canada

LEAF: A look back at where we started, and where we are now.

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The Dishwasher was rhythmically humming while the sink behind it filled up two industrial basins of water to thaw some chicken. Hood fans worked constantly over pre-heated fryers and flat tops that were cranked and working at full capacity. House lights were all on.

No one was in the restaurant though.

In the evenings, I’d melt ice in the bar sink by running hot water, and then scoop handful after handful of plastic straws and throw them in the garbage. It was a moment of awakening that I realized that the foodservice industry is incredibly wasteful. Foodservice has one of the largest carbon footprints of commercial operations, yet it is a driver of our economy and a past time for many. There had to be a way to improve the way we do things. I looked into what sustainability resources were available for foodservice establishments and found very little. The seed was planted, and after two years of research and development, a nationwide non-for-profit was launched that focused on reducing the environmental impact of the industry and certified restaurants that are operating more sustainably.

It was the community of like minded people around me who made the first steps possible. The emerging green movement in Calgary welcomed and supported my idea. Our pilot restaurant was River Cafe, a high-profile restaurant in Calgary whose owner shared our philosophy and passion for sustainability, while keeping us mindful of important considerations in a successful business. This like-mindedness was then discovered across Canada.

LEAF started with one restaurant in Calgary and has grown to what it is today, nearly 100 LEAF certified facilities across Canada, from independent restaurants to small cafes and campuses. We want to make a big impact on the world around us in terms of environmental efficiency and waste reduction, and help reverse the current environmental direction we’re headed. This is the passion that drives us daily. Wo do this in two ways: we educate restaurants about the benefits of sustainability, both environmental and financial, and provide guidance to improve their operations. And it goes far beyond local food. We look at everything from the menu, to the chemicals they use to clean, energy practices, water use, social policies and more. But we also engage in the consumer world where we help consumers find our LEAF certified restaurants so they can show their support and feel good about where they choose to eat.

We now have third-party auditors and LEAF certified restaurants in most major cities in Canada. The auditor’s role is to work within their communities to reduce the environmental impact of local restaurants, and improve their environmental and economic sustainability, which ultimately benefits the local community. A lot goes into a restaurant getting a LEAF sticker on their door. The places that have it are passionate about sustainability, their communities and people.

As a non-profit, we work hard at creating more awareness for LEAF and what it means, why it exists. We know people tend to feel better by eating somewhere they know is more sustainable. These people who feel that it is important tend to spread the word and it’s this organic growth that propels us forward. We use social networks to increase awareness of the restaurants that are doing good things, and then that relationship is continued face to face and off the network, when our audience visits a LEAF restaurant for a truly great experience.

How can you help? Reduce your own impact by refusing disposable plastics when you go out to eat, look for LEAF certified restaurants and encourage your local restaurants to get LEAF certified. If you work in the foodservice industry and want to improve the sustainability of your restaurant, get in touch!

LEAF launches Plastic-Free Dining Challenge

Photo by Placebo365/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by Placebo365/iStock / Getty Images

June 1, LEAF will launch our Plastic-Free Dining Challenge - a campaign aimed at addressing the use of single-use plastics in the foodservice industry and actively working to reduce them.

Plastics are entering our oceans at an alarming rate. According to Ocean Wise, an astonishing 86 per cent of all plastic packaging is used only once then discarded. It can take an estimated 400 or more years for plastics to degrade in the environment, meaning a large percentage of every peice that has ever been created, still remains. Read more here.

With the incredible success of recent movements like #StrawsSuck and #LastStrawToronto, the time is now to build on this momentum and look at ways to further reduce plastic pollution. We are asking you to join us in tackling the plastic pollution problem!

Restaurants and Foodservice facilities: Sign up here to participate in LEAF’s Plastic-Free Dining Challenge!

Not a restaurant? Encourage your favourite restaurant to join us! 

LEAF releases annual Guide to Canada's Greenest Restaurants

LEAF has released our annual Guide to Canada’s Greenest Restaurants for 2018. For the past number of years, sustainable dining and various aspects of it , including local food, sustainable seafood, meatless menus, and environmental practices, have been listed as some of the top trends in restaurants and food service. Increasingly, restaurants are realizing that operating as a more sustainable business is also good for their bottom line.

Restaurants waste an average of 50 tons of food each year, and use 2.5 to 5 times more energy per square foot than other commercial buildings. 96 per cent of LEAF restaurants compost their food waste versus just 9 per cent of conventional restaurants. 85 per cent of LEAF restaurants use energy efficient or ENERGY STAR appliances versus just 52 per cent of conventional restaurants. LEAF restaurants consistently outperform conventional restaurants.

Consumers are increasingly more aware of the impact of their purchasing decisions, and gravitate towards more environmentally sound purchasing choices when presented with options. Dining at a LEAF certified restaurant takes the guesswork out of the equation for consumers.  The restaurants on this list have all been audited by an independent third party, and demonstrate a commitment to operating in an environmentally sustainable manner. Canadian diners can find an updated list of LEAF certified restaurants in their area, year round, on the LEAF website.

We are continually raising the bar for what it means to be LEAF certified. In the coming weeks, LEAF’s version 4.0 criteria will be released, which places a greater emphasis on single use disposable plastics and food waste.

