The sustainability movement has become increasingly prominent and has gained traction in society, especially during our climate crisis. Households are making more sustainable and eco-friendly shifts and so are businesses. Luckily enough, Gainesville has some of these delicious and green spots, ranging from sustainable foods to sustainable materials.
What does is mean to be sustainable?
Sustainability can start on many different fronts at a restaurant. One of the initial steps, and sometimes the most costly, can be serving sustainable food. Sustainable foods provide satisfying amounts of nutritional value while limiting impacts on the environment. This means favoring vegetable-packed meals over meaty ones and purchasing from local farms instead of farms that are states away. Both of these options are sustainable by cutting the businesses’ carbon footprint.
According to a study done by Virginia Wesleyan University, beans and lentils, peas, tomatoes and broccoli all uniquely help lower carbon footprints. Beans and lentils are cheap and use little water in their production, and, as they are part of the legume family, they do not require nitrogen-based fertilizers to grow. Instead of fertilizers that chip the ozone, they actually use natural gases from the atmosphere to make nutrient-rich soil. Peas, tomatoes and broccoli also require lower water consumption and less harmful chemicals to grow.
When a business purchases locally, they cut down on carbon emissions from transportation. In addition, using local goods helps diminish the effects of food waste. Food waste encompasses the idea of food being grown but discarded without being eaten, usually on a much larger scale with crops than local produce. The Food and Agriculture Organization has estimated that food waste contributes to roughly 8% of global, man-made greenhouse gas emissions, and nearly 30% of the world’s agricultural lands are wasted on food that is produced and uneaten.
In addition, meat is more taxing on the environment than a plant-based diet. According to a report from the University of Michigan’s Center for Sustainable Systems, a meat-based diet uses twice as much energy to produce as a vegetarian diet. Meat production impacts land, water and air and increases water pollution levels.
Owner Ryan Strandjord opened Plantology against all odds during the pandemic with a fresh vision of mixing comfort foods into vegan alternatives. Strandjord aims to spread awareness on sustainability, starting with food. Strandjord hopes serving vegan food that contains both fan-favorite and comfort food elements will encourage more people to entertain plant-based eating. Plantology serves a variety of comfort foods, such as vegan chicken sandwiches, loaded fries, burgers and even mac and cheese.
In addition to their sustainable plant-based menu, Plantology uses biodegradable food serving trays and utensils to minimize waste. Containers are eco-friendly, compostable or recyclable. Using biodegradable and sustainable options for serving is important because these products break down much faster than others. Moreover, when they do break down, they turn into carbon dioxide, water vapor and organic material, which are not harmful to the environment.
Among many raving reviews on Happy Cow, one reviewer states, “The restaurant is all vegan, which is great. No worrying about contamination from animal products or the ethics of eating somewhere that serves meat.”
Plantology’s food truck sits in a cozy open space at Midpoint Park and Eatery with free parking.
The women-owned and all vegan bakery and creamery started by Margaret Clow sits on 220 NW 8th Ave., where it serves its famous sustainable donuts and ice cream. Joyfully Baked is completely plant-based. Clow notes that there are absolutely no eggs or dairy used at Joyfully Baked.
An all plant-based bakery fundamentally contributes to a more conscious approach towards producing and consuming food. To put this into perspective, according to the Water Footprint Network, 1,000 gallons of water produce just one gallon of milk. Eliminating dairy plays a crucial role in water conservation. Meanwhile, the production of eggs is intensive (produced by million tons of water) and generates negative effects on the environment such as emissions of greenhouse gases and contamination of soil and water.
Clow is also super transparent on her website regarding her ingredients, detailing the use of coconut cream and agave for their signature ice cream and sunflower oil to fry their donuts.
Joyfully Baked donuts are highly regarded, one reviewer on Yelp stated, “Do not be afraid, un-vegan people – try the vegan doughnut! You will be pleasantly surprised. Better yet, put one of these doughnuts in a plain, white bag and give it to your biggest vegan critic. You will change someone’s mind and make their day brighter.”
Beloved Karma Cream is located at 607 W. University Ave. and serves flavorful vegan baked goods, coffee and ice cream. A veteran in the vegan business, Karma Cream has been thriving for 13 years. Owner Kyle Fick works towards eco-friendly alternatives in both food and materials. Fick’s main goal for Karma Cream has always been to operate with a sense of responsibility to the environment and to not cut corners on disposal, recycling and ingredients.
Karma Cream supplies biodegradable and glass bowls and utensils, along with plenty of organic ingredients on its menu ranging from teas, hot chocolate, plant-based baked goods and sandwiches and organic and vegan ice cream.
All in all, the current climate crisis is very real, and it is up to us to shift gears into a greener lifestyle. Businesses such as Plantology, Joyfully Baked and Karma Cream have taken the initiative to transform their restaurant fronts into a more sustainable and eco-friendly haven. As consumers, we need to be mindful of our carbon footprint and support businesses that are also working towards diminishing theirs.