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Monday, March 10, 2008

Running a Restaurant With a Recycling Message

by sboin@fredericknewspost.com (Sonia Boin) @ The Frederick News-Post

MOUNT AIRY -- Diners at Todd Bricken's restaurant take home the food they can't finish in biodegradable boxes made from vegetable starch -- no wax or plastic.

In his quest to save the environment, he avoids Styrofoam and plastic utensils. He buys produce at a farm 1 1/2 miles away to reduce his fuel costs and emissions. And he has dug a composting pit on the 2-acre site of his Brick Ridge Restaurant on Ridge Road, in which lettuce trimmings, vegetable peels and the like are placed when the temperature is above freezing.

"We get about 200 pounds a week just from scraps and we use it to do our gardening," he said. "I might get into something I can use 12 months of the year. I have to build a structure."

Bricken, 42, searched for a garbage company that would agree to collect co-mingled glass, plastic, tin and aluminum cans for recycling. Allied Waste in Finksburg had the equipment and it's the company he uses.

"This was an important issue last year," he said. "I started trying to get other restaurants to do the co-mingling. This is complicated by the fact that there are fewer and fewer independent, family-owned restaurants."

Restaurants can save money by using the co-mingling option, he said, but chains have to go with their sister restaurants in Frederick, Montgomery and Baltimore counties, and each jurisdiction has its own laws and rules.

Bricken, who opened the Brick Ridge in 2000, also uses insulation that doesn't emit any carbon gas and kitchen equipment designed to reduce energy use. "It may be more expensive to install," he said, "but they save energy."

He makes sure the equipment is well cleaned and maintained, another way of saving energy.

"I am getting more disposables that are environmentally friendly," he said. "If you change one thing at a time, you do what you are comfortable with."

He purchased compact fluorescent light bulbs to conserve electricity, then learned that they contain mercury; he's not happy about having to make a long drive to recycle them. In making changes, he said, "you have to be careful."

As he continues his efforts to bring other restaurants into the environmentally friendly fold, Bricken said he hasn't done much yet, but he is doing all he can.

"It's important. It's coming along. The more interest there is, it will create more need."

Copyright 2008 The Frederick News-Post. All rights reserved.

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