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Going Green by Dining Green

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Going Green by Dining Green
Photo by Andrew Cebulka

It’s encouraging that many of you out there know about and actively seek locally sourced, farm-to-table, and sustainable food for your plates when dining out. But what about the environmental and community impact of the restaurant itself, once that delicious local food is purchased?

Enter the Green Restaurant, a restaurant that has embraced sustainable and environmentally-sensitive practices in every way, from food waste to water use to the straws purchased for to-go cups.

Photo by Andrew Cebulka
Photo by Andrew Cebulka

Wild Olive on Johns Island, SC, is such a restaurant, and it was the first Certified Green Restaurant in South Carolina, a certification that they have maintained for close to a year. We checked in with Wild Olive Executive Chef Jacques Larson and General Manager Jason Parrish to see how being green has impacted their workaday life.

“One thing about this whole process is that it’s a team effort for both front and back of the house,” Larson explains. “The hardest part of the certification was our staff getting used to change in the first few weeks, but after a while it becomes natural.”

One of the most obvious changes that they saw when they “went green” was how to dispose of trash. Wild Olive is a participant in a new Charleston County Commercial Food Waste Composting Program, and through tax breaks and reduced dumpster costs, it costs the restaurant only about $1 a day to compost their food.

Here’s how it works: There are three slim trashcans placed at various points in the kitchen – one for compost, one for recycling, and one for trash.  On a busy weekend shift, the restaurant might only fill up half of one five-gallon bucket in trash, an amazing reduction! The compost material is picked up and is soon perfect “black gold” for county residents to purchase as fertilizer.

Additionally, representatives from The Green Dining Association helped Larson and Parrish go through months of invoices to find green alternatives for the products they use, all without majorly increasing their costs. When the restaurant group opens its new spot, Obstinate Daughter, on Sullivan’s Island in a few weeks, it will be green, even down to the kitchen equipment.

Larson provides an example: “We did a revamp of Wild Olive’s kitchen this past summer, and we went with a $7,500 fryer, a hefty price tag for one. But it was much more energy efficient, it made the kitchen cooler, and it had a self-straining mode. We have made up that price difference in the amount of oil I purchase for the fryer and our energy bill. Yes, it is a nice luxury, but it was smart in the long term.”

If you’re interested in dining green, you can visit dininggreen.com for a handy search engine to help you find a Certified Green Restaurant. Parrish hopes that you do., wherever you are. “It’s something we take pride in as a staff,” Parrish explains. “And it was a natural progression of our mission statement and being a part of and supporting this local community.”

Mentioned in this post:
Jacques Larson