Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Great Harvest Bread Company | Local Business Spotlight

Recently, I got to visit with Michelle, one of the owners of Great Harvest Bread Company in Lafayette. The Great Harvest location is the only restaurant in Lafayette to be certified green by the Green Restaurant Association, and is only one of 4 Louisiana restaurants to be certified. The other three are located in New Orleans. They are also the only Great Harvest location to be certified.


I enjoyed speaking with Michelle and learning about the requirements to be certified green and to maintain that certification. Michelle explained how she felt it was important to undergo the process for her business because of her personal conviction about being a good steward to the environment, and because of her and her husband's desire to spread that commitment to their business.


The Green Restaurant Association was created in 1990. Since then, the Association has worked to provide tools to help the restaurant industry reduce its harmful impact on the environment. In order to be certified green, restaurants must earn a minimum of 100 points across the categories of Energy, Food, Water, Waste, Disposables, Chemical and Pollution Reduction, and Furnishings and Building Materials. Each year, the restaurant must elevate their eco-friendliness by 10 points in order to maintain certification. Great Harvest opened in 2005, got certified in 2010 and currently has almost 140 points; well above their required points.

One of the first requirements of being certified is to be styrofoam free! Beyond that, Great Harvest fulfills the certification categories in many ways.
  • Energy: All appliances are Energy Star rated. 60% of the lighting is LED, and the rest is CFL.
  • Food: The coffee sold is brewed locally. The wheat for the bread is from family owned farms. Some of the other products are from local vendors.
  • Water: Sinks are equipped with low-flow faucets and aerators. While sometimes annoying, the faucets create less water waste. 
  • Waste: Great Harvest has a full recycling system. For every one trashcan filled, four reycling bins are filled. There are also recycling bins throughout the store. The restaurant has a reusable bag program as part of its loyalty program. They will also fill coffee in your reusable mug. They sell both reusable bags and glassware. Food waste is donated to the Salvation Army and St. Joseph's Diner, a local shelter and kitchen for the homeless.
  • Disposables: There are no plastic bags! Employees don't give a bag to customers unless the customer asks, encouraging the practice of going bag-free. The default bags are paper. There are branded cloth bags available for regular use and for gift bag arrangement use. The coffee cups are made of recycled paper. There are no single packets of sugar and creamer for coffee, only larger shakers. All of the paper used in the office is 100% recycled. To-go containers for deli items are made of recyclable plastic.




Great Harvest offers a gift basket service and encourage the use of cloth bags and fair trade tea towels and baskets by Serrv.









One of the other big components in being a certified green restaurant is educating others on eco-friendly practices. Great Harvest has the Green Restaurant Association seal on their menus and on table cards throughout the restaurant. They also feature signage about using local food, family owned farms and natural food. Customers also learn about the green practices from the lack of plastic bags, single-use coffee materials and in-store glassware. On the other end, they educate owners of Great Harvest Bread Company restaurants across the country in green practices.












Great Harvest gives away their wheat paper bags to residents who are building gardens, and donates pickle buckets to those with container gardens. They also give their coffee grinds to composters for free. And they make regular appearances at the Lafayette Horse Farm Farmer's Market.

One of the next steps Michelle would like to see happen at Great Harvest are eco-friendly, low-flow toilets. She laughed that it's not the most glamorous item, but it's an important part of water conservation.

Michelle discussed how going green can mean spending more money short-term (such as on LED lights over incandescent), but she believes that you see the savings long-term. She stated that doing the right thing does not always means doing the easiest or cheapest thing. She and her husband see the value in doing what's best for the planet.

If you want to see which restaurants nearest you are certified green by the Green Restaurant Association, go here and enter your state!

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