Category Archives: Local Food

Al Gore + Martha Stewart = Sustainable Exterior Design

We’d like to follow up on our recent “Ivy on Brick:  Insulating Your Building” post from July 12th, 2010, which provides links explaining how ivy can insulate a building in winter and keep it cooler in summer.

Despite articles suggesting otherwise, some folks are still concerned that ivy tears a brick wall apart over time.  Of particular worry is that certain types of ivy stick to the brick and will take down pieces of the wall when removed.

Instead of dismissing this form of natural insulation entirely, consider an alternative:  green curtains! Green curtains are made by leaning a large trellis against your building wall, upon which ivy will grow.  The ivy is planted in pots above or below and trained to grow on the trellising.

In Japan, where this structure is growing in popularity, certain green curtains also include food crops.  Picture a hundred cucumbers hanging casually against your wall, blowing in the breeze…

These curtains seem to be fashionable furnishings draping the (double-paned) windows of opportunity… Any thoughts?

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Filed under Creative re-use, how-to, In the News, inspiration, Local Food, Resources, Restaurants, Retailers

Judy Wicks, Co-Founder of Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE), to Speak this Month!

FRIDAY, May 14th, 2010

12:45 pm @ the Penn State Fayette, Eberly Campus.  Magerko Auditorium.

RSVP Preferred:  724-437-7913

Considered a national leader for connecting small businesses with environmental and community stewardship, Judy Wicks is a leading activist and critical voice for the small business community.  Her insight has been awarded by numerous groups and publications including Inc. Magazine and Oprah Magazine.

She also is a business owner herself, having founded White Dog Cafe in West Philadelphia.

In addition, BALLE is hosting its 8th Annual Business Conference in South Carolina on May 21-23.  Please provide feedback about this event if you attend.  l

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BUY LOCAL Network Kicks Off!

Earth Day, April 22nd, brought with it an exciting announcement from the Fay-Penn Economic Development Council:  the Buy Local Network for all businesses in Fayette County is now officially operating! Bob Junk and Jessica Steimer of Fay-Penn, and Val J. Laub of the Herald Standard, presented the material at an outdoor press conference in Connellsville’s Yough Park.

The program unites local, independently-owned businesses of varying types and sizes in an overarching network of discounts and incentives to encourage customers to choose local stores over generic, big-box chains.  “This is a new approach to an old concept of one another in the community supporting local businesses,” Laub said.

Buying in the neighborhood recirculates community dollars three-fold, and often supports agriculture and manufacturing in the region as opposed to halfway around the world.  That’s a heck of a carbon footprint reduction for each dollar spent.

Customers present a Buy Local card at participating businesses, in order to receive product discounts and the chance to enter monthly raffles to win goods from Buy Local Network businesses.

To join the network, businesses commit to these discounts (upwards of $25) while also donating monthly to a community reinvestment fund (upwards of $10); community groups can then apply for this funding through any business involved in the Buy Local Network.

Fay-Penn covers promotions, advertising, and card distribution – a business simply has to buy-in, put up the Buy Local window cling, and begin accepting card-bearing customers!

As with any network, its strength is in the number of businesses engaged. If you’re considering how to connect with your community in a multitude of ways, joining this program is an effective move.

Already 60 + businesses are engaged and thousands of cards distributed.  Fay-Penn works closely with the Herald Standard to circulate Buy Local announcements and updates.

Contact to find out more about joining the network.  A possibility for the network to extend into other counties may exist in the future, so stay tuned if your business lies outside of Fayette County…

Click here for a full article highlighting the program.

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Filed under Buy Local, In the News, Local Food, Restaurants, Retailers

Taco Tally – Downsize Your Menu

An assessment by URBANlab, an architectural program at The California College of the Arts, recently deconstructed the journey of 19 ingredients commonly found in the average taco. Ingredients were selected based on economical choices; that is, only the cheapest ingredients made the recipe list.

What did the “tacoshed” (that’s a play on words between watershed and taco, FYI) study reveal?  The taco in your hand, if in fact you’re eating a taco, is most likely the result of 64,000 miles covered by some combination of delivery truck, plane, bus, boat, or train.

