As consumers, we aren’t always aware of the ethics of every business we patronize. However, through our purchasing decisions, we have the means to support responsible and sustainable businesses. When a business abides by responsible operating standards, it reflects company leadership in place.
Restauranteur Todd Schuetz is someone who takes his role as a responsible leader very seriously. As owner and operator of Café 440 in Eugene, Oregon, Schuetz designed his business with employee and community health and prosperity in mind. Customers love Café 440 for its innovative take on classic comfort food, though a larger purpose lies beneath — literally.
Environmentally Responsible Practices
When Schuetz first opened Café 440, he worked with the property owner to devise a grease trapping system that would eliminate in-house grease traps, creating a cleaner environment for workers. Schuetz’ solution is a 3,000-gallon, three-chamber grease trap that lies beneath the plaza parking lot where Café 440 is located. Without the standard traps on industrial appliances, gravity immediately carries the grease out of the building to these underground vats.
With a reduced presence of grease in the restaurant, Café 440 produces cleaner greywater that requires less extensive treatment and filtration, thereby reducing strain on city resources. Four times a year, the grease is cleaned out and sold to a company that recycles it, turning the grease into fuel. This system is overall healthier for employees, customers, and for the environment.
Schuetz’ operating standards also extend to the surrounding community of Eugene. After becoming fed up with marketing solicitations, he committed to donating his marketing budget to various local and national nonprofits. This means that every customer that walks into Café 440 is inherently investing in the surrounding community with every purchase. They don’t just receive a delicious and affordable meal; they also support a business that seeks to improve the community and reduce its impact on the environment.
Doing Business With Responsible Companies
Consumers are increasingly concerned about the environment, and businesses are noticing. More businesses are making the effort to highlight their sustainability efforts to appeal to the environmentally concerned consumer.
Are you making environmentally responsible purchasing decisions? Here are some tips to help you make sure you agree with the practices and values of a business — before you spend your money with them.
- Conduct a web search of the company: Information about company practices is often easy to find online. An internet search will reveal not only what the company has to say about their responsibility commitments, but also what customers and other publications have to say about the company.
- Look for key words: Terms like “natural” and “green” don’t necessarily signify that any environmental measures are being taken. While certifications such as USDA Organic, Certified Fair Trade, and B Corp and are not necessary to determine company ethics, they are useful in quickly identifying where a business’ priorities lie. You can also get valuable information by communicating directly with the business.
- Talk to the employees: Employees are privy to the company culture. Simply interacting with these individuals and asking questions about sourcing, for example, will be very telling of whether company ethics trickle down and throughout the entire organization.
Also note that reviews from family and friends are the most impactful in consumer decision-making. As you strive to support responsible and sustainable businesses, your choices ripple out to influence those closest to you. The next time you make a purchase, make the most of it by supporting a business that aligns with your environmental and social values.
Rafns’ is featured in episode 2 of the Chew on That Sustainable Restaurant Series:
About the Author
Susie George is a graduate student pursuing a Sustainable MBA, and resides in Salem, Oregon. She is a co-founder and co-owner of Branching Together, a business that creates sustainable living products, and creator of Chew on That, a YouTube series dedicated to featuring different approaches to sustainability to collectively raise environmental awareness. The first five full episodes of Chew on That feature sustainable restaurants throughout Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Susie is passionate about harnessing the influence of business to create positive change.