by Becky Mosgofian
The restaurant industry can generate copious amounts of waste in uneaten food, packaging containers, even those plastic drink straws add up. One business is sick of the garbage and has adopted a Zero Waste approach from upfront waste prevention to composting.
Six Rivers Brewery, with the help of their employee and Humboldt State University intern, Sarah Wilber, and Maggie Gainer of Zero Waste Humboldt, has committed to be the pilot program for Zero Waste Humboldt. Wilber is developing the program for her MBA degree.
Zero Waste Humboldt is helping calculate the exact data of the brewery’s waste reduction efforts while business owners, Talia Nachshon and Meredith Maier-Ripley, are training their staff on comprehensive waste reduction and customer education of Zero Waste.
“We are so excited about Six Rivers Brewery really walking the talk. When I last ate there the server mentioned Zero Waste and why compostable straws are upon request only now,” said Gainer. The restaurant also encourages patrons to bring their own bags for pick-up orders.
Six Rivers Brewery’s first step in measuring their waste was a week-long dumpster diving audit.
“We literally went through each piece of garbage to see what could be recycled or composted,” said Maier-Ripley. She was inspired to tackle the trash after a Zero Waste Humboldt event led by Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s Sustainability Manager, Cheri Chastain.
At the time of the audit trash pick-up was four times weekly. Daily trash and potential compostables weighed in at 190 pounds. They were already sending fresh veggies and 600-700 pounds of grain from their brewhouse to a pig farmer. When they found The Local Worm Guy in McKinleyville could take their compostable paper goods and post-consumer food scraps for casings and soil, daily garbage dropped to 30 pounds, an 84 percent reduction.
The brewhouse is already nearing 100 percent Zero Waste, with the exact data coming soon. Six Rivers Brewery is reducing the remaining garbage from the restaurant by calling every supplier and requesting reduced packaging. They also have a goal of making the menu 100 percent local.
“Switching all our breads to Arcata-based Beck’s Bakery means we are using 100 percent local grains but breads were delivered in plastic bags. We asked them to swap the plastic bags with re-usable plastic tubs. No more waste,” said Wilber.
Buying local increases some food costs but in turn you have higher quality ingredients, a boost to the local economy and reduced GHG emissions due to less travel time for food.
“Buying local is so important. We are creating demand which supports jobs in our local small business community and betters the earth in many ways. Everyone wins,” said Maier-Ripley.