Compiling the assessment entailed hours of research, phone calling, internet digging, and (assumed) frustration over the complexity of tracking food sources.  The short story is simple, however:  many foods purchased from wholesale delivery companies like SYSCO participate in a global supply chain that devastates our fuel supply.

The challenge is to focus not only on buying raw produce locally, but also prepared foods. This may mean cutting foods from your menu that you cannot prepare from scratch, or replacing prepared foods with a home-made version. For example, replace canned coleslaw with slaw made with local cabbage and carrots.

Is time an issue?  Again, consider tailoring your menu to account for labor costs and improved quality; oftentimes, menus with fewer choices mean fresher ingredients, more time to prep each item, and oftentimes a better-tasting and more satisfying dining experience.  By allowing more opportunity to prep fewer foods, you can purchase more fresh produce without fear that it will go bad.  This cuts down on canned, prepared food purchases in significant ways.

Having trouble reducing the size of your menu?  To narrow down the most popular items, distribute a survey to your patrons; leave room for suggestions on how to improve the food as well.

Other methods to lessen the “foodprint” of your menu include serving less meat, serving local meats and dairy, and altering menu options based on seasonal availability.  Phase out canned chicken-noodle soup and replace with a local root vegetable stew, for a unique home-made flavor that diners will appreciate.

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Filed under Buy Local, Local Food

Got questions about Local Foods?

Attention restaurateurs and B&B owners!

Do you have questions about local or organic foods? You can get them answered by Pittsburgh chef Bill Fuller and the Allegheny Front’s Jennifer Szweda Jordan for the new segment Earth’s Bounty 2.0. They’re taking phone calls and e-mails pertaining to local foods and the environment that may air on the radio show.

E-mail them at or call 412-25-ZESTY with questions from dyes in food and sustainable fish to local wines and beef.

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Filed under B&Bs, Business, Buy Local, in Southwestern PA, In the News, Local Food, Restaurants

“Everybody Can Do Something”: Sustainability Summit Recap

On November 18 the Trail Town Outreach Corps and the Trail Town Program hosted a Sustainability Summit to kick-off the GAP SBN. With a packed agenda the Summit offered business owners information on joining the network, how to get a free sustainability assessment and real-world practical advice and anecdotes from fellow business owners who have successfully implemented sustainable practices and seen the benefits of doing so. Over the course of the day, an unofficial theme emerged from our three speakers: Whether changes are big or small, zero-cost to higher-reach, everybody can do something for sustainability.

After a warm welcome from Cathy McCollom, director of the Trail Town Program (and fair-trade coffee from Reilly’s Best in Ohiopyle) Eric Martin of Wilderness Voyageurs in Ohiopyle started things off with a compelling and candid presentation about the challenges and successes his operations have experienced. Being in the business of “eco-travel,” over the past nine years he has been incorporating sustainable practices at his rafting company, retail store, Falls City Pub, and the Trillium Lodge as much as possible. As he sees it, sustainability is “not just for hippies anymore.” While encouraging, Eric was also realistic about the hurdles he and his employees have faced (ineffective local recycling options, an abundance of rafting equipment made from petroleum products, etc.). He stressed that sustainability does not mean a lower level of service, in fact, it’s about making smart business decisions that don’t cost a lot and often even save  money. Specifically, sourcing materials locally for building, lighting a bath house with passive solar methods (not a single lightbulb was used!), reusing scrap materials, recycling and making bio-diesel saves resources and money. For other initiatives like using “Greenware” biodegradable cups, the extra investment is worth it for the customer engagement, interest and appreciation. By getting a little creative, “rethinking the process” and engaging his employees and customers in the process he continues to expand his sustainable practices and create a unique brand identity for his businesses and experience for his customers.

Up next was Mike Dreisbach (a self-proclaimed hippie) of the Savage River Lodge in Frostburg, MD. Since opening the Lodge with his wife Jan over 10 years ago, working with nature has always been a guiding principle behind all of their business decisions. From building with the contours of the land (and in the process cutting down fewer trees, which in turn shades the cabins, negating the need to spend money on air conditioning), to repurposing a huge array of materials on the property (a military bridge as an exciting entrance to the Lodge, discarded wooden docks became bridges for trails, fryer grease finds new utility as biodiesel), resource conservation (cloth hand towels and napkins, optional freshening service, rain barrels for watering plants, water in ziploc bags above doors to deter flies) and sourcing food for the restaurant locally (from Amish farmers and home-grown herbs) and much more… Mike estimates that his practices, which admittedly take a little bit more elbow grease, saves him over $45,000 annually. Mike echoes Eric’s sentiments about customer satisfaction and engagement saying that his practices create new business opportunities and new markets; people come to the Lodge again and again because of its commitment to sustainability and are willing to pay for it. While the accomplishments of the SRL may seem intimidating, Mike reminds us to start small. The impressive achievements at the Savage River Lodge have taken over 10 years to implement.

