldwide. In the commercial sector, restaurants are amongst the heaviest users of both energy and water, so they stand to gain even more than the average business from implementing sustainability measures. In addition, market research indicates that consumer interest in sustainable food production is on the rise, which makes the case for restaurant sustainability even more compelling from a purely economic point of view.

Profits aside, their public profile and popularity enables restaurants to easily assume a leadership role in promoting sustainable practices. They can also positively impact the local and global economy and environment through sustainable sourcing and operations choices.

To answer the first question, let’s take a look at seven of the hottest trends in restaurant sustainability, and how some of the most sustainable eating establishments across the country are implementing them.

  1. Local food sourcing. Seattle restaurateur Maria Hines is passionate about supporting the local organic farming community. Ninety-five percent of the food she serves in her three restaurants — Tilth, Golden Beetle and Agrodolce — is organically grown and local. She even lists links to the farms on her website.
  2. On-site growing. Recently designated the “Greenest Restaurant in America” by the Green Restaurant Association, Chicago’s Uncommon Ground restaurant features a 2,500-square-foot urban farm on its rooftop. The produce they grow on-site is supplemented with food sourced from local farms. “Our mission is to stand as a working model for other restaurants, businesses and home owners,” says owner Helen Cameron, “to show what is possible within an urban environment.”
  3. Sustainability education. Clayton Chapman, proprietor of The Grey Plume in Omaha, Nebraska, is leveraging the interest in local food production his restaurant has generated to work with a neighborhood development project to initiate a sustainable garden. “There are a lot of young families and multiple-children families in the neighborhood, so it’s a great learning tool,” he says.
  4. Sustainable seafood. While seafood is a healthy and delicious choice, the decline of global food fish populations is a subject of great concern. Portland’s Bamboo Sushi proves that with careful sourcing, seafood connoisseurs can have their fish and eat it, too. They do their homework to ensure that all thefish they serve comes from populations that are plentiful and in good health, and that the fish are caught in an environmentally ethical manner.
  5. Renewable energy. Green Sage Café in Asheville, North Carolina utilizes solar thermal panels for water heating, as well as photovoltaics to power their lighting. They have also implemented a large number of energy-efficiency measures to get the most out of their renewable energy systems. Wind is another renewable energy solution that restaurant owners can take advantage of where space permits. Root Down Denver is a restaurant powered exclusively by the wind, and also features recycled and reclaimed interior décor and rooftop and patio gardens.
  6. Recycling and food waste composting. For Spike Gjerde, chef proprietor of Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore, waste management is a top priority. In addition to recycling all plastic, glass, metal and paper waste, his insistence on recycling all food scraps makes his restaurant a zero-waste facility. Gjerde contracts with a food waste hauler to take all kitchen and table scraps to a local farm for composting. Even the oyster shells are saved and returned to Chesapeake Bay as part of a native oyster regeneration program.
  7. Water conservation. Minneapolis supper club The Red Stag is the first LEED-CI registered restaurant in Minnesota. In addition to many energy efficiency measures, they have implemented a computer-controlled monitoring system that has helped them reduce their water consumption by 70 percent.

It’s important to note that each of these restaurants has made an effort to embrace a holistic approach to sustainability. Instead of implementing just one sustainable practice (like local food sourcing), they are going all-out to green up all aspects of their business. In the process, they are enjoying incredible customer loyalty, not to mention lots of publicity. Kudos to them, and to the other restaurants across the country that are doing their part to be environmentally responsible!


About the author:

Ezra Adler is the Ecommerce Marketing Director for Culinary Depot Inc., located in Monsey, NY. An online retailer for restaurant equipment, Culinary Depot has a large selection commercial equipment and kitchen supplies.


A splash of recent media got me thinking about a concept that isn’t really new, but one that I think takes sustainable food to a whole new level. The idea is eating invasive species. The world is filled with disaster stories of animals moving in and overrunning a new territory. Here in the US we have various snakes in Florida, Asia Carp threatening to destroy the Great Lakes fishing industry and host of other invasive species pushing out native populations. Unfortunately, a great many of these invasive creatures are succeeding so well because they have no natural predators, and they don’t taste that good to potential predators, humans included.

