Local produce section at Weaver’s Way Co-Op in Chestnut Hill. (Photo by Meredith Bernstein)

by Meredith Bernstein

According to ReFED, a nonprofit organization that specializes in food waste reduction, the U.S. wastes about 63 million tons of food every year. The restaurant industry accounts for 11.4 tons a year at a cost of $25 billion.

In response to reports like this and others regarding the state of sustainable practices in restaurants around the country, Chestnut Hill businesses are making the transition to reduce their carbon footprint. Organizations like Neighborly Restaurant Association, Green Restaurant Association, and local environment committees are helping shops like Night Kitchen Bakery and Cafe and Weavers Way Co-op make the change.

Amy Edelman, owner of Night Kitchen, noticed that local businesses are joining the movement in using greener methods.

“When I talked to other business owners in the early 2000s, people seemed to be unfamiliar with what they could do to make their business greener,” Edelman said. “I’ve definitely noticed that, over the past five years, they seem to be much more aware of what they can do to be responsible stewards of the environment.”

Ten years ago, Night Kitchen became a member of the Neighborly Restaurant Association, and it took tangible steps to reduce its energy consumption, increase its recycling and composting, and purchase local ingredients whenever possible.

“We work closely with the Green Restaurant Association,” Edelman explained. “They have consultants that help us find products that are friendly to the environment. I’m also on the committee of the Chestnut Hill Business District that works to make Chestnut Hill a friendly place to live and work. They help us and other local businesses and schools be as environmentally friendly as possible.”

In addition to these accomplishments, Edelman also founded Green In Chestnut Hill, a committee dedicated to promoting sustainable practices throughout the Hill.

Edelman noted that some of the new green products can be more costly, but the store actually saves money in the end. Since minimizing its energy consumption, Night Kitchen has never seen lower energy bills. Although an added bonus, it’s clear that Edelman’s sustainable efforts have little to do with money.

“I’ve been concerned about the environment since I was a kid,” Edelman said. “Now that I have children, I’m concerned for their future. I feel that it is our duty to be responsible stewards of the environment and do what we can, especially as a business person.”

Other businesses, including Weavers Way, share a similar commitment to the environment.

The co-op’s facilities manager, Steve Hebden, explained, “It’s always been important, and it’s even more important now because we are ever so much closer to the tipping point.”

Since opening its Chestnut Hill location almost 10 years ago, Weavers Way has used 100% green electricity. It also was clever enough to install refrigerators designed to heat the entire building’s water system.

“All the energy that we use in the building is 100% green, meaning it comes from windmills, hydroelectric power or solar power,” Hebden said. “We also recycle and separate our cardboard, glass and plastics from the trash.”

Store manager Dean Stephano pointed out that “our shoppers here are way more savvy than your typical shopper – they notice these things, and they even push our buttons about trying to do more.”

Weavers Way listens to its customers, constantly acting on new ways to reduce its carbon emissions. Staff members brainstorm ideas in their monthly meetings with the environment committee, where they discuss all things green.

“We decided in our last meeting that each Weavers Way store will have a sustainable coordinator who will be looking out for things that we can do to improve our sustainability,” Hebden said.

Similar to what Edelman said, Stephano spoke to the financial benefits of investing in sustainable resources. He disclosed that, yes, they actually save money and reduce their expenses in the long run.

Weavers Way is continuously working to reduce its energy. Within the last two years, it changed all of its fluorescent lighting to a much better alternative: LED lighting. Steady changes like these use far less electricity and help make a larger impact on the earth.

Weavers Way has a clear goal in mind: “to be completely carbon neutral, contributing virtually nothing to greenhouse gasses,” said Hebden.

Night Kitchen and Weavers Way are just two of the many local businesses that are acting green. The movement is spreading through Germantown Avenue, hopefully reaching other regions and igniting real change.

“It’s an inspiration to work with other businesses and schools in the area that are making an effort,” Edelman said.

Meredith Bernstein is an intern at the Chestnut Hill Local.