Sustainable Restaurants in Canada

Each year, a report for foodservice trends is released by Restaurants Canada. Many topics are covered: food prices, menu setting, employee wages, regulations, local food sourcing and more. There is one topic that has yet to receive the proper attention: sustainability. Our southern neighbours have been addressing this area for a number of years and sustainability issues rank among top trends in US (What’s Hot Culinary Forecast 2016 – NRA), but here in Canada, it still remains as a quiet revolution. One would think that the interest of Canadian foodservice does not go further than sourcing local food – a misconception that is far from the truth.

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Meanwhile in Canada, restaurants, catering businesses, cafes and food trucks have been taking crucial steps in bringing sustainability into their businesses, incorporating environmental and social responsibility into their daily practices . They have set their goals and made a commitment through the one and only Canadian sustainability focused certification – LEAF (Leadership in Environmentally Accountable Foodservice).

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LEAF certification rates restaurants, cafes, catering companies and food trucks in 10 categories: food, energy, water, waste & recycling, supplies, building & location, furnishings, chemicals, employees, and policies. There are 3 levels of certification with 2 requirements – no styrofoam containers used and tracking of energy and water usage (if possible).

LEAF certification comes with very tangible benefits.

  • credibility – your claims are audited, verified and certified by a third party
  • marketability – no longer just a claim, but a distinction in a highly competitive market
  • monetary – sustainable practices emphasize energy usage reduction and efficiency, water conservation and waste reduction which can create substantial savings
  • customer loyalty – join in a common cause of environmental protection and social responsibility, create a sense of belonging which in turn creates loyalty among your patrons.
  • staff happiness and retention – caring for your staff beyond regulatory compliance generates a  sense of wellbeing, ultimately translating in increased staff productivity and retention

This all may sound great on paper, but what would it look like in practice?

Please meet Earth and City, Level 2 LEAF certified catering company in Toronto.

Earth and City, since its inception in 2011, has prioritized the mandate of sustainability as its core business practice.

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They are a raw vegan catering company with seasonal menu that minimizes food waste by offering ‘second salads’ at discount prices and menu specials. With amazing creativity, chef and owner Lisa Sweetman, turns juicing pulp waste into delicious crackers . Manager Ashley Davidson, makes sure that during the growing season, all greens and vegetables are purchased from local farmers, constituting more than 50% of all suppliers, or grown from their garden.

Raw vegan diet is not only good for you, it is also good for the environment. Earth and City’s energy consumption measures in at just a fraction compared to any other commercial kitchen. Their equipment consists primarily of dehydrators, refrigerators, and freezers.

Waste is another strong area for Earth and City. All organic waste is taken for composting to the composting facilities at The Foodshare, The Stop and some of their local farmers-suppliers. They have recycling for paper, plastics, cans and glass with signs right above the recycling cans to assure waste is properly disposed of. To reduce packaging waste, a majority of their suppliers deliver produce in reusable containers.

You would be hard pressed to find the use of any harsh chemicals at Earth and City. All the products, from hand soap to kitchen cleaning products, are EcoLogo certified.

This may sound like an arduous task, but with small steps in the 5 years of its existence, Earth and City has become an example of what can be achieved.

The number of LEAF-certified restaurants and cafes has grown considerably in the last couple of years. To date, there are certified restaurants in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and soon in Nova Scotia. The movements is growing stronger with each year.

If you would like to find out more about LEAF certification, please contact eva@newpringenergy.ca.

Author

Eva Greff, Sustainable business consultant working with restaurants and businesses in foodservice to help them integrate sustainable practices in daily operation. For a list of services visit the NewSpring Energy website or contact her here.