After recently speaking with a biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, I learn Burmese pythons are one such inedible creature – particularly those invading the Florida Everglades. They are not inedible because of the taste or texture of the meat itself, but because samples tested by the National Park Service found unsafe levels of mercury in the snakes. Evidently, the South Florida burns its garbage, and natural weather patterns drop the pollution from the incineration into the Everglades. I’m sure the coal-fired power plants in the area are not helping either. The National Park is currently conducting tests on additional snakes to confirm the first results of mercury-tainted meat.

However, some invasive species do tempt the palate, and I believe the foodservice industry is in a great position to lead the charge in a new culinary trend. In an age of “Foodies,” how better to capitalize on the sustainability trend than serving something new, intriguing and not only environmentally friendly, but environmentally beneficial!

Some are already serving up invasive species. Restaurants in New York and Chicago have served invasive Lionfish from the Florida Keys, in fact the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has come up with an Eat Lionfish campaign to encourage restaurants to start serving the fish that is invading the Southeast and Gulf Coasts, and the Caribbean. In Asia they are finding various uses for the global warming loving jellyfish, Brits are dining on the invasive American grey squirrel, and an entrepreneurial fishery in Illinois is making gefilte fish from Asian Carp.

Mike Schafer of Schafer Fisheries in Thomson Illinois has bigger ideas than just serving up carp in restaurants. He thinks we can solve some of our world hunger and humanitarian problems like Haiti with the ugly fish. Schafer thinks processed Asian carp would make a great, portable protein source that doesn’t need to be refrigerated. The end product would be a cooked mash of fish packaged and sealed in pouches that very mobile, relatively light weight and high in calories. Right now Schafer Fisheries is processing about 12 million pounds of the carp each year, but with increased demand for the fish in Asian, a push from the state of Illinois, and the potential for a humanitarian protein source the production demand for Asian carp is likely to reach estimates of over 30 million pounds a year.

The market seems to be ready for these products. It just needs a few chefs to introduce the fine dining crowd to a new taste.

If you have served or ate Lionfish or any other invasive species, please share your experience.


Sustainable Seafood

Author: Paul

We are honored to have Rich Boot, founder and CEO of as a guest blogger this week. connects commercial seafood buyers with sustainable seafood suppliers. Rich offers some insight into serving sustainable seafood.

Is it the seller’s or the buyer’s responsibility? Actually both. Consumers need to ask where the fish they are buying comes from and how it is caught and restaurants need to make more sustainable choices available to consumers.

There are two reasons this doesn’t happen as often as it should:

1.       Chefs and consumers alike stick with the options that are most familiar to them. And often, neither one is willing to leave his or her comfort zone without a nudge. This is understandable. It’s risky for a chef to put an unfamiliar item on the menu and perhaps not sell it, and it’s risky for the diner to order something they aren’t sure they are going to enjoy eating.

2.       Sellers succeed by satisfying their customer base. If customers don’t ask questions about seafood, sellers assume that it’s not important. Yet, many customers don’t ask because they don’t know enough and don’t feel comfortable asking. Some feel that they shouldn’t be faced with unsustainable choices on menus in the first place. But will they buy an unfamiliar choice?

What’s the solution? Restaurateurs have to make the first move. Start by replacing one seafood menu item with a more sustainable one. Explain to the consumer why you think it’s important to offer more sustainable choices and what makes the new choice more sustainable.

Choose just one option at time to switch out, prepare it well, and be prepared to sell it.

Need ideas for preparing different types of seafood? Sustainable seafood chef/activist, Barton Seaver, has worked with The Blue Ocean Institute to get the share recipes and substitution ideas with chefs all over the country.

Start by switching out overfished grouper with environmentally friendly, farmed striped bass. Here’s a recipe from Barton to get you started: Sustainable seafood restaurant, Yankee Pier offers a Striped Bass Carpaccio with Citrus and Olives

Register for to find a supplier for striped bass today.