Our founder and CEO, Annemarie Colbin, Ph.D., is committed to making Natural Gourmet a more sustainable enterprise. Here she shares the latest developments in our ongoing greening efforts . . .
For the past three years, we have made a concerted effort to “green” NGI. First, we hired a consultant, Victoria Kaufman, for advice as to what to do. Our initial effort was to separate the garbage into recyclables and food refuse for composting. Our long-time waste management company had a system in place for that, including sending food refuse to a farmer upstate who, coincidentally, is someone I know! We also separated our used vegetable oil and sent that for recycling somewhere else.
Then we recycled all our paper waste, including cardboard and printed paper. We also switched to mostly CFL (compact fluorescent lighting) in the kitchens, which uses 2/3 less power than conventional incandescent bulbs.
Our Operations Manager, Mark Mace, has been working diligently in other ways to make us as green as possible. He also organized and oversees the following:
- Switching 75% of our cleaning products to biodegradable products.
- Reducing paper and plastic product use and only purchasing those that will biodegrade, as opposed to the kind that just sit in a landfill for years.
- When feasible, purchasing food products in bulk packaging, to reduce landfill waste.
- Making every effort to purchase animal products raised in a sustainable manner as they are available on the market, e.g., organic, free-range chickens and eggs, grass-fed organic beef, and organic dairy. All our grains and beans are, of course, organically grown, and as much of our produce as possible.
- Designing and ordering reusable cloth shopping bags printed with our logo, URL, and street address, to eliminate the thousands of plastic shopping bags we accumulated in our shopping trips to local food stores for specialty items. One cloth bag will last almost two years, thereby eliminating hundreds of bags over its lifetime.
Sometimes, to fulfill our curriculum, we must occasionally use foods out of season and not locally grown. As our mission is to teach cooking, we need to cover all techniques. That, we feel, is our main goal. Fortunately, as the food industry is getting smarter about organics (when they don’t try to undermine it), it is becoming easier to obtain such foods as time goes on.
In August 2010, we took over the other half of the third floor, so that we now have two whole floors. The architects that worked with us, Ageloff & Associates, are LEED-certified, very attentive to our needs, and careful about sustainability. We are in a building constructed in early the 1900s, so there were challenges. We were fortunate that the contractors who did our renovation, DiSalvo Contracting, worked with surprising speed and completed the work in less than three weeks, then handled all the leftover details well and promptly.
Our renovations had many aspects that are sustainable, including:
- Reusing the existing file cabinets where possible
- Using a zero VOC (volatile organic compound) paint manufactured locally in Brooklyn
- Using an oil wax on the floor made of natural oils
- Reusing the existing light fixtures from the second floor on the third floor
- Installing Citiquiet windows to reduce the heating and cooling load, thus reducing energy consumption
- Replacing window air conditioning units with a central system that consumes less energy and provides for better indoor air quality (this was done last year)
- Minimizing the use of materials by not adding a ceiling and leaving the structural, mechanical and electrical elements exposed
Rest assured we will continue to pay attention to sustainability and keep doing everything possible to keep our carbon footprint as light as possible.