Main Street Lexington rewards local businesses’ sustainability efforts

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By Simona Radeva

Main Street Lexington and the Rockbridge Area Conservation Council have teamed up to offer kudos to businesses tossing less trash. 

The program, Caught Green-Handed, recognizes restaurants, caterers, and other food service providers that are reducing their plastic waste. 

“The City has a drastically reduced recycling program,” said Main Street Lexington Executive Director Rebecca Logan, “so the emphasis now is on reduce rather than recycle, especially for single-use plastics.”

“Short-term, we’re hoping more businesses will become mindful of the program and long-term, begin reducing single use plastics such as water bottles, plastics cups, straws and take-out containers,” Logan said.

Six businesses have been identified so far, based on a survey of all downtown restaurants over the summer. But four have been officially recognized. Those

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are Globowl Café, full-circle catering, Pronto Café & Gelateria, and the Red Hen. 
To earn the recognition and get a Caught Green-Handed window sticker, businesses must meet four of eight criteria, such as replacing plastic straws with paper ones, or composting food waste. (See full list at the end of the story.)

Pronto met almost all of the criteria, as did the other three. Francesco Benincasa, Pronto owner, said that the shop has tried to eliminate the use of plastic packaging by using paper straws, plates, and boxes instead.

“It shows a certain consciousness,” Benincasa said. “And I think that is something you see more in private businesses. It’s something we can do together.”

Benincasa was happy to get feedback from his customers about replacing plastic packaging, and he’s looking for other creative sustainability ideas.

Melody Tennant, project coordinator at the Rockbridge Area Conservation Council, said that Main Street Lexington had attempted this program before, but hopes to attract greater interest this time around.

“It’s hopefully a cumulative effect of continually raising awareness of how much plastic we use,” Tennant said.

 

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Other “go green” programs also recognize sustainability efforts. For instance, the state of Virginia has a program called Virginia Green that recognizes businesses for waste reduction practices, said RACC Executive Director Barbara Walsh in an e-mail.

Pure Eats, another Lexington business, earned a spot on the Virginia Green list of certified partners. Since opening 10 years ago, Pure Eats has won multiple sustainability awards. 

“That’s who we are and what we want to be,” said Kasey Potter, General Manager at Pure Eats. “We recycle…we try to re-use anything – our ice cream and icing buckets that we use – we recycle those and use them to put soup in.”

To earn the Caught Green-Handed sticker, restaurants and food service businesses must meet at least four of the following criteria:

1. Packing take-out food in compostable containers.
2. Providing disposable flatware (compostable if possible) only upon request. 
3. Placing take-out items in paper rather than plastic bags, or no bag at all.
4. Providing beverage straws (preferably paper) only upon request. 
5. Selling beverages in recyclable glass bottles or cans.
6. Using only reusable dishware rather than disposable containers for table service. 
7. Placing water coolers along with paper cups where patrons can help themselves. 
8. Arrange to compost food waste rather than dispose of it in the trash.  

To participate in the program, local food service businesses can complete an online survey at mainstreetlexington.org.