Before lunch we discussed the Great Allegheny Passage Sustainable Business Network and how to join. Explore this site more for details on the GAP SBN or contact us ( for an application.

Midday we were nourished by a fresh, local lunch from the Lucky Dog Cafe who also implements sustainable practices like using local produce, antiobiotic/hormone-free/free-range meat and making biodiesel.

After lunch we heard from the Trail Town Outreach Corps about the FREE sustainability assessments they offer to businesses. The assessments are conducted in six categories (waste, water, appliances and office equipment, HVAC, lighting and beyond the building)  and are designed to help you identify ways to reduce energy and resource consumption and save money. The assessments can be tailored to suit the needs and concerns of individual businesses. Contact Elisa Mayes, Trail Town Outreach Corps Project Leader for more information or to schedule an assessment at

Simultaneously, Brad Smith, owner of the Confluence Cyclery offered tours of his bike shop, a historic building on the town green which he has renovated with utmost attention to environmental sensitivity and energy efficiency. Starting from the ground up he and his wife Maureen revamped an energy nightmare into a sunny, warm and attractive storefront. They installed radiant floor heating, an extremely efficient system complete with a double furnace. They worked with a local plumber with little knowledge of this type of renovation to design the system, increasing community connections and valuable skills for this young plumber. They uncovered the transom windows for better circulation with the added benefit of daylighting in their retail space, eliminating the need for air conditioning and excessive lighting costs. For insulation of this older brick structure, they used blow-in foam insulation. In the bathrooms they installed an on-demand hot water heater and a waterless urinal in the men’s room. While the costs were initially expensive, Brad and Maureen believe that their investments will pay off in the long run.

At the day’s end Elisa  left us with these inspiring thoughts from Albert Einstein: “Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others; it is the only means.” Thanks to all the businesses who attended for leading the way in creating a new story and a sustainable future along the Great Allegheny Passage. Remember that there is incredible knowledge among your fellow business owners and look to them as a resource when you have questions about sustainability, from eco-friendly insulation to local produce to green cleaning supplies, “the wisdom is in the room,” so to speak. The summit provided a great day of information sharing and networking, but it shouldn’t stop there. Keep the inspiration and conversation flowing. That is what the GAP SBN is all about! You can start by posting your comments below!

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Filed under Business, Creative re-use, Green on the GAP, how-to, in Southwestern PA, inspiration, Local Food, Outdoor/Bicycle Outfitters, Resources, Triple bottom line

December ACTION!

Happy December! This month we challenge you to “Think Local” for holiday gifts, foods and celebrations. Work with fellow business owners to promote each other as great sources of holiday cheer, or offer special deals for holiday shoppers. The Trail Towns offer some very unique, locally-owned stores and restaurants that can add a distinctive flavor to your gift-giving.

Businesses can team-up to promote each other through special sale days, all offering special deals and discounts to drive traffic to downtown shopping areas and other small businesses. In Northampton, MA, as the holidays approach downtown becomes flooded with shoppers on “Bag Day” when residents receive a special bag in the local newspaper entitling them to discounts at downtown retailers. There are many other creative ways to feed the local economy, promote your business as a destination for great gifts, and support fellow business owners who will in turn support you! If you need help thinking of ideas or are offering special promotions leave a comment so we can build the movement together!

And don’t forget about local foods for all of your holiday feasting. Enjoy the Allegheny Front’s Local Foods Happy Hour Friday December 11 in Pittsburgh to support the mission of the Allegheny Front, sample some tasty treats and network with fellow local food enthusiasts! The event is $10 at the door. RSVP to

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Filed under Business, Buy Local, in Southwestern PA, inspiration, Local Food