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In July, we get to celebrate many things. It’s our nation’s birthday. It’s also National Ice Cream Month (yay!!!). And now, I’m excited to celebrate Plastic Free July. The three-year-old project aims to eliminate single-use plastic for the entire month. I love this idea—beaches get so littered with plastic bags and straws, etc., so it’s the perfect time to use reusable totes, those adorable paper straws, and biodegradable plates and cutlery.
As usual, several chefs and restaurants are way ahead of me, including my hero Mario Batali. Let’s salute some of the especially environmentally friendly spots as we celebrate Plastic Free July with biodegradable cups and no plastic straws!
Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group; New York, Las Vegas, L.A.
Superstar chef Mario Batali and his restaurant group made headlines when they instituted a “straws upon request policy” in all of the Batali & Bastianich Group’s restaurants (including Del Posto and Babbo in New York, and Chi Spacca and Pizzeria Mozza in L.A.). They also replaced plastic straws with compostable paper ones, and plastic stirrers with ones made from bamboo. B&B’s sustainability director, Elizabeth Meltz, estimates that before making these changes last summer, they went through more than 250,000 straws and stirrers per year.
The Grey Plume; Omaha
This new American restaurant is on another level, eco-wise. It’s built almost entirely from reclaimed materials (including recycled steel framing and stairs, recycled drywall and reclaimed barn wood in the dining room and bar). They have an extensive recycling and composting program, even converting their kitchen grease to biodiesel, and they use entirely compostable or biodegradable to-go boxes and silverware, toilet paper, napkins and straws. In fact, they’re one of the country’s few 4-star certified green restaurants.
Uncommon Ground; Chicago
Some restaurants like to say that their food comes from within 100 miles of their location, which is pretty cool. Uncommon Ground likes to say that many of their ingredients come from within 300 feet, from their rooftop farm, the first certified organic one in the country. No surprise, Uncommon Ground focuses on sustainable, seasonal dishes like the Uncommon Chopped Salad (romaine, local bacon, Gorgonzola, cucumbers, avocado, scallions and smoked-tomato ranch dressing). The restaurant also uses solar power to heat their water. Next up, Uncommon Ground is adding a brewery to one of their two locations, featuring organic hops and possible beer collaborations with local chefs.
Slapfish; Los Angeles
This sustainable seafood shack sources their products from eco-friendly fisheries and even has a partnership with the Aquarium of the Pacific, in Long Beach, to ensure that their seafood is ethically sourced and sustainable. Specialties include the Banh Mi Burrito with BBQ white fish, a classic lobster roll, and the Clobster Cake, a mix of lobster and crab. Of course, their takeout containers and napkins are biodegradable.
Rouge Tomate; New York City
One of NYC’s best (and most sustainable) restaurants also has an incredible history of eco-friendly practices. In addition to featuring local and organic products, Rouge Tomate also recycles almost everything they can and has an excellent composting program. The tables, flooring and doors were all created from reclaimed materials and their to-go cutlery is biodegradable.
Ruggles Green; Houston
As the first certified green restaurant in Texas, this mini chain focuses on organic, healthy food with specialties that range from Hi-Protein Hempanadas (made with hemp flour, and stuffed with hormone-free beef) to Spicy Southwest Smoked Chicken Pasta. They use water-saving appliances and wind-powered electricity and have a full-scale recycling program. They even offer organic and biodynamic wines.
Chipotle’s environmental cred is well documented but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t shout it out here. For a chain with more than 1,600 locations, they do a super good job, avoiding factory-farmed food and featuring organic and sustainably produced ingredients that are locally sourced as much as possible. Their containers are environmentally friendly, made from products like recycled newsprint. Even employee uniforms are made from organic cotton. Way to go, Chipotle.