Oyster shells from Anise Gastro Global Bar, once destined for a landfill, have gone back underwater to provide homes for new oysters. • The bar also put up a vertical garden earlier this month. • At Moxies Cafe, a spoon-washing station, its water constantly running, is gone. Now baristas use a clean spoon for each drink served from the coffee station. • The bottom line: a water bill cut in half. • With a tweak here and a memo there, money and resources are saved. • The city will recognize 10 local businesses with a Green Business designation at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, which is Earth Day. Then at 5:30 p.m., a tour leaves from Duckweed Urban Market, at 803 N Tampa St., to visit several participating businesses. • Each business worked with a student from the University of Tampa or the University of South Florida through a 12-week program launched by the Sustany Foundation, a nonprofit founded in 2007 to enhance the quality of life of the Tampa Bay community. • The recycling and conservation plans make sense both for business and the environment.
At Bamboozle Cafe, owner Lynn Pham started collecting leftover produce, which she takes home to compost. She piles it in her back yard in Seminole Heights, near her organic garden. She's growing Thai basil and mint, cilantro and chives. "More herbs than vegetables so far," said Pham, who has brought some back to use at the restaurant, "to bring it back full circle."
Pham is also growing kaffir limes to season the restaurant's chicken with its leaves.
At Zudar's Deli, owners tinted their windows to save on air-conditioning and added bike racks. They installed a digester for food waste that consumes everything but bones.
Duckweed found that they need better signs for recycling bins, and several other businesses began recycling cardboard.
Malio's Prime Steakhouse got rid of their foam to-go packaging.
Educating owners and staff has a domino effect, said Tessa Schreiner, a graduate student in the Patel School of Global Sustainability at USF. For instance, she said, after an employee learns that it takes a million years for a glass bottle to break down in a landfill, the person is less likely to throw glass into the trash at home.
What seems simple isn't always, though, she learned.
Schreiner worked with owners at Anise, where chef Mary Paff orders two or three bushels of oysters a week. A plan was put in place: The kitchen staff would save the empty shells in a bucket. Paff carried the first bucket across Ashley Street through Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and dumped it over the rails into the Hillsborough River.
Then Schreiner did some more research. These oysters are not harvested locally. Experts told her it was probably not a problem, but ideally, the shells should be sun-bleached for six months to make sure there were no organisms that could contaminate local waterways.
The city of St. Petersburg has a program to recycle oyster shells. But transporting shells becomes cumbersome since they have to be collected regularly and preferably in a truck because of their odor. So for now, the shells are back in the trash until a solution is found.
Other participating businesses are Sunny Side-Up, 22squared, City Bike Tampa and Renaissance Planning Group.
The Sustany Foundation plans to link more students to businesses in December but also offers help to any business in Hillsborough County that wants to do a self-assessment to get the Green Business designation. Recently, Florida Hospital in Carrollwood joined the list, which includes the Tampa Bay Times Forum and the city of Tampa.
Elisabeth Parker can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3431.