Support a more sustainable foodservice industry - visit a LEAF certified restaurant in your area today!

Don’t see one on the list in your area? Send them this link and suggest they get certified!

Follow LEAF on Twitter @LEAF_Canada, on Instagram @LEAF_Canada, and on Facebook L.E.A.F

LEAF Awards: LEAF recognizes four leaders in sustainability in the foodservice industry

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On Feb 27th, the first LEAF awards were handed out at the RC Show in Toronto. After a jam-packed three days of food, innovation and sustainability discussions, the show was capped off by recognizing leaders in the sustainable foodservice industry. 

We thank all of the applicants to the 2018 LEAF Awards, and are proud of all of our LEAF-certified members that operate with sustainability in mind everyday. We applaud your commitment to the environment and your customers!

 

Award: Most Improved
Recipient: Community Cafe, Calgary, AB

The LEAF program is not about perfection, but about continuous improvement in sustainability, and Community Cafe (run by Community Natural Foods) has demonstrated their commitment to striving for better. When Community Cafe first became certified in 2012, they were already operating in a sustainable manor - local and sustainable food, sustainable seafood, a high percentage of vegan and vegetarian dishes, wind powered by Bullfrog Power, water-conserving fixtures, composting, and more! Since that time, Community Cafe has aimed to become a zero-waste facility, purchased ENERGY STAR appliances, and become an official OceanWise partner, establishing themselves amongst the more sustainably run businesses in Calgary. 

We are proud to recognize Community Cafe for their commitment to always doing better!

 

Award: Greenest Restaurant over 10,000 square feet
Recipient: Diversity Foodservices, Winnipeg, MB

Ian Vickers, COO of Diversity Food Services and LEAF President, Janine Windsor  Photo courtesy of  Restaurants Canada

Ian Vickers, COO of Diversity Food Services and LEAF President, Janine Windsor

Photo courtesy of Restaurants Canada

Diversity Food Services operates a number of restaurants (Elements, Malecon, Pangeas Kitchen, Buffalo Stone Cafe) all of which are all LEAF certified. Operating a large-scale foodservice facility can present some unique challenges to certain sustainability goals (securing large, consistent quantities of local food, retrofitting components that are part of a larger institution, etc). Diversity Food Services has demonstrated innovation and commitment in overcoming these challenges and stands as a leader in sustainable facility operations.

Their achievements include sustainable (Ocean Wise) seafood, a high percentage of local food, wide variety of meat-free dishes, recycled and compostable supplies, LEED certified buildings composting, and more, making Diversity Food Services deserving of this award.

 

Award: Eco-Innovator
Recipient: Creelman Market

The Eco-Innovator award was open to any restaurant or foodservice facility in Canada that has demonstrated innovative solutions to sustainable challenges. For large scale facilities, procuring local and seasonal produce year round can be a challenge in Canada. Creelman Market overcame this by implementing a large scale food preservation operation, which allows use of local produce in their facilities year round. While the concept of food preservation and canning may not be new, the scale to which this facility has undertaken it to ensure they are using as much local food as possible every month of the year, has taken it to a new level and solved a local food challenge for Canadian food service facilities.

 

Award: Greenest Restaurant
Recipient: Chic Alors!, Quebec, QC

Hugues Philippin, Owner of Chic Alors! and Janine Windsor, President of LEAF  Photo courtesy of  Restaurants Canada

Hugues Philippin, Owner of Chic Alors! and Janine Windsor, President of LEAF

Photo courtesy of Restaurants Canada

In order to be eligible for the Greenest Restaurant award, restaurants had to be Level 3 (our highest) LEAF certified restaurant. While all Level 3 LEAF restaurants are high-performing and deserving of recognition, Chic Alors! stood out as a true leader for 2018, being engaged in all 10 of LEAF’s Areas of Sustainability. Chic Alors! has geothermal heating, electric vehicles for delivery, their own beehives, LED lighting and more. 

Hugues Philippin, owner of Chic Alors!, credits his decision to operate as a sustainable restaurant as a key factor in operational cost savings. 

Thank you to everyone who entered to win the award this year. Your commitment to improvement in the sustainable foodservice industry is inspirational.

Congratulations to all of our winners!

 

LEAF becomes ENERGY STAR™ Participant

LEAF is proud to announce that we are an ENERGY STAR participant. For years, our program has emphatically promoted the ENERGY STARY program for its important work in reducing the energy consumption of the foodservice industry. Energy use is one of the largest contributors to the environmental footprint of the foodservice facilities. With the ENERGY STAR program, foodservice operators can choose equipment that not only uses less energy, but saves them money in the long run. 

LEAF heavily encourages our members to replace their equipment with ENERGY STAR equipment when their current pieces near the end of their life, or when retrofitting their kitchens. In fact, the energy section of the LEAF criteria is one of the most heavily weighted, and using ENERGY STAR equipment significantly helps our restaurants reach the amount of points required for certification. In addition, to be Level 3 LEAF Certified (our highest level), at least 60% of a restaurant’s equipment must be ENERGY STAR certified.

We are happy to be working to promote such an important program. Stayed tuned for more information on the ENERGY STAR program, tools and tips to help you reduce your energy use further.

To learn more about the ENERGY STAR program, click here.

 

 

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