ByEmerald Horizon

Aug 15, 2014

According to the EPA, in 2013, each American produced about 4.4 pounds of waste every single day. That’s an average of 1,606 pounds of trash created by one person every year!

Can you imagine trash-free living? Zero waste lifestyles focus on living without creating trash in the process. A zero waste lifestyle seems quite unattainable, but as you can tell, it might be something to aspire to, especially when the Earth is already struggling with all of the waste we’re creating.

Zero Waste Dining

I’ve seen zero waste lifestyles demonstrated on blogs like Clean Bin Project and Zero Waste Home. Both blogs are pretty informative regarding zero waste living in demonstration. But, I’ve also happened to come across zero waste practices in a really inspiring environment: a restaurant!


Zero Waste Restaurant

Sandwich Me In hasn’t emptied their trash in nearly two years – because they don’t have any. Since the company opened it’s doors in 2012, their entire waste production is literally the equivalent of what most restaurants produce in a single hour.

“I practice the five R’s,” owner Justin Vraney said. The five R’s are in reference to the “environmentalist’s credo” to reduce, reuse, recycle, and two more he’s thrown in: reject and refuse. (He rejects and refuses junk mail and excessive packaging.)

How does Sandwich Me In achieve zero waste?

  • The company runs on sustainable energy
  • Food is sourced from local farms
  • Food uses minimal packaging
  • Nearly everything is repurposed or reused – from food scraps to oil

“The crispy smoked skins on the chicken go onto the Cobb salad and the chicken bones make the broth for the chicken soup,” he told Truth Atlas. Leftover veggies used on Tuesday go into burgers made on Wednesday. Sandwich Me In also gifts food scraps to farmers as chicken feed for the chickens, who in turn produce eggs for the restaurant.

Vraney cites his children as the inspiration for zero waste living, and admits he adopts zero waste living at home, although it’s a little more difficult to do so. “I have kids, and their future – they’re not going to be able to live the way I lived,” he told HuffPost. “I want my kids live the same life that I had. I don’t want to risk it, I’m not a gambler. I want to take care of the things I love the most.”

But Does Zero Waste Taste Good?

I was curious to learn whether or not Sandwich Me In compromised taste for sustainability. I had surely hoped not, as a restaurant’s main goal is to sell food. I was pleased to learn that Sandwich Me In has some of the highest restaurant reviews in Chicago.

On TripAdvisor, user UrbanDozer gave the restaurant 5 stars, saying Vraney and his wife “are very friendly and put a lot of pride and effort into the food they serve,” and that “prices are reasonable, especially for the quality of the food served.”

Yelpers have left 107 reviews, an overwhelming number of them being 4 and 5 star reviews. Referring to the experience as “low-key and easy,” Yelp reviews state that food is fresh, simple, very flavorful; and that the service is wonderful.

From what I can tell, Sandwich Me In makes it a point to keep quality, deliciousness and experience a profound priority just as much as they do maintaining a sustainable operations system.

Learn more: How to Cook Up a Zero Waste Kitchen

Editor’s note: Sandwich Me In has closed since the publication of this article.

By Emerald Horizon

Ms. Emerald Horizon … how do you begin to describe her? As her name suggests, she’s as sparkly and as intriguing as her namesake. She’s a wild woman that’s rumored to run with the wolves, hide in different corners of the world, enjoy sushi and dance. Most of all, Emerald is fearless and passionate when it comes to expressing thought-provoking views to inspire better treatment of Mother Earth and her precious resources.​