Green with Hope

This past week my wife, Paula, and I took a long walk along the ocean near our house in La Jolla. Once we reached the water’s edge, we saw that the sea that looked so beautiful from afar revealed itself as a floating garbage dump. We could not walk five feet without coming upon pieces of plastic, metal or trash. Those of us who have been around for a few years can stretch our memories to a time when the effects of carelessness, ignorance or worse were not so evident.

Years ago, my partners and I had for some time been following the idea that we would attempt to minimize our negative effects on the environment as much as possible. When the Green Restaurant Association (GRA) called us in 2001, we leapt at the opportunity to involve industry experts in our decision-making. The GRA’s model provides a convenient way for all sectors of the restaurant industry, which represents 10% of the U.S. economy, to become more environmentally sustainable.

The program that we follow insists on instituting at least five steps each year that reduce our negative impacts. The first step sounded relatively easy—GRA said we should begin recycling our glass. It is always the execution that is difficult. Questions needed to be answered.

Where do we put all this glass during operating hours?

Where can we store it when service is over?

How do we train staff not to throw it away?

Who will take it to the recycling center and in what vehicle?

You get the idea. After much trial and error, we gave the responsibility to our maintenance supervisor, Alberto, who personally takes the bottles to the recycling center and he gets to keep the payments. This doesn’t sound like much until you take into account that we recycle over 120,000 pounds of glass a year!

In 2007, we made another major move to eliminate the use of Voss bottled water that was being flown to us from Austria. We found a local company with access to a natural spring near Mount Palomar. They organized a system whereby this water is bottled in re-useable, George’s branded glass bottles and delivered to us twice each week. We will sell over 17,000 bottles of sparkling and still water this year, thus saving the energy costs of transporting the Austrian product, as well as reducing our glass usage by reusing the containers.

Now, I don’t want to bore you with all 37 GRA steps that we have accomplished, but I would like to give you some idea of how rigorously green we strive to be at George’s at the Cove. Most of our paper is recycled; our take-out containers are recycled paper; almost all of our lighting is low-voltage; we use energy regulators on our 25 refrigeration compressors; we use photocell light switches whenever possible; we use water-efficient sprays in our dishwashing; and our coffee is free-trade organic.

The purpose of this is not to get “preachy” regarding the environment or to give us a pat on the back for doing something good, rather to share a bit about our day-to-day operating challenges and something that is a fundamental part of our culture at George's.

If every individual does their small part to make the world is a cleaner, more pristine place, our lives will all be the better for it.