This week's food section of the Inlander includes a story looking at how a handful of local restaurants are working to reduce the amount of waste they produce. Whether through composting, using recyclable containers for to-go items or other means, many restaurants in the Inland Northwest are consciously taking steps to protect the environment.
The issue of waste management and reduction is a complex topic, and it's not just restaurants that are taking steps to mitigate their impact.
During its Thrive! convention hosted last week, on Sept. 19, by Food Services of America's Spokane office, for example, all food samples for guests were served in compostable containers, including silverware, toothpicks, napkins, cups and other receptacles.
Coordinated by staff with Food Services of America and Erik Makinson, founder and CEO of the Spokane-based waste/energy reduction consulting firm Resource Synergy, the show is believed to be the first event hosted at the Spokane Convention Center that's attempted to be "zero waste," meaning nearly all disposable materials used during its run were biodegradable or recyclable.
"We thought there has got to be a better way that we can do this that isn't going to be negatively impacting our local environment," says FSA Spokane marketing coordinator Jonna Kelley.
To make it easier on show vendors who brought a variety of food product samples to share with more than 1,900 guests, mostly restaurant owners, chefs and other stakeholders, FSA provided all of the compostable serving supplies for vendor use.
And to make sure waste from these disposables was sorted properly, Resource Synergy set up disposal stations throughout the event floor, with separate bins for recyclables, compostables and waste that was neither. Each station was actively monitored throughout the day by staff from Resource Synergy, who made sure waste was placed in the proper bin to prevent contamination, a problem that can negate composting and recycling measures in the first place.
While the FSA show wasn't able to prevent all waste from going to Spokane's Waste to Energy Facility, Makinson reports that 71 percent of the total weight (5,441 pounds) of all waste collected during the event was able to be recycled or composted.
"We have disproportionately good infrastructure for supporting waste diversion here in Spokane," Makinson notes.
"We have a high-tech commercial composting facility [Barr-Tech] that is arguably up there with the best composting facilities in the country, and we have an advanced, recently built recycling sorting facility. It's just about implementing the programs within the four walls of a business, and how to access that infrastructure and having the time to make those changes that limits most businesses."