Eat your greens
Many Vineyard restaurants serve meat and produce that is organic and locally raised, but environmental sustainability goes far beyond what's on the menu.
This past summer, Détente joined over 350 restaurants across the country certified by Green Restaurant Association (GRA), a Boston-based non-profit organization that helps restaurants take steps towards reducing their ecological impact.
Since 1990, GRA has provided services in research, consulting, education, and marketing in their mission to assist all sectors of the restaurant industry to develop greener practices. For an annual fee ranging from $500 to $4,000, GRA consultants work with restaurants to help them improve in areas such as composting, water conservation, clean energy, and the use of chlorine-free paper products.
in the front of their Edgartown restaurant.
Photos by Sam Decker
"Before I found Green Restaurant Association I was getting overwhelmed trying to figure out how to go green," says Suzanna Crowell, who owns the Edgartown restaurant with her husband, Kevin. "There was so much out there. I like how they take you through it step by step."
A GRA certification requires that a restaurant recycle as much as possible, remove all polystyrene foam (Styrofoam) products, and commit to completing four Environmental Steps per year of membership.
Since its certification, Détente has begun using non-toxic soap and laundry detergent, non-chlorine bleached paper towels and toilet paper, and recycled takeout containers.
The goal, says Mr. Crowell, who is also head chef, is to "reduce our impact in general - whether it's through the use of less harsh chemicals, using less paper, or cooking with local products. It all kind of goes hand and hand."
GRA also promotes green practices as a way of saving money. Composting, for example, might cut down on the cost of garbage disposal. So far, the Crowells have not found this to be the case. "I don't think the economic benefits have caught up yet," says Ms. Crowell. Green products are usually more expensive and implementing proper recycling and composting systems requires time and effort. Laughing, Ms. Crowell recalls driving to Morning Glory Farm "in the middle of the night," referring to the trips they made during the summer to compost their organic waste. They would like to reach out to other farms, like The FARM Institute, to develop a more efficient composting system.
In addition to their work with GRA, Détente is collaborating with Slow Food Martha's Vineyard, hosting monthly dinners to raise the community's awareness and support of local, sustainable food choices. The monthly events feature five-course tasting menus and pairings with organic and biodynamic wines. The second dinner in the series, scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 22, at 6:30 pm, will feature an Italian inspired menu, consisting of mainly local ingredients. Aquinnah resident Richard Skidmore will speak briefly about Genetically Modified Organisms. The cost is $60 per person - $75 with wine pairing - and Détente will donate $10 to Slow Food Martha's Vineyard for each meal served. Slow Food members will receive a $5 rebate.
Currently, Ms. Crowell is searching for energy-saving light bulbs to replace the incandescent bulbs in the fixtures above the bar. She's had difficultly finding compact fluorescent lamp bulbs that have enough dimming capacity. Also, she says, the light produced by the fluorescent bulbs in combination with the restaurant's gold-colored walls gives the room a greenish tint. "It's really unappealing. It makes the food look weird. It kind of makes people look weird." She's sought help from Eco-MV, the Vineyard Haven-based company that sells ecologically responsible products, who have recommended several options. She hopes to use the company to obtain other products, which she currently orders online.
Ms. Crowell smiles and says, "We don't literally want to be green."
To reserve a seat at Détente's Slow Food Martha's Vineyard dinner on Thursday, Jan. 22, call 508-627-8810.
For more information on the Green Restaurant Association, visit dinegreen.com.