eco

Meet: Plastic Free Blue Bayfield

In 1998, a group of citizens responded to concerns about the quality of the water in their river and lake, resulting in the formation of FRIENDS OF THE BAYFIELD RIVER (FoBR). Since its inception, FoBR has planted hundreds of trees along the length of the Bayfield River, organized annual beach cleanups, restored riverbanks, lobbied all levels of government and worked with sister organizations along the coastline to raise awareness of the threats to their waters. FoBR was instrumental in having ultra violet water treatment added to the Clinton sewage system.

In 2005, FoBR became alarmed with plastic debris found during cleanup, much of it single-use water bottles. At the time, the Council of Canadians introduced the Blue Community Project. This project asked municipalities to acknowledge water as a human right, end the distribution of single-use bottled water and denounce the privatization of this resource. FoBR sought and received the support of 40 village organizations. As a result of this support, Bayfield is one of many worldwide communities, including Paris France, Zurich, Switzerland and many Ontario towns that are BLUE COMMUNiTIES. 2500 refillable bottles have been distributed and with the help of sponsors, five refill stations can be found in the village. Over 30,000 refills have been undertaken at these sites.

Recent Studies of the Great Lakes indicate that there are more than twice the pieces of plastics per square km in the Greats than in the oceans (225,000), – (440,000). This figure hastened the then Blue Community to join groups around the world intent on changing attitudes towards single use plastics. In the UK and throughout Europe, towns and villages have joined the campaign organized by the Surfers Against Sewage that is based in St Agnes, Cornwall. The Cornish coast and indeed the coastlines throughout the UK and Europe, were awash in plastics. These communities thus became part of the PLASTIC FREE COMMUNITIES project that now numbers 500.

Over 80% of Bayfield eateries (and growing number of retailers) now have committed to eliminate all single use plastics and polystyrene. This is just the beginning.

Thank you to the residents of Blue Bayfield for your leadership on plastic advocacy and awareness!

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Diversity Foodservices: "Greenest Restaurant over 10K square feet" LEAF award winner for 2018

Chef Jessica at Elements

Chef Jessica at Elements

We recently handed out our 2nd Annual LEAF Awards at the RC Show in Toronto. We thought we’d take a look back at one of our first recipients of a LEAF award, and find out if and how it has impacted their business.

Diversity Foodservices in Winnipeg, Manitoba, operates a number of restaurants including University of Winnipeg’s elements, Pangea’s Kitchen and Malecon, and Buffalo Stone Cafe. We asked COO Ian Vickers about winning a LEAF award.

Why did you apply for the LEAF awards?

IV: Sustainability is at the heart of the Diversity Foods mission.  We like to work with LEAF because having a 3rd party check that we are truly on-track brings a new level to our verification process.  We applied for the LEAF award because we have always thought of ourselves as leaders in the Sustainable Large Scale Food Service sector, and we wanted to know the validity of that claim.

Executive Chef Kelly

Executive Chef Kelly

 
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What has the award changed in your business? 

IV: Winning the LEAF award for most sustainable large food service establishment has brought a lot of pride to our team members.  It reminds our line cooks that what they do every day has meaning and has a verifiable impact.  We keep the award in a location where our whole campus team can see it as they start and end their days, to remind them that we are doing something unique here; and that uniqueness has been recognized by a national agency.

What do you like about the LEAF award?

IV: It increases the awareness of the importance of sustainability, and serves as a reminder that businesses can be sustainable actors and while they succeed financially.

What is the importance of investing in sustainability?

IV: Climate change is real. Resources are finite. A changing market of consumers now understand these things, and are willing to make purchasing decisions based on the ethics that a company presents.  The old model of profit maximization by pillaging from those already socially, culturally, and economically disenfranchised or by raping our planets natural habitats is quickly becoming outdated.  If a company wants to be relevant to its customers it now has to invest in sustainable systems that ensure equity for individuals in procurement, manufacturing and distribution systems as well as a solid plan for creation and disposal of goods that is either neutral or a benefit to the environment. 

The corporate cheese has moved;  move with it or starve.

