Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:03

Sustainability - 'To Go'

Written by Daniel Schechtman

SARATOGA SPRINGS - If you ask sustainable restaurateur Kim Klopstock what she does to limit her impact on the environment, she'll tell you she does what she can but can "always do better."

Klopstock has three aspects to her business: she owns 50 South Restaurant and Bar, located at 2128 Doubleday Avenue, a catering business called Lily and the Rose, and also sells her So Lively Tapenade at the Saratoga Farmers' Market.

With all that's on her plate, she still has time to consider the bigger picture: how every transaction impacts her surroundings. It's called thinking sustainably, a grand notion that, for Klopstock, involves composting food waste, recycling and repurposing, limiting energy consumption, purchasing low-impact products, and working closely with the farmers that put food on her tables.

She has fine-tuned her operation to do more with less impact, but always sees room for improvement. These days, Klopstock is looking at her "take-out" amenities. Her restaurant uses a carefully-selected medley of biodegradable containers and utensils that are not manufactured in the United States, with the exception of a few that are

She has spent the past six months searching for a new product that fits three criteria: it must be biodegradable, made in the United States, and inexpensive. So far, she's had no luck.

Now, Klopstock is looking to her fellow restaurateurs for brain and buying power. Nearly every restaurant has a take-out aspect of its operation, but not everyone pays more for eco-friendly containers. Klopstock thinks that if they work together to use sustainable 'take-out' containers, kicking Styrofoam and plastic to the curb, the local industry will not only reduce its impact on the environment , but can shift its influence on the market.

"We will have buying power as a community. That will be huge," she said.

She expects cost to be an issue. Most business owners know why they should recycle and, similarly, why sustainable products are better for the environment, but they may not have the funds or willingness to spend more money on better disposable products.

Biodegradable take-out containers, like those found at 50 South, are more expensive than the Styrofoam, plastic and other alternatives.

There are certainly obstacles, and Klopstock admits she's likely "a dreamer," but there is a strong local sub-culture that's already in support, and that's a terrific start.

For one, Sustainable Saratoga, an organization that advocates for a self-sufficient local marketplace and healthy environment, is looking at Klopstock's initiative as an appropriate launch to a project that's been on the table since last year.
According to Celeste Caruso, Sustainable Saratoga co-chair, the group's recycling and composting committee was already looking to survey area restaurants about their recycling, composting and waste disposal habits.

"We want to engage the business community not only in recycling, but to educate them about the large amount of waste that is produced by restaurants. The to-go containers used in restaurants are horrific; it's one of the worst materials to put back into the earth," Caruso said. "This would give us an opportunity to get that project underway."

Caruso pointed to a number of local food service entrepreneurs that, like Klopstock, are making sustainability a priority.
Rich Frank is an excellent role model. He owns Four Seasons, a small marketplace on the corner of Phila and Putnam, and has taken multiple steps to reduce his impact.

The employees at Four Seasons separate waste - they compost, single-stream recycle, and throw very little into the dumpster. Frank said his trash removal bills are very low, and he pays nothing for his composting service (a local farmer picks up the food waste every other day and uses it for pig feed and compost).

"When you look at our garbage by weight, 90 percent of it is not going into the landfill," Frank said. "It's great not to throw this stuff in the landfill, but it also saves us money. We get a better rate from our garbage hauler; I'd say we save between 25 and 30 percent."

Although Frank admits that even the most eco-friendly to-go container is still a problem because it's disposable, he knows there must be an alternative to what the mainstream uses now.

"We all want to eat out, so we have to make it work somehow," he said, suggesting that the city create a standard take-out container that can be re-used at all downtown restaurants.

Caruso also commended Kathleen Quartararo of Virgil's Coffee House for her efforts to conserve, compost and reduce waste. For her, thinking sustainably is rational. She supports Klopstock's cause.

At this point, Klopstock's plan to launch a new disposable container paradigm is a long way off, but she's getting the word out and getting the gears in motion.

"Somebody out there has to be able to help make this happen," she said. "I think anything is possible."
Anyone interested in helping Kim Klopstock get her initiative off the ground can reach her at (518) 885-8588 or email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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