In downtown Boulder, Colorado, stores and restaurants are often painted exuberantly, like snowboards and tie-dyed clothing. The Kitchen, which opened in 2004, is just the opposite. It is all about restraint. The meticulous storefront facade is gray and brown, with a small white sign that looks like an old-fashioned calling card. It reads: the kitchen.
In every way, The Kitchen's message is no excess. The restaurant, a light and airy loftlike space with just a few chandeliers for decoration, has one of the most progressive recycling programs in the country. It recycles or reuses nearly 100 percent of its "discards." Eco-Cycle, a Boulder-based nonprofit, collects its recyclables and composts all of its food waste—bones, eggshells, meat trimmings, food left over on plates. Even the napkins, menus, takeout containers (sugarcane-based), garbage bags (cornstarch-based) and toilet paper are compostable.
When I recently met Kimbal Musk and Hugo Matheson, the owners of The Kitchen, they were showing off their new compostable straws. "You could throw these straws into a garden," said Musk excitedly. Just about the only stuff they put in the trash right now is petroleum-based products like plastic wrap. At The Kitchen, trash has almost become obsolete, like wooden tennis racquets or cell phones the size of ciabattas.