Q&A on Green Restaurants with Kevin O'Donnell

Photo courtesy of Curious Palate - one of our favorite green restaurants - read why here..

Green LA Girl posted about inspiring our favorite restaurants to 'Go Green' and prompted a spirited debate that Sarah of Mar Vista Mom and I jumped in to. We took the questions to Kevin O'Donnell of Thread Collaborative - you may remember him from our Wise Water Use Expo.

Question -
We have local restaurants that we want to inspire to ‘go green’. Which is the better use of resources for cups and glasses –

Reusable ceramic and glass (or plastic) that gets rewashed?

Kevin - I usually prefer anything reusable. Anything we can do to keep material out of the landfill is better. Both glass and ceramic are manufactured with products from the earth (depending on the ceramic glaze) and are on the low end of the spectrum regarding energy needed for manufacturing. This way of thinking is often referred to as an heirloom strategy - building, buying, and using products that last a lifetime. However, the downside to this option is that they have to be washed, and therefore water is used over that lifetime. There are low energy/low water dishwashing systems, but you still need to use energy and water.

Disposables made from a recycled material that will go to the landfill?

Kevin - This is the least attractive of the options. Even though they would be made from recycled material, they will still end up in a landfill. It's my own bias, but I'm trying to get things to move the other direction and divert as much as possible from the landfill. Sometimes it's difficult to know exactly what's involved with the recycling process. As an example, are bleaching agents used? If so, that's potentially more harmful that the material going straight to the landfill. And most materials are not recycled one to one - meaning they don't return to the same level as the original - they are more often down-cycled. Meaning the material is returned at a lower grade than original.

Disposables made from a biodegradable material that will go into compost (when that is an option)?
Kevin - This is a great option, but it has to be brand appropriate for the restaurant. Biodegradable products tend to look that way. It's an aesthetic that may not be appropriate to the restaurant brand - type of food, clientele, price point, etc. And it's somewhat dependent upon whether the restaurant can maintain a composting program. If not, then it ends up at a landfill anyway. The upside being that it won't do harm once it gets there, but it still required energy to get it there.

We're looking forward to having Kevin O'Donnell of Thread Collaborative as our guest at the MVCC Green Commmittee booth soon for more Q&A! See his slide show from the Wise Water Use Expo here.