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More local restaurants striving for environmental sustainability

Village Bakery and Casa Nueva are among those leading the pack.

The energy production process, effects of gas usage and the well-being of the environment are not typical problems restaurant owners consider when opening their doors to customers every day.

But with the safety of the environment at stake, some restaurants nationwide are becoming more sustainable — Athens restaurants included.

Laura Abshire, the director of sustainability policy and government affairs at the National Restaurant Association, said in an email that there is a trend toward environmental sustainability in restaurants across the United States. In the association’s 2015 forecast report, environmental sustainability ranked third on the top 20 food trends. 

Additionally, 62 percent of customers have said they would be more likely to make a restaurant choice based on a restaurant’s eco-friendly practices, which is up from 58 percent a year earlier, Abshire said, based off the restaurant industry forecast report.

Locally, Village Bakery and Cafe, 268 E. State St, might be one of the greenest food places in Athens. Since 2010, its owners have installed solar panels, energy-efficient lighting and substituted its gas oven for a fire oven.

The bakery also had a geothermal heating system installed at the end of 2014, said Village Bakery co-owner Christine Hughes. Hughes added the bakery’s investment on energy efficiency and renewable infrastructure has been about $100,000.

The bakery also received a grant from the Rural Energy for America Program, an arm of the U.S.  Department of Agriculture. The grant partially covered the cost of installing the geothermal system.

“We still have a lot more work to do with energy saving,” Hughes said. “We need to put insulation in the ceiling.”

Hughes noted some of the immediate benefits of going green were the cost savings and good public perception.

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Athens City Councilwoman Jennifer Cochran, D-at large, said she admires Village Bakery’s efforts in striving for sustainability. Cochran, who serves on the city’s sustainability commission, added the restaurant was serving as a model for sustainable businesses in Athens.

“I applaud and appreciate all that they’ve done, from the standpoint of being a local business supporting local businesses with their purchasing power, and their green initiatives.” Cochran said. “I certainly hope other businesses will take a cue from the village bakery.”

Though Village Bakery might be among the greenest food businesses in Athens, some restaurants are also joining the environmental sustainable movement. 

Casa Nueva Restaurant and Cantina part-owner Zeb Thobaben said his restaurant currently does not have capability to install solar panels, but has other ways to promote environmental sustainability. Casa Nueva recycles almost everything it uses: deep-frying oil, paper, plastic, cardboard and food products.

“We would like to always work toward sustainability, but I can’t say what our next endeavor will be with that,” Thobaben said.

Ohio University’s Atrium Cafe, located on the first floor of Grover Center, received a “green” certification from the Green Restaurant Association in 2013 for its environmentally conscious efforts, according to a previous Post report. Those efforts include attention to water efficiency, waste reduction and recycling and sustainable furnishing.


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