Sustainability in Restaurants

Sustainability means to meet the needs of the present without compromising the needs of the future. Many restaurants in Fernie incorporate sustainable practices into their businesses to help reduce their environmental impact; small efforts that make a big difference to their business, the environment, and the community.

Blue Toque Gastro Diner’s green program pillars are continuous re-evaluation, local supply, and waste minimization. Their coffee is roasted in Cranbrook, their sausages are from a small family operation in Calgary, and their eggs travel fewer than 120km as opposed to the 600km which is more common in the industry. With a goal to never throw out pre-customer edible product, Blue Toque freezes, dehydrates and pickles excess produce. Any excess is donated to Fernie Fresh Food Share, a local food recovery organization, or composted and provided to a resident gardener. To reduce their carbon footprint, the diner has increased their plant-based menu options and eliminated beef and lamb due to these meats’ higher environmental impact. Two years ago, Blue Toque started purchasing 25 trees per month from Trees Canada. Over 400 trees have been planted due to this partnership, to date. In 2017, Blue Toque was named Fernie’s Greenest Restaurant by Wildsight’s Earth Day Green Awards.

One sustainable practice that has become a trend in Fernie restaurants is to eliminate the use of plastic straws. Infinitea T-Bar, Nevados, Island Lake Lodge, Blue Toque, Cirque, and Yamagoya have all gotten on board to combat the more than 500 million drinking straws that are disposed of in North America every day. Infinitea, specifically, has never served plastic straws with in-house beverages and uses stainless steel straws instead. Nevados proudly features the “#strawssuck” movement on their cocktail menu.

Crumbs Cakery and Café prides itself on being self-professed “recycling nuts” due to the owner’s past work history in a recycling plant. To further reduce their impact, the café chooses sustainable takeout soup and cupcake containers. They are also a member Fernie Fresh Food Share, helping to recover food which would have been previously thrown out and donate it to the community.

Waste minimization has been a cornerstone of Infinitea T-Bar’s business since its inception five years ago. The menu was designed to ensure everything gets used. Since they are closed Tuesdays, they offer $6 meal Mondays to ensure all ingredients are consumed before they go bad, even if it means selling food at cost. Vegetable peelings and other scraps are collected and given to a small local farm where they are fed to chickens and used for compost. To enhance customer consciousness, Infinitea charges a $1 fee for takeout boxes (which are biodegradable) and has eliminated the printing of paper bills in favour of typing and displaying cheque amounts directly on the till.

Supplier selection plays a big role in a restaurant’s own sustainability. Island Lake Lodge continuously re-evaluates its partners based on their green practices, particularly within its wine program. For wines to be selected for their list, the lodge explores the wineries’ efforts to neutralize their carbon footprints and if they are using biodynamic and organic practices. Much of Island Lake Lodge’s food is sourced locally, with the majority of its beef coming from Bolter Farm, fewer than 100 km away, and weekly visits by the head chef to Fernie’s Mountain Market. It is these efforts and more that have earned the company a Gold level certification from Green Tourism, the world’s largest sustainable tourism certification program.

When noting the sustainability efforts within Fernie’s restaurant industry, the effectiveness is not based on any one business’ actions. The positive impact comes from many restaurants applying small practices each day with awareness, responsibility and a commitment to continuous improvement.

“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” – Vincent Van Gogh