DENVER—Restaurants around the country are catching on to the health, economic and environmental benefits of offering more locally grown foods, organic cuisine, sustainable seafood, fair trade coffee and other forms of sustainable cuisine. Eating green, however, doesn’t have to be difficult, according to Xanterra Parks & Resorts.
The operator of lodges, restaurants and activities in national and state parks and resorts has introduced a variety of innovative sustainable cuisine offerings in its restaurants, and its earth-friendly menus are becoming increasingly popular with guests.
“Operating a sustainable kitchen starts with a few simple steps that anyone can take, even people living in areas that don’t have easy access to farmer’s markets and grocery stores with organic food selections,” says Tim Stein, director of food and beverage for Xanterra. “The ultimate goal in our hotel kitchens is to choose foods with the lowest possible impact on the Earth’s finite resources, and many of us who work at Xanterra have the same goal in our home kitchens.”
Stein, a registered dietician, offered the following tips for operating earth-friendly kitchens:
• Eat closer to the ground. Increase consumption of foods that are minimally processed, fresh or raw. It takes a great deal of energy to plant, grow, harvest, process, distribute, store and serve a ready-to-eat convenience food product.
• Eat a variety of foods. Variety is the spice of the earth’s life. The United States Department of Agriculture recommends you eat a variety of nutrient-dense foods for optimal nutritional balance. By doing so, you can also have an environmental impact by encouraging wider biodiversity of plants and animals, a key to our future existence, according to Stein.
• Buy locally. By purchasing locally produced foods and ordering local specialties in restaurants, people help reduce transportation-related carbon dioxide emissions and energy for food storage, minimize the use of packing materials and support family-owned farming operations. For example, in Xanterra’s Yellowstone restaurants, locally grown, all natural, Montana Legend Angus Beef or Country Natural Beef is served.
• Local farmer’s markets are a great way to support local farms and to get the freshest produce. A good way to support local growers is to join a community supported agriculture program (see www.localharvest.org/csa.jsp). These programs are intended to connect local farmers with local consumers, develop a regional supply and strong local economy, encourage land stewardship, and support growers and producers working with small farms.
• Buy in-season. Buy produce that is in season to ensure the freshest and tastiest food.
• Grow your own. Nothing is quite as good as a home-grown tomato or freshly clipped herbs. Even if you don’t have a garden-friendly area, it’s easy to grow produce and herbs in pots. Herbs can be grown year-round this way.
• Buy organic. Organic food is good for the earth because it reduces use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, improves the fertility of topsoil, decreases reliance on petroleum and protects air and water resources. And if those reasons aren’t enough, organic food also tastes better and may provide higher levels of nutrients.
• Help save the seas. Today, many species of ocean-caught fish continue to be over-harvested, leading to their endangerment. As a general rule of thumb, use the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program as a guide. For more information, click here. The site includes printable pocket guides listing regional seafood recommendations.
• Xanterra has become recognized for its commitment to offering only seafood that is raised in environmentally sustainable ways. Xanterra is the only foodservice company in the United States to receive the Marine Stewardship Council’s “chain of custody” certification, which provides traceability of its salmon back to the source and assures customers the seafood is from a certified fishery.
• Eat less meat. On average, it takes seven pounds of grain to produce one pound of beef. A disproportionate part of the earth’s agricultural and water resources are dedicated to raising livestock instead of people. All of Xanterra’s restaurants offer vegetarian or vegan meal options.
• Support fair trade. By purchasing food grown by small farmers at a fair price, you are helping to protect the earth as well as the livelihood of small farmers. Fair Trade Certified farmers implement integrated crop management and environmental protection plans. Through price incentives, producers are encouraged to work towards organic production.
• In partnership with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc., Xanterra offers organic Fair Trade Certified coffee in many of its restaurants. Farmers protect wildlife and migratory bird habitats as well as rainforests by avoiding harsh pesticides and using “shade-growing” agricultural practices. The Fair Trade certificate means the coffee is purchased from local farmers at a fair price.
• Waste not. Make a commitment to recycling food. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 25 percent of all food is discarded uneaten in the United States—nearly 100 billion pounds of food annually.
• Bulk up. As any warehouse club member knows, buying food and other products in bulk can save money. But it can also help the environment because bulk packaging reduces waste. Xanterra restaurants buy and serve bulk condiments and many other products.
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