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Post-Consumer Composting at a Restaurant: Easy and Practical

· zero waste,local restaurant,athens ga,save money,eco products

"This doesn’t have to be a dramatic change in your lifestyle." Peter Dale

Let Us Compost is a ridiculously fun career. Sometimes the most random things happen, and I feel so lucky! A couple months ago, Savannah Kloeden, an awesome student at SCAD asked me if Let Us Compost could participate in her thesis film, "Life in Plastic, Not So Fantastic." Of course I said yes and did at least 6 cartwheels. I didn't know anything about how movies actually get made and this seemed like the coolest opportunity to learn! She asked me to pick a couple places to highlight and of course, we had to film at MaePole since their food is not only SPECTACULAR, but they also serve everything in compostable wares and Let Us Compost turns all of it into soil! The following is an interview with one of the owners, Peter Dale. My friend Caroline took the fab photos. Enjoy!

These items are all made by Eco Products and are BPI certified and compostable!
Using metal, re-usable flatware is the cheapest and greenest option. And it's pretty!

SK: Ok, so what’s your mission at Maepole and what’s Maepole really all about?
PD: I wanted to create Maepole to fill a need that was in my life; hopefully in the lives of people around me. We wanted food that was good for us, that was more vegetable focused. There could be well-sourced proteins and somehow it would be fast, convenient. When you’re in a hurry, maybe you don’t have time to sit down at a restaurant and have a waiter and go through the whole process. Sometimes you just have twenty minutes to grab something! The idea of Maepole is that you can get tasty, healthy, fresh food, but you know that it's convenient, too. That’s something that has been lacking in our community; hopefully Maepole is addressing that need.

SV: When did Maepole actually come about?
PD: The idea for Maepole was born, you know, probably four or five years ago when I was a traveling chef in a smaller town. I think it’s important to travel a lot and see what else is happening in the world. I’d go to New York and LA pretty frequently just to see what’s happening in the food world and noticed that restaurants were offering something really convenient at a great price but they were more health focused. And so I left my travels with the idea that we needed something like that here in Athens!

SV: So what is the relationship of Let Us Compost and MaePole?
PD: When we were planning Maepole we realized we were going to be using a lot more disposable products in our style of service and we wanted to make sure we were choosing products that were gonna be better for all of us. Let Us Compost has been a great partner for us because from the outset we wanted to make sure that we were being good stewards to our community...not only to provide good food but also on the back-end, making sure that the waste that we produced was gonna be responsibly managed. Let Us Compost has been awesome because the vast majority of what we produce here goes to compost rather than to the landfill. And when we were planning the restaurant, they were helpful as we chose items. Flipping through a catalog of disposable goods, there’s so many things to choose from and it can be overwhelming; they helped us choose the right items that were going to work for us and them. We made sure that we were all, you know, working on this together.

SV: Yeah I think it’s really awesome that you’re doing something like this. How do your customers receive this? Do they think it’s a good idea, a bad idea?
PD: Yeah so far our customers base has been really excited about the fact that so much is compostable and and actually it’s been an education process because so many things are compostable that they are not accustomed to composting. A lot of times we’re standing by the trash station to help them. The metal forks and spoons and glassware go in one bin and pretty much everything else they produce here goes in compost!

SV: So our documentary is actually about the consequences of single-use plastic. In your opinion, do you think single-use plastic should be banned? Or should be try and find a solution to the pollution?
PD: Yeah, I mean single-use plastic is is is such a controversial issue. It’s pervasive and it’s sort of hard to live your life without encountering it in some way. My Mom is from Ecuador in South America and I just see so much litter and trash and it’s plastic bags, plastic cups, straws... it’s just everywhere. They have such a beautiful ecosystem and sometimes you see a really spectacular spot and it’s just tarnished by all the plastic everywhere. Unfortunately they don’t have government control like we do; in places where there is a lot of litter... it’s pretty devastating.

SV: I love that you brought up your family! My final questions for you is where do you see the future of Maepole using less single-use plastic then the rest of the restaurant industry?
PD: We hope that Maepole is a big success and we’d like to open more Maepoles in our region and continue to partner with Let Us Compost, using as much compostable materials in lieu of single-use plastic as possible. As restaurant owners, we are a huge industry - we feed millions of people and produce a lot of waste - as a result I think that we have a responsibility to source better products, less plastic and demand it from our vendors. That’s the way, as a restaurant industry, that we’re going to reduce the amount of waste - by making conscientious decisions until we have critical mass.

SV: I noticed a lot of your vessels for food, they look like vessels we might get elsewhere that won’t biodegrade. Could you talk a little bit more about that?
PD: Sure. The containers are compostable but they look like other containers that other restaurants use. We didn't necessarily want to change the customer experience and as a new business you want people to feel comfortable and not overwhelm them. The items look like any other plate you'd typically use; this doesn’t have to be a dramatic change in your lifestyle.

Maepole is located at 1021 N. Chase St in Athens, Georgia. Check it out on the web or get the best food ever MONDAY - SATURDAY 11am-9pm.

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