DALLAS, August 20, 2012 – While many folks might think of only good ‘ole Memphis barbeque when it comes to eating in Memphis, Tenn., one local there is making sure there are some healthy options too.
In fact, healthy and eco-friendly.
Director and founder of Project Green Fork Margot McNeely says she was surprised Memphis businesses, restaurants in particular, weren’t doing more to be sustainable until she found out that the resources were very limited.
“I ask a favorite locally-owned restaurant, Tsunami, to be my pilot restaurant to see if what I was thinking of implementing was doable from a restaurant’s prospective,” McNeely says in regard to her Project Green Fork idea. “We played around with a few things and changed some over the course of the eight months of “testing,” but came away with a six-step process that is easy and affordable.”
The Project Green Fork-Certified restaurants have to meet six criteria in order to qualify:
1. Sustainable Products; For all disposable products, PGF restaurants are to use products that are one of the following: compostable, biodegradable, recyclable, or made from recycled content.
2. Recycling; To prevent materials from ending up in the trash (and eventually a landfill), PGF restaurants are required to recycle all items that are recognized as recyclable by PGF.
3. Kitchen Composting; PGF will help restaurants develop a composting process to collect pre-consumed fruit, vegetable, coffee grounds, and eggshell scraps and other compostable waste.
4. Non-toxic Cleaning Products; Toxic cleaning products release harmful chemicals like phosphates and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the sewers, eventually making their way into rivers, oceans, rainwater, and eventually back into our drinking water. These chemicals pollute and harm any wildlife they come in contact with—including us.
5. Reduced Energy & Water Consumption; After completing an energy audit, PGF will help restaurants take steps to reduce and conserve vital energy and water. MLGW offers web-based tools designed to help you identify energy waste and find ways to save.
6. Pollution Prevention; Properly maintained grease traps and kitchen hoods prevent overflows and emissions to sewer and storm drain systems. Restaurants should ensure kitchen, front of house, and outside areas are clean and free of debris at all times including cigarette butts and other outside trash.
“The last thing I wanted to do was cause these small restaurants to go broke trying to go green,” she adds.
These days, Project Green Fork boasts about 40 restaurants overall under the organization’s umbrella and McNeely says the results have been estimated at diverting over 3 million pounds of paper, cardboard, glass, plastic and aluminum (recycled) and over 130,000 gallons of food waste that is composted from landfills.
Of her wins, she says it is “hearing people tell us they are supporting the restaurants that are PGF certified. Small locally owned and operated businesses don’t have a lot of advertising dollars so we help promote their efforts through various marketing efforts.”
As for her biggest challenges, that would be funding.
“We built a business model that has extremely low overhead and because of that we don’t have many big projects that funders tend to fund,” she says. “We’ve been fortunate to continue our work on a very small budget with donations and biannual fundraisers but it’s challenging to operate and grow without much funding.”
In the future, the savvy, green entrepreneur says she wants to sign on more cities in the area as well as work with the City of Memphis overall on adding additional recycling opportunities and possibly creating a city-wide compost program.
“Currently the PGF compostables are taken to local farms and gardens, but we’d like to see a larger compost operation that more businesses and individuals could use,” she says. “Memphis does not recycle for businesses, so this project truly is a community supported one. We are fortunate to have help from local college interns, volunteers and local businesses to make this work.”
McNeely also has plans to expand into other U.S. cities as well “after numerous requests to help other cities with a similar start up program, this year we finalized a Restaurant Sustainability Toolkit so other communities could easily start their own program,” she concludes.
Rita Cook is a writer/editor with has over 1000 articles to her credit in the past 13-plus years. She is a frequent auto and travel contributor on a radio show in Los Angeles called Insider Mag Radio at KPRO 1570 am on from midnight to 12:30 a.m. Monday mornings.
She also contributes travel and auto to the Anthony Duva show, which can be heard live from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. EST every Sunday at www.unregularradio.com.
Cook is a member of the Texas Auto Writer’s Association, writes for the Dallas Morning News Green Living Section as well as artist profiles and www.greensourceDFW and spends much of her time on the road traveling or working on books.
Her latest book releases are both “Haunted Dallas” and “Haunted Fort Worth” from www.historypress.net. You can also follow Cook at Twitter at @ritacook13.
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