Arkansas Restaurants See Green

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Arkansas’ top restaurateurs and food service vendors have joined forces to encourage the use of sustainable practices within their industry. The Arkansas Green Restaurant Alliance (AGRA), formed last year, is dedicated to implementing green initiatives at its businesses as well as educating others about the importance of sustainability.

“Restaurants use an enormous amount of energy and water,” said Brent Peterson, current AGRA chairman and co-owner, with Capi Peck of Trio’s and Capi’s Restaurants, both in Little Rock. “They produce tons of waste each year. If all of us would implement sustainable initiatives, we could have a tremendous impact on the environment.”

Peterson’s restaurants use environmentally friendly cleaning products, employ water conservation measures and use compact fluorescent lighting where possible.  Kathy Webb, co-owner of Lilly’s Dim Sum, Then Some, is a founding member of AGRA, along with Trio’s and Boulevard Bread Company. She and her business partner, Nancy Tesmer, have long advocated environmentally sound practices. Lilly’s was one of the first restaurants in Arkansas to go Styrofoam-free, opting instead for biodegradable, corn starch-based take-out containers. The restaurant also recycles cardboard, glass and cooking oil. AGRA members support buying locally grown products farmed using sustainable agricultural practices. This not only reduces restaurants’ carbon footprints, but also translates into fresh, in-season menu options for customers.

Operating a restaurant while adhering to sustainable principles is not always easy or profitable. Compostable containers and recycled paper products are considerably higher priced than traditional items, but the trade-off is worth it for AGRA members. “We have a responsibility as members of the community to be good stewards of the earth,” Webb said. “Even when it’s not good for the bottom line, it’s good for the environment and it’s just the right thing to do.”

For more information on AGRA, email Peterson at info@triosrestaurant.com or Webb at lilly@lillysdimsum.com.

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