A look at how two fundamentally different companies — Green Plate Catering, which specializes in vegan and vegetarian fare and uses sustainably produced local, seasonal and organic ingredients, and The Maven Group, a real estate and investment services firm that works to develop and redevelop contaminated or “stigmatized” properties – work to minimize their carbon footprint for the good of both the planet and their businesses.
This is the third of a three-part series (read part 1 and part 2 here).
When Green Plate Catering started as a brown bag vegetarian lunch service in 1983, the idea of sustainability wasn’t quite the same as it is today. Still, owner Kit Wood understood the importance of maintaining certain ideals.
“We liked to buy local and from farmers and producers who utilize sustainable practices and avoid using pesticides,” she said. “By supporting farmers in our communities that use those practices, it means fewer contaminants in the ground water.”
When The Maven Group began in 1995, Stuart Schooler, managing member, said environmental concerns were made a priority from the beginning. For example, they rerouted residential geothermal loops to avoid adversely effecting aquatic life in a nearby creek.
“These are the tradeoffs you run into in doing, and being committed to, renewable energy work,” Stuart said.
At both organizations, carbon footprint reduction becomes a way of life for everyone associated with the companies – including how they work and how they get to work.
Most at Green Plate Catering live nearby and walk to work. They also carpool to events and have pow wows on how they can do things for the business that are better and greener.
In addition to regular employee training on things like composting, the company uses green cleaning products, separates all event recyclables from trash, and even reaches into garbage bins after events to claim things that are compostable or can be recycled.
In encouraging an environmentally friendly atmosphere, The Maven Group uses a comprehensive Employee Orientation Reference Manual that includes a big focus on sustainability.
For example, the company encourages its employees to use electric and hybrid vehicles. They also subsidize employee Metro SmarTrip passes and buy bicycles for employees who move closer to the office to enable them to peddle to work. Stuart often dons a bike helmet, too, leaving his plug-in hybrid car at home to bike the 5.5 miles to work whenever he can.
To help eliminate as much waste as possible, Green Plate Catering uses actual silverware and real linen table cloths and napkins for events, and also offers reusable plates and glassware rentals to clients as an environmentally beneficial option.
Although it’s important for Green Plate to cater to its vegan and vegetarian clients, its menu has expanded over the years to include meat and poultry, and Kit has developed relationships with merchants who contract with area farms whose livestock and poultry eat a species-appropriate diet and live in pastured environments. They also consult the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch guidelines to select seafood that’s fished or farmed in ways that support a healthy ocean.
Focusing on environmental sustainability also means pursuing efficiencies. Seeking to find ways to use space that would otherwise go to waste, The Maven Group, with their affiliate Rockville Solar Group, decided on a very significant energy saving initiative. Originally intending to put a wind turbine on the site of its Rockville Ice Rink before discovering it was prohibited by land-use restrictions, they instead conceived the idea to install an 865,000 kWh photovoltaic solar panel energy system for the facility – the second-largest solar panel installation in the state.
Their embrace of sustainability includes a commitment not to cut down mature trees or build on wetlands when developing land.
“There’re enough industrial properties in need of redevelopment so there’s no need to be cutting down trees,” Stuart said.
“The certification process is thorough and can definitely help businesses looking to green their operations and reduce their environmental impact,” Stuart said.
Having been a Montgomery County Certified Green Business for about two years, Kit said she would encourage other businesses to get the process going because it’s worth the effort in order to begin a solid and sustainable path.
“Why are we here? It’s not just to make money,” she said. “It’s to benefit each other and to leave the earth in good or better shape.”
Article by Kimberly Hodges and Felicia Hodges