Looking to make your business more sustainable, all while cultivating a green thumb? If your business is in the service industry, growing a kitchen garden may be the perfect step for you. Evidence of the growing farm to table trend, many restaurants and lodging establishments across the U.S. are growing their own ingredients for their menus. This is because many chefs are recognizing the benefits of growing their own food at the location where they cook.
As a general rule, locally grown food tends to be of higher quality, and better tasting than alternative ingredients. It’s impossible to get food that is more fresh than that grown on the premises, and harvested the same day someone orders it. By growing its own produce, a restaurant is able to monitor pesticide use, and therefore has the opportunity to guarantee that their ingredients are organic.
Additionally, growing a kitchen garden plays a role in reducing the waste levels of food shipped from miles away. Packaging waste is greatly reduced, since the produce does not require transportation in order to be prepared and served to patrons. Additionally, without a delivery system for the food, the carbon footprint of food delivery is greatly reduced. As a result, the entire process from garden to restaurant customer is exceptionally greener and more-sustainable.
Growing a kitchen garden can also save your business money. During the growing season, it is extremely cost-effective to grow your own produce. Instead of placing orders for produce to be shipped to your restaurant, your plants will be producing ingredients right on your premises.
In addition to producing sustainable ingredients, a kitchen garden itself can play a role in increasing the sustainability of a restaurant. For example, a rooftop garden will help reduce rainwater runoff. By soaking up rainwater, a garden can detract from stormwater buildup and overflow in the sewage system. Additionally, a rooftop garden can help insulate a building in the winter, while absorbing heat in the summer.
The Northwestern Medill school published an informational article about the rooftop garden trend in Chicago which can be found here, http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=176101&print=1. Regarding this growing trend of kitchen gardens at restaurants, Andrew Weithe, director of environmental affairs for the Green Chicago Restaurant Co-op acknowledged “consumers and diners are demanding local food and sustainability more and more. Awareness is increasing and people are starting to be more conscious of their decisions and the impacts their businesses have.”
Here in Southwestern Pennsylvania, kitchen gardens have been implemented in numerous restaurants. Six Penn Kitchen (http://www.sixpennkitchen.com/) for example, implemented the first ever roof-top garden in Pittsburgh.
A kitchen garden provides a combination of economic and environmental benefits for businesses. This falls in line with the GAP SBN’s triple bottom line theme of practices that benefit people, planet, and profit. A kitchen garden will greatly increase a business’ sustainability, and add to the point totals of any business looking to join the network, or requiring re-assessment under the new points-based ranking system.