‘Sustainability’ and ‘Go Green’ are words we hear thrown around a lot lately, but what do they really mean in practice? Sure, we all know we are supposed to throw our empty milk jugs and wine bottles in the recycling bin not the trash can, bring our own reusable bags to the market, and some of us may even compost. To take a look at what it can mean on a larger scale, we turned to an initiative in Memphis, Tennessee that is helping local restaurants jump on and stay on the “Go Green” bandwagon.
Project Green Fork (PGF) began in 2008 due to some alarming statistics: the average restaurant produces 50,000 pounds of garbage per year and, typically, close to 95 percent of this waste could be recycled or composted. Led by Executive Director Margot McNeely, PGF has rallied 59 Memphis restaurants to follow their six-step certification process.
The popular Central BBQ, with three different locations in Memphis, proudly displays a PGF certification. Elizabeth Blondis, catering and shipping director and PGF board member, shared with us Central BBQ’s experience making the sustainability transition. They began by properly disposing all recyclable material and composting food waste. They also switched from Styrofoam containers and harsh chemical cleaners to more environmentally friendly products. In just four years they cut their overall waste in half and reduced their energy bill. Blondis described the process as “surprisingly simple.” Looking to the future, Blondis plans to start a Central BBQ garden, and hopes the initiative is expanded throughout the Memphis area.
To date, Project Green Fork boasts 1,815,880 gallons of plastic, glass, and aluminum recycled, as well as 1,634,792 pounds of recycled cardboard and paper, and an additional 222,857 gallons of recycled food waste.
Editor’s Note: Read more about Central BBQ and Memphis in the May 2014 issue.