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Canadian low-waste restaurants that are totally saving the planet

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Sometimes it seems the only way to save the planet is to shut down the power grid and return to an agrarian system where we all have our own organic farms and live off the land. Maybe that’s a little extreme, but we definitely need to be more conscious about where our food is coming from and where our leftovers are going when we’re “done” with them. Thankfully, there are a number of amazing restaurants here in Canada doing their parts to decrease their carbon footprints and limit food waste.

In Canada, $31 billion worth of food is wasted each year — that’s approximately 40 per cent of food produced yearly in Canada — while 850,000 Canadians rely on food banks every month. Anyone else cringing at that disparity?

Thankfully, Canadian organizations like Terus are committed to reducing the amount of food and waste thrown into landfills each year by working with local restaurants to consult and implement customized sustainable solutions suited to each business.


“Food waste has become a bigger topic of conversation, which I think is so, so great because this really is a global issue,” says Terus co-founder and CEO Lucy Cullen. “Right now, there are approximately 97 thousand restaurants across Canada and there are thousands that don’t compost or recycle for a variety of reasons — space or the cost associated with it.”

Terus’ educated team of experts look at waste output as a whole (food, plastic, hazardous, paper) and help walk restaurant staff through composting and recycling programs, inventory purchasing and community involvement. They’re currently only working with restaurants in the Greater Toronto Area, but have plans to expand across Canada in the near future. Plus they’ve already diverted approximately 70 pounds of waste from landfills.

“If we can help restaurants across Canada reduce and save money, we’re going to have a significant impact and hopefully change the statistics around the amount of waste going to landfills,” says Cullen. “It’s incredible to think what could be possible if we work with one hundred restaurants.”

Until then, here’s a look at a few Canadian restaurants putting in the work to change those daunting food waste statistics, one dish at a time. Now you don’t have to feel guilty about ordering takeout for the fifth time this week!

Virtuous Pie

Serving up fancy pizzas, dreamy ice cream scoops and tasty small bites, this plant-based restaurant is strongly committed to their green core values by using only recyclable and biodegradable food containers, cutlery and napkins. They’re so committed, in fact, that there are no garbage bins on the customer side of their restaurants. Along with their zero-waste initiatives, Virtuous Pie is also committed to connecting with the community by donating pizzas and salads and unused ingredients with the help of the Food Stash Foundation.

With two locations in Vancouver and one newly-opened in Toronto, we suggest trying their famous Stranger Wings Pizza. Starting with a cauliflower-based cream, this pie is made with battered cauliflower that has been marinated in tangy hot and barbeque sauces and finished with house-made blue cheese drizzle.

 

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Cafe Cancan

This ingredient-driven French bistro strongly believes that every step should be taken to ensure no food in their inventory goes to waste. Whether it’s turning leftover ingredients into a stock or cooking with fat, Cafe Cancan’s Chef de Cuisine Adam Alguire teaches his kitchen staff various techniques to utilize every bit of leftover or “undesirable” ingredients (ones that don’t meet plating standards).

Take the Court de Porc for example. This braised pork loin dish is composed of a Vichyssoise sauce made with the tops of leeks and trims of potatoes and a croquette made of braised pork cap (outer layer muscle of the in-bone pork loin). The dish is topped off with an apple gastrique.

 

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Founder

A little goes a long way when it comes to food waste, especially for this award-winning cocktail and snack bar. Bar manager Chris McCrabb and his team have come up with some pretty cool innovative ways to extend a product’s shelf life like using fruit zest to make flavoured syrups and long-lasting acid solutions that mimic the taste of fresh citrus.

Founder’s Saints and Sinners cocktail is made with Santa Teresa Rum, masala-infused vermouth, a citric acid solution, lemon sorbet (made with their in-house lemon juice syrup) and finished with a grenadine foam made with leftover egg whites from the kitchen’s use of the yolks. Along with repurposing unused food, the bar is currently in the process of trading in their oil-based lamps with environmentally friendly LED candles.

 

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Borealis Grille & Bar

Committed to sustainability and using locally-grown ingredients, the Borealis Grille & Bar team decided to make major changes to their menu and plating after tracking the amount of plate and kitchen waste they were producing each day. Now, they won’t automatically serve ketchup with your fries or bread with your soup unless you ask for it (but they’re happy to provide those extras upon request) so their current menu features dishes that produce little to no food waste.

Their grilled Cornish hens are served with fingerling potatoes — instead of skinless mashed potatoes that produce tons of scraps — seasoned veggies and a hemp seed basil pesto. Kitchen staff freeze the vegetable scraps left over from food prep and give them to local farmers to use as animal feed.

 

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NuBurger

With 20 years experience in the restaurant business (and an understanding of the energy and waste produced by the food and hospitality industry), Nuburger founders Kyle Matheson and Marc Priestley made the commitment to reduce the burger joint’s carbon footprint. They implemented recycling and compost programs at both kitchen and customer level by placing specific bins at the back of their restaurants and chose to source all protein from local farmers. Nuburger also uses only recyclable and biodegradable takeout packaging.  Their Delicious ‘N’ Tasty beef burger is made with an Angus beef patty, Bothwell cheddar, tomato, lettuce and a low-fat herb mayo.

 

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