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Three Local Restaurants Are Leading the Way in Going Green

The Courtyard Café and Coral Tree Café at UCSB, and Backyard Bowls have implemented innovative and sustainable workplace strategies

From recycling and composting to alternative transportation and organic ingredients, local restaurants certified through the Green Business Program of Santa Barbara County are improving their business practices while reducing their ecological footprint.

The Green Business Program has developed a checklist specifically to help local restaurants achieve these goals and reduce their impact on the environment. The three most recently certified restaurants — Courtyard Café and the Coral Tree Café at UCSB, and Backyard Bowls — have employed some particularly innovative strategies to green their businesses.

At the Courtyard Café and the Coral Tree Café, manager Robbie Yankow has dedicated her time and staff to every aspect of running both of the restaurants in a more sustainable manner. The cafés earned a Green Business certification with the help of two UCSB Bren School of Environmental Science & Management graduate students, Stacy Katz and Loretta Tam, who volunteered to work with café managers to guide them through the certification process.

To reduce waste, both of the cafés participate in on-campus recycling and hazardous waste programs. They also compost pre-consumer food waste and coffee grounds. Excess nonperishable foods are collected and donated to local charities. To reduce shipping and delivery impacts, and to support businesses in the community, the cafes also purchase locally produced baked goods and salad greens.

As part of the Green Business certification process, the cafés instituted a new program encouraging each café to sell reusable to-go containers. Customers purchase the containers, and then every time they patronize the cafes, they can bring in the used container to exchange it for a clean container and receive a 10-cent discount. This effort will both reduce the amount of containers the cafes purchase that are ultimately discarded, and educate and involve customers in the program.

Backyard Bowls founders Peter Heth and Dan Goddard have created a business culture centered on local, organic and sustainable. Backyard Bowls prepares its smoothies, acai bowls and breakfast bowls using as many organic and local products as possible, including honey, fresh fruits, organic grains and granolas, and fresh organic Straus yogurt.

The Courtyard Café and the Coral Tree Café at UCSB sell reusable to-go containers that customers can return to receive a 10-cent discount.
The Courtyard Café and the Coral Tree Café at UCSB sell reusable to-go containers that customers can return to receive a 10-cent discount. (Green Business Program of Santa Barbara County photo)

The company strives to create as little waste as possible by purchasing only what is needed and participating in the City of Santa Barbara’s food scraps program. They work to ensure that all recyclable products make it to the proper receptacles, and purchase recycled content paper products for office use. Other purchasing efforts include toilet paper made from waste sugar cane products, and compostable bowls and cups.

Additionally, Backyard Bowls recently launched its “Backyard Green Card” rewards program. Customers earn stamps on their cards by: 1) ordering food “for here”; 2) bringing their own (reusable) bowl (byob); or 3) returning used to-go bowls for composting. The goals of the innovative program are to reward loyal customers and to help people be more conscious of the simple day-to-day choices that can have a large impact on the environment.

To become Green Business certified, Backyard Bowls upgraded lighting fixtures to reduce energy use and replaced the toilet in the employee restroom to be ultra-low flow. It also implemented water-conserving practices in its kitchen, including use of a specialized piece of equipment to clean the blenders.

To promote the use of alternative transportation, Backyard Bowls developed a program to offer incentives to employees for getting to and from work without their cars. The ride-sharing program offers subsidized bus passes and the chance to win dinner with Heth and Goddard for ride-sharing most often.

The Green Business Program applauds these local restaurants for their leadership and hope that restaurants across the county will follow their lead in implementing resource- and cost-saving practices.

Check back with Noozhawk next week to read how local nonprofit organizations are going green.

— Megan Birney serves on the Steering Committee of the Green Business Program of Santa Barbara County on behalf of the Community Environmental Council. Crissy Haley is an intern with the Green Business Program and a master’s degree candidate at the UCSB Bren School of Environmental Science & Management.

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