Thanks to Ian Vickers and the whole team at Diversity Foodservices for their on-going commitment to sustainability!

2019 LEAF Awards

On Feb 26th, the 2nd annual LEAF awards were handed out at the RC Show in Toronto. The theme this year was SustainABILITY - and focused on all interpretations of the word. Of course, environmental sustainability was a major focus, and attendees were treated to eco-related workshops, panel discussions, and the latest in eco products and services. It was fitting to round out the show by recognizing leaders in the sustainable foodservice industry. 

We thank all of the applicants to the 2019 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!

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Award: Most Improved

Recipient: CRAFT Beer Market (Vancouver, Kelowna, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa)

The LEAF program is not about perfection, but about continuous improvement in sustainability, and CRAFT Beer Market has demonstrated their commitment to doing just that. They have added four new plant-based menu items, reduced most single-use plastics, and continue to ensure excellence company wide by getting all locations LEAF Certified.

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Award: Eco-Innovator


Recipient: A & W Canada

The Eco-Innovator award was open to any restaurant or foodservice facility in Canada that has demonstrated innovative solutions to sustainable challenges or raised the bar for the industry.

Quick-serve restaurants (QSRs) are notorious for being highly wasteful. A & W has made a number of sustainable efforts that have not yet been by such a large QSR company, thereby raising the bar for the industry and proving that it not only can, but should be done.

For their waste initiatives, plant-based burger and elimination of plastic straws, A & W Canada was deserving of the Eco-Innovator Award.

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Award: Greenest Restaurant


Recipient: River Café, Calgary

In order to be eligible for this award, the finalists had to be Level 3 LEAF certified, which is our highest level, and is itself cause for recognition. However, this restaurant has demonstrated a commitment to sustainability long before they become LEAF certified in almost 10 years ago, and continues to stand out for their high performance in all of LEAF’s 10 Areas of Sustainability.

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: 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! 

Moment on the lips, forever in our midst: an epidemic of single use plastic

Photo by lindsay_imagery/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by lindsay_imagery/iStock / Getty Images

Six years ago, while visiting the University of Guelph and their Sustainable Restaurant Program (UGSRP), I first heard the term “straws suck”. Bruce McAdams, UGSRP’s co-creator and sustainable hospitality expert, and I were discussing the issue with plastic straws, when he said he wanted to have t-shirts made that said “Straws suck” to build awareness. The phrase was was clever, and it was accurate.  

It has only been the last couple of years though, that awareness of the issue has grown and a slow rebellion against single-use disposable plastics is forming. Local and federal governments are taking steps to eliminate these sources of plastic pollution, such as implementing plastic bag, straw and micro bead bans and using Canada’s G7 Presidency to encourage other countries to take action such as a plastics charter. Canada has also joined the United Nation’s CleanSeas Campaign

With approximately 8 million tonnes of plastic ending up in the ocean every year, the CleanSeas campaign is working with governments, the private sector and the general public to phase out the production and consumption of single-use plastics and microbeads within the next five years. If no action is taken, there could be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050.” (Source). 

Where government leadership is lagging behind, non-profit organizations like Ocean Wise  and Surfrider and consumer-based movements are working to bring awareness to the issue. 

 

Why the attack on plastics?

Image courtesy of pixabay.com

Image courtesy of pixabay.com

Resource intensive, used for only a brief amount of time, and then discarded to live out an eternity in a landfill or oceans, single-use, disposable plastics don’t make sense. 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. 

It is estimated that we throw out 57 million plastics straws per day in Canada. Plastic bags (produce and grocery), coffee lids and plastic bottles and caps are also among the top plastic items that are consumed and discarded almost immediately. This culture of convenience has created a literal sea of plastic pollution. It is estimated that 8 million metric tons of plastic enter the oceans every year. The now infamous North Pacific Gyre, also known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, occupies an area that is twice the size of Texas. According to the UNESCO, Plastic debris causes the deaths of more than a million seabirds every year, as well as more than 100,000 marine mammals.

For sea birds and larger marine creatures like turtles, dolphins and seals, the danger comes from being entangled in plastic bags and other debris, or mistaking plastic for food. Turtles cannot distinguish between plastic bags and jellyfish, which can be part of their diet. Plastic bags, once consumed, cause internal blockages and usually result in death.” -

But, despite these major issues, plastics have become part of our lives and, in some ways, (yes I’ll say it, and cringe as I do) have made it better. Working in hospitals, I know plastics are everywhere. Plastic IV and medication bags deliver life-saving medications and improve sterility for patients who are at high risk for deadly infections, and plastic breathing tubes keep people alive when they are critically ill. Yes, plastics can serve a vital purpose that we have no adequate replacement for in the present. But whether it’s useful or not, the evidence is clear: our planet and wildlife simply cannot handle the amount of plastic that we currently produce and dispose of.

 

Let's talk solutions

Unfortunately, we will probably never be entirely rid of plastics. However, we can and absolutely should do everything we can to decrease our use and get away from the convenience-centric mindset that is contributing to the mass amount of plastic pollution.

REDUCE

Health care aside, there are many industries that can significantly reduce or even eliminate plastics altogether right now (excessive plastic packaging comes to mind). Straws and bags are the target today, but all single-use and disposable plastics are on the chopping block. As consumers, we can become more aware of our own plastic consumption, refuse items that don’t meet our standards, and ask that companies provide better alternatives.

FIND ALTERNATIVES and INNOVATE

These two really go together. There will always be people who want their convenience and a even a need or desire for plastic-like material. We need innovation to find suitable alternatives for plastic materials that won’t end up polluting the environment and don’t result in harmful micro plastics as they breakdown. There are many companies that are developing innovative solutions to replace plastics, and even keep some or all of the convenience that we’ve become accustomed to. Sometimes, the solution may be painfully simple, such as going back to the way things were - e.g. milk and beverages in glass bottles.

LEGISLATION

Putting the onus on companies who produce these plastics to find ways to properly collect and manage them, and taxing those that don’t comply, may provide an incentive to reduce their reliance on them. Better recycling options for plastics that are, for now, unavoidable. 

CLEANUP THE MESS WE’VE MADE

Lastly, while we focus on reducing further plastic pollution, a group of brilliant engineers, researchers and scientists can develop plans to clean up the plastics that are already in the oceans. Organizations like The Ocean Cleanup are working on just that.  

This is the beginning of LEAF’s renewed focus on plastics. Version 4.0 of the LEAF criteria places a heavier emphasis on reducing and eliminating single use plastics. Stay tuned for more exciting initiatives to address plastic pollution in the coming months. 

If you're a restaurant or foodservice operator, contact us to get involved. 

Janine Windsor
President & Founder, LEAF

 

 

 

RC Show 2018: sustainability up front

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Over 20,000 chefs, restaurateurs and industry professionals attended the RC Show in Toronto on Feb 25-27th, 2018. LEAF was a co--presenter of the Eco Pavilion, which featured businesses and organizations to help attendees address waste, find rebates, learn about the ENERGY STAR program and more.

Day one featured a great discussion on the Business Case for Sustainability. Bruce McAdams of the University of Guelph's Sustainable Restaurant Program (UGSRP) started off the talk by highlighting the economic benefits of incorporating sustainability into operations and stats to provide context.  A panel discussion with five LEAF certified restaurateurs followed, each discussing their challenges and successes in their sustainability journey, and providing valuable insight and advice. 

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The talk wrapped with each chef offering their recommendation for the best sustainable change they made - either economically or greatest impact with least investment:

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  • Chef Cam McGowan from CRAFT Beer Market suggested starting with a waste audit of garbage, compost and recycling - laying everything "out on a tarp" to seeing what you're actually throwing away.
     
  • Ian Vickers, COO of Diversity Food Services, recommended placing compost containers by each service station and taking the garbage out of the way. Ian suggested placing the garbage at the back of the house created a "walk of shame" to throw something out, ensuring anything that could be composted or recycled, was.
     
  • Evelyn Gharibian from Hearty Catering, favoured monitoring water use and implementing conservation systems as means to reduce water use and cost.
     
  • Elio Zannoni of Gusto Commissary and Catering highlighted the ease and impact of eliminating plastic straws and stir sticks.
     
  • Brad Long of Cafe Belong recommended working towards being a Certified B Corp, and stressed the importance of measurement.
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Kim of  Montgomery's  Restaurant

Kim of Montgomery's Restaurant

Throughout the show we collected pledges in our Pledge to Win contest - encouraging foodservice operators to make a sustainability pledge. We captured pledges for everything from  purchasing ENERGY STAR appliances and installing low flow fixtures, to eliminating plastic straws! 

The final day of the show featured the SaveONEnergy Forum presented by IESO where the focus was on SAVING. We heard first hand accounts of how big and small energy efficiency strategies had lead to major operational cost savings. 

Chic Alors! saves $700 per month with LED lighting and realized a payback within 7 months of the initial investment

Sheridan College campus was able to reduce the temperature by two degrees in the winter by installing ENERGY STAR window film, resulting in substantial cost savings

Kim of Montgomery's restaurant kept costs in check by choosing ENERGY STAR appliances, unplugging equipment when not needed, filling in cracks in the walls and around windows and doors, installing thick curtains and rugs as insulation, and more

At the end of the SaveONEnergy Forum, ENERGY STAR Canada, in partnership with Restaurants Canada, IESO, LEAF and Newspring Energy, launched their Foodservice Energy Challenge, which will give participating restaurant and foodservice facilities the opportunity for deep discounts on ENERGY STAR equipment and a chance to win prizing. 

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The show was capped off with the first LEAF Awards, presented to four incredibly deserving companies. Diversity Foodservices, Chic Alors!, Community Cafe and Creelman Market all took home awards. Learn more about the winners here.

Thanks to Restaurants Canada for putting on an amazing show and highlighting sustainability! We look forward to the RC Show 2019 where the theme will be Sustainability! 

Creelman Market : winner of Eco-Innovator 2018

Creelman Market: winner of Eco-Innovator 2018

Diversity Foodservices : winner of Greenest Restaurant over 10,000 square feet

Diversity Foodservices: winner of Greenest Restaurant over 10,000 square feet

Community Cafe : winner of Most Improved 2018

Community Cafe: winner of Most Improved 2018

Chic Alors! : winner Greenest Restaurant 2018

Chic Alors!: winner Greenest Restaurant 2018

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LEAF Approved Supplier  Rethink Resource

LEAF Approved Supplier Rethink Resource

Biodegradable or Compostable? Which takeout container is “greener"?

By Jeanelle d'Eon

Labelling can be one of the most confusing aspects when looking for an environmentally sustainable product. When in comes to takeout containers, the terms "biodegradable" and "compostable" dominate in popularity and cause plenty of confusion. While these two descriptors may seem similar (even interchangeable), they can mean very different things and have major differences when it comes to the end of the product's life cycle.

Truly biodegradable products (such a paper-based takeout containers and wooden utensils) have the ability to break down completely in nature with the help of living organisms like bacteria, or they can be composted in a simple backyard composter. Although they break down easily in the right conditions, if they end up in landfill, they will produce methane (a potent greenhouse gas) during the breakdown process due to lack of oxygen. So it is ideal to ensure there is a proper processing facilities and receptacles in place to minimize the amount of these products that end up in landfill. 

Here's where it gets complicated: not all "compostable" food service products are biodegradable. Many newer products that are labelled as "biodegradable" or "compostable" (such as bio-based plastics), require industrial composting facilities to break them down. Unfortunately, not all municipalities have these facilities, so many of these products end up in the landfill where they will not break down. Or, if they do, it's estimated to take a few hundred years, or more.

Essentially, truly compostable, non-plastic products are a more environmentally sustainable choice, (ideally made from recycled paper-based products), but there are many things to consider. When it comes to choosing a take out container, restaurateurs should consider a few key things:

Does my municipality have industrial composting facilities? 

Are my patrons likely to dispose of these products properly, or will most of them end up in landfill? 

Considering the above questions, what product will have the least harm on the environment?

100% recycled, paper-based take out containers and wood-based utensils are a few of our preferred options. What type of container are you using in your restaurant, and why?

 

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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!