Less is More: Businesses Commit to Reducing Waste

Drinks at Cocina Del Barrio are served with biodegradable bamboo sticks as opposed to plastic skewers.

Garbage around 50th and France is coming up roses—thanks to a $10,000 Hennepin County grant supporting recycling and composting. Not only are participating businesses reducing their waste footprint, but compost made from organic waste is being used to fortify the seasonal plantings in 150 planters throughout Edina’s premier shopping district.

The numbers speak volumes. According to the 50th and France Business and Professional Association, “We have reduced our waste by 45 percent. For every 4 tons of organics we recycle, we get 1 ton of compost.”

The idea to get members of the business community involved in this effort came by way of the Edina Cinema, which was using compostable popcorn bags, but the theater didn’t have a program in place to dispose of them properly. Since it was too costly to create a program just for Edina Cinema, Jed Schlegelmilch, house manager, approached Rachel Thelemann, director of the 50th and France Business and Professional Association, about getting more businesses involved. “I think we were interested in doing [waste collection] differently, and we wanted an opportunity to make a real contribution toward reducing waste,” Thelemann says. “We wanted to be ahead of the curve.”

The association applied for the county grant, one of the first communities to do so, in 2013, according to Andre Xiong, recycling specialist and environmentalist with Hennepin County. The county felt resources to help businesses reduce waste was lacking, so the grant program was initiated. Since then, more than 100 groups have received grants for up to $50,000.

Thelemann says grant money for 50th and France went toward the purchase of organic, recycling and trash receptacles, information stickers, organic refuse bags and bilingual posters that remind staff what is organic, recyclable or waste. Participating businesses include Edina Cinema, Edina Grill, Cocina Del Barrio and Salut Bar Américain.

The Edina Cinema uses compostable candy boxes and beverage cups. Lids and straws will soon be compostable.

“It’s really changed our waste protocol,” says Liz Bergquist, general manager at Edina Grill. The restaurant has taken the program a step further by using compostable products, including straws and food containers. “Our goal is to have 10 percent or less of [our] waste be trash,” she says.

Cocina Del Barrio staff continues to look for more ways to reduce waste, according to Tyler Lineburg, general manager. Biodegradable to-go containers and bamboo sticks for beverages are already in use. “It’s a better all-around holistic view of what’s going on in the world,” he says of the program. The restaurant has reduced its waste between 60 and 70 percent.

“We have changed our to-go containers, the temperature indicators for our steaks and proteins, the straws we use in all beverages and the vessel for children’s beverages,” says Dani Mathey, general manager of Salut Bar Américain, noting this is in addition to separating recyclables, organics and waste. “I believe it is important to our guests to see that we are making the effort,” she says. “The guests notice, whether it’s from the window clings we have or just from the products that we use, and it makes a difference.”

The association encourages more businesses to get involved and hopes to reach 50 percent participation. “We want to be an example to other associations,” Thelemann says.

Visit hennepin.us to learn more about how businesses can receive recycling resources and grant information from the county. The website also offers information for residents about ways to reduce their garbage waste through recycling and composting efforts.