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Economy & Business

St. Louis Earth Day Festival Planners Pivot To ‘Green Dining Week’ This Pandemic Year

Maplewood-based catering company Flavor 360 opened a new storefront earlier this month. The business is one of 15 participating in a fundraising event this week to support environmental nonprofit earthday365.
Flavor 360
Maplewood-based catering company Flavor 360 opened a new storefront earlier this month. The business is one of 15 participating in a fundraising event this week to support environmental nonprofit earthday365.

Earth Day reminds Kara Sullivan of one of the founding principles of Flavor 360, her Maplewood-based catering business: Care for the environment. (It also reminds her of her daughter, who was born on the day, April 22.)

Sullivan sources local ingredients, serves meals out of reusable platters at events and, this week, joins 14 other St. Louis-area restaurants participating in a fundraiser called Green Dining Week.

Kara Sullivan
Kara Sullivan built her business, Flavor 360, around sustainable practices.

The participating businesses are each donating 20% of their proceeds on select menu items — like Sullivan’s signature handpies — to St. Louis-based environmental nonprofit earthday365.

Green Dining Week, which runs through this weekend, is one way the nonprofit is honoring Earth Day after canceling its annual St. Louis Earth Day Festival for the second year in a row due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The weeklong campaign is a way to highlight some of the businesses that have kept their commitments to sustainable practices even as pandemic-spurred restrictions on restaurants forced them to shift to a carryout model, said Victoria Donaldson, who is leading the campaign. She also manages the nonprofit’s Green Dining Alliance program, which helps businesses find new ways to reduce their environmental impact.

“They started making customers request napkins and forks and other utensils and anything of that sort, which helps them, one, reduce the amount of waste that they're sending out that's probably going to end up in the trash, and two, also saves them money,” Donaldson said.

When the pandemic hit, Sullivan and many other business owners had to start using a lot more disposable packaging to keep employees and customers safe. She uses compostable materials, but she said it’s still not ideal.

“We try to cut down where we can and compost here — of course everything we can in the kitchen,” Sullivan said. “But it is what it is right now, which is kind of where we have to be.”

Paul Whitsitt, owner of Kitchen House Coffee in the Tower Grove East neighborhood of St. Louis, has also struggled with balancing safety and sustainability during the pandemic.

He’s not reopening the coffeehouse for indoor seating until all of his staff has the opportunity to be vaccinated for COVID-19. The ceramic dishes he normally uses are still tucked away.

“Our paper products provider, they've got a highly compostable kind of thinner material for drink carriers,” he said. “So, it’s just a thing like working with the vendors that you use to make sure that you're using the most sustainable products that you can afford.”

He’s also keeping up with other sustainable practices like using spent coffee grounds to enrich the soil in his garden, where he grows many ingredients used in dishes at the coffee shop.

Through the campaign, Whitsitt is donating some proceeds of soups and salads to earthday365.

“It gives me something to promote to customers to remind them that sustainability is part of our thing,” he said. “We think it's important. If that brings more customers to our door, that's a great thing.”

Participating restaurants include:

Check out other events this week, including neighborhood cleanups and panel discussions on water resilience, on the earthday365 website.

Follow Corinne on Twitter: @corinnesusan

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