The amount of garbage produced by a Chicago restauranteur might surprise you. No, there aren’t mounds and mounds of black plastic trash bags heaped in back of Lake View’s Sandwich Me In. Rather, all the garbage that has been collected in the two years the shop has been open sits in just one eight-gallon trash bin, Truth Atlas reports. And most of that waste didn’t come from the restaurant; it was created by customers tossing their disposable coffee cups.
Clearly, the owner Justin Vrany is serious about the environment. Because he only buys fresh, seasonal food from local farmers markets, he avoids processed foods and the packaging that comes along with it. He also uses as much of the food as possible—smoked skins for his salads, bones for broth, vegetable leftovers for burger patties. Any leftover waste is all composted or recycled. In fact, he personally takes his trash to a Whole Foods so he knows that it’s being recycled. He also sends his compost to a local farm so it goes back to feed the livestock or fertilize the land. (In case you’re wondering how the rest of us stack up in comparison, EPA estimates from 2011 found that the average American generates 4.40 pounds of trash a day.)
And it’s not just sustainable food that the shop can boast about. According to Sandwich Me In’s site, 90 percent of the restaurant was built out of reused materials from the existing store, and all of their equipment and furniture was refurbished. They recycle their oil to maintain bio-diesel engines and use wind to generate all the power for the restaurant. Sandwich Me In says on its site, “Our goal is to help the community become aware of sustainable options available to them and to grow together in knowledge to create a healthier city.” Sounds like a noble model we can all follow.