Lighthouse restaurant: a beacon for the zero-waste movement
Owners of the Brooklyn eatery have mastered sustainability and are urging others to follow suit.
Beyond the woodgrain countertops and rustic decor inside its weathered walls, Brooklyn's Lighthouse restaurant has become a beacon, of sorts, for sustainability and green business practices, thanks to owner Naama Tamir.
She and her brother, Assaf, have owned the unpretentious storefront for a decade. They've thrived in their space, fostering a homey atmosphere that embodies community, honesty and warmth. Their menu has been praised for its dedication to locally sourced ingredients and an emphasis on fresh, wholesome vegetables.
From the time they opened, the Israel-born Tamirs weren't satisfied simply slinging their wares to hungry patrons. They wanted that community feel to go farther. For them, that meant getting as close to zero-waste as possible.
So they started to spend a lot of time thinking, talking and learning about trash. Where it goes, how it's divided, how much is reused, recycled or upcycled.
"It's really about changing the paradigm of how restaurants operate," Assaf Tamir said.
Their first challenge? Reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. They switched from plastic straws to metal. They separated glass from cardboard and paper. They found several nonprofits in the area that processed waste and used it for good: the Billion Oyster Project, for one, which uses discarded oyster shells for reef rehabilitation at the New York Harbor. They also donate