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Article written by Elena Barbera for ON TRAY Magazine.NORTH END EATERY SERVES UP A GREENER PLANET
By Elena Barbera

Jose Duarte has no time to hug a tree. When he’s not taking his daughter to school or pursuing the freshest ingredients in town for his menu, the chef/owner of Taranta Ristorante in the North End is busy figuring out how to improve his bottom line. Earlier this year, Duarte and his wife Anna committed to turning their business into an example of what’s possible for the future of ‘green’ business in Boston. When he began researching ways to turn his Hanover Street enclave into an earth-friendly, Certified Green Restaurant, what Duarte found was not just fewer carbon emissions in the atmosphere, but more greenbacks right in his own pocket.

“I am no tree hugger. This just makes good business sense.” But Duarte’s not fooling anyone. His knowledge and passion for combating global warming shine through his talk of bigger profits. Since joining the Green Restaurant Association (GRA), which works with restaurants around the country to implement environmentally friendly business practices, Duarte outlines the changes he’s made on Taranta’s website. From a simple change like bathroom lights that turn off automatically to converting a diesel engine pickup to run on used vegetable oil, the restaurant is saving money at every turn. Simply by replacing paper towels with an energy-efficient hand dryer in the restroom, Duarte is keeping an extra $1,300 bucks a year in his pocket. His light bulbs may cost $19 a piece, but they each save him over $25 a year in energy costs. Stop by the place and do the math.

Much to Duarte’s surprise, when he talks environmental awareness to fellow restaurateurs in the North End, he is greeted with blank stares or skepticism. Eager to get other eateries onto the green brick road, the owners of Taranta are happy to spread the wealth by talking up their new approach – so why isn’t anyone biting? Perhaps it is lack of education. Perhaps it is lack of caring, or because old habits die hard. Whatever the case, changes are coming. With only thirteen restaurants in Massachusetts being Certified Green Restaurants™, some have been calling for governmental intervention. On October 23 Jose Duarte attended a hearing at City Hall to discuss an ordinance regarding recycling programs for food and beverage service establishments.

Overseen by City Counselors Michael Ross and Rob Consalvo, the hearing was attended by active participants in the effort to make Boston a greener city, including representatives from the GRA, earth friendly trash hauler Save That Stuff, and restaurant owners from around the city. Peter Christie, CEO of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association was also present and expressed concerns about the implementation of a forced recycling program, such as limited space for bins and sanitation problems caused by longer storage of trash. Duarte responded to those concerns by speaking candidly about the challenges of going green – he believes that if he can make it work in his very limited back-of-house space, then anyone can.

According to Jose Duarte, growing pains are tiny in comparison to the positive financial and environmental impacts of making the shift to green business. Josh Childs of Silvertone Bar & Grill on Bromfield Street in Boston has at least one good reason for recycling: his small establishment produces over 50,000 bottles per year – all which used to go directly to landfills. In the end, the numbers tell the story. The City of Boston determined that the cost to remove trash is $80 per ton, while recyclable material removal costs only a fraction of that – $21 per ton.

Owners like Duarte and Childs, along with the GRA and Save That Stuff, are paving the way for any restaurant that wants to get on board with the green movement. Their tested plans may become a roadmap for businesses who don’t know where to get started. Around the country changes have already been in place for years: San Francisco’s restaurants are Styrofoam free. New York City’s restaurants have been recycling since the nineties. With one step taken in the right direction, perhaps Boston will look outside of itself to find further inspiration and direction.

In the meantime, the staff at Taranta Ristorante will quietly continue their mission. Diners at the Peruvian-inspired Italian eatery will hardly know that there’s anything special happening behind the scenes. But for those who are in the know, serving the environment while eating a scrumptious dinner is icing on the cake.

Taranta Ristorante, 210 Hanover Street, Boston 617.720.0052 www.tarantarist.com