Posted on 2018.04.18
Just in time for Earth Day on April 22nd 2018, a top tier burger shop in Port Hope, Ontario made the decision to achieve Carbon Neutrality. Olympus Burger became the first Carbonzero Certified restaurant in Canada.
Giorgos Kallonakis, co-owner of Port Hope mainstay, Olympus Burger, knew that he wanted to make more environmentally-friendly choices for his business. Reducing the carbon footprint at Olympus Burger, was equally as important as winning a coveted spot on the Food Network’s popular television series “You Gotta Eat Here” or being voted among the top burger spots in the country.
It was while snorkeling in Belize on a winter trip that Kallonakis saw a shark spit out a piece of plastic.
“I think that was the eye-opener,” explains Kallonakis.
Seeing the impact of waste on our environment propelled the restaurateur to act accordingly in order to reach his goal much faster.
Achieving carbon neutrality is easier said than done. Kallonakis worked for months to transform his restaurant. He swapped out all of the plastic materials on site. Items that had to be changed included cups, utensils and straws. The restaurant sought out greener, more environmentally-friendly options.
Olympus Burger began offering paper straws which dissolve within 48 hours after use. New cold drink cups made of renewable materials that are biodegradable were brought in. Eliminating plastic, the cutlery they use is wooden.
“It is definitely an extra cost.” says Kallonakis. “When Olympus Burger opened in 2013 the additional costs to go green wouldn’t have been feasible.”
Fortunately, Olympus Burger started out using paper takeout containers. The new changes were not cheap (the restaurant estimates that the new eco-friendly supplies have cost them about 250 percent more). It’s an extra cost that has earned them the esteemed reputation of being the first Carbonzero certified restaurant in Canada.
Enter Carbonzero. Based in Toronto and founded in 2006, Carbonzero has worked with large enterprises such as TD Canada Trust and Honda.
“We work with businesses, big and small to implement carbon reduction strategies,” says Chief Operating Officer Dan Fraleigh. “[we do so] by measuring, managing, and mitigating emissions.”
The food industry is a tough place to reduce emissions. In the restaurant business, there are some parts which produce unavoidable emissions. Carbonzero helped Olympus Burger with a detailed review of hydro bills, gas bills, and business travel expenses. Using a standard quantification methodology, Carbonzero was able to calculate the amount of greenhouse emissions generated by the activities of the restaurant in tonnes.
Recognizing that sometimes it isn’t possible to eliminate emissions entirely, Olympus Burger also needed a solution that could counterbalance their non-discretionary footprint.
“Most people produce carbon emissions in their daily life. Driving an average family for a year produces three to five tonnes of carbon emissions.” explains Fraleigh.
As a result of these emissions we can’t change, Carbonzero offers carbon offsets that businesses can purchase. The goal is to help a restaurant offset the activity they cannot change by swapping paper for plastic or having lights on timers. A carbon offset plan can bridge any remaining gap that would lead to Carbonzero certification. Our offsets are real projects, which result in verifiable reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Olympus Burger has chosen to support an improved forest management project in the Niagara Escarpment region.
Not many suppliers offer eco-friendly goods. The lack of demand has contributed to the additional cost for Olympus Burger. Initially the cost was not effective, but once his business was more established, Kallonakis believes he chose the right time to make these changes. Movements such as “Ban the straw,” demonstrated that the public demands more eco-friendly options. As demand increases, so will supply. Now that Olympus Burger has banned the plastic straw, Kallonakis believes that more businesses will follow his example. As a result he hopes that the cost of eco-friendly supplies will eventually come down.
Carbonzero’s Dan Fraleigh is also a Port Hope resident and can see first-hand the impact that Olympus Burger is having within the community. As a result of making these greener choices, others are starting to make small changes too. For example,in 2019 one of the local bakery/sandwich shops on Walton Street has banned plastic water bottles in favour of a much greener option.
At the time of conversion, as far as Giorgos Kallonakis was aware, Olympus Burger was the first carbon-neutral burger restaurant in Ontario. Despite any additional costs, becoming a Carbonzero Certified Restaurant wasn’t difficult. As with most changes needed to reduce the impact of climate change, the overall benefit has outweighed any additional costs.
“While there is a restaurant in British Columbia that is carbon-neutral,” says Fraleigh, “Olympus Burger is the first Carbonzero Certified Restaurant.”
In the restaurant world, there are still plenty of changes to be made but Carbonzero and Olympus Burger are up to the challenge.
“The goal is to improve on a year to year basis,” said Fraleigh.
Carbonzero provides business owners with suggestions to help reduce their carbon footprints. Some of these suggestions are also good cost-savings measures. We can help if becoming a Carbonzero Certified Restaurant or business is of interest to you – but you have financial concerns.
We can suggest ways to save such as sealing windows for air/leaks or adding insulation. Switching to more efficient lighting and appliances can cut energy costs. For a restaurant, sourcing local ingredients can be very beneficial in cutting back on food delivery-based fuel that creates more emissions and requires greater offsets.
Once again, Olympus Burger was ahead of the game when they became Carbonzero Certfied. Kallonakis had already switched to LED lighting when he took over the building at 55 Mill St. in Port Hope.
“We also source all of our meat locally.” says Kallonakis.