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GREEN WAYS: Discussion group seeks sustainable solutions

Waste not, want not: This is becoming the mantra for a growing number of businesses in the Gorge food service industry, as became even more apparent in “Sustainable Systems at Work,” a recent discussion series designed by the Northwest Earth Institute and spearheaded by the Gorge Owned Business Network.

“It was a great opportunity for a group of like-minded business owners with similar business models to get together and talk about some of the challenges we face and solutions we have found in trying to be as sustainable as possible in our business practices,” said Stacie Creasy, co-owner of Sixth Street Bistro in Hood River.

“Sustainable Systems at Work” uses a peer-to-peer approach to help business owners discover new and innovative ways to reduce waste (energy, water, food), reduce their carbon footprint, and in the case of restaurant owners, expand menus to include local farmers and ranchers. The winter discussion course brought together a diverse group of stakeholders in the food service industry, including representatives from Celilo Restaurant, Sixth Street Bistro and Doppio Coffee + Lounge in Hood River, Mid-Columbia Medical Center in The Dalles, Mt Hood Meadows, Hood River School District and Tri-County Hazardous Waste.

The five-week discussion course culminated with a round table discussion featuring representatives of the food supply chain — from food producers to waste haulers to manufacturers of compostable take-out containers to Dirt Hugger, a commercial composting company based in The Dalles.

While the course still left questions for many in the group — such as how to how to balance environmental and fiscal responsibilities — all left with a better understanding of the options and realities of today’s market.

“There was great value in having a direct conversation with the people involved in the supply chain, top to bottom,” said Ben Stenn, chef at Celilo Restaurant.

“We are proud to be part of this community, which is so supportive of local producers and to have two great organizations, Gorge Grown Food Network and Gorge Owned Business Network, that work toward promoting and supporting local farmers and ranchers and promoting sustainability within our community,” Stacie Creasy says.

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Becky Brun is Gorge-Owned director and Jennifer Sutton is a member of its board.

To join the next “Sustainable Systems at Work Discussion Group” hosted by the Gorge Owned Business Network, sign up at http://gorgeowned.org/programs/sustainable-systems-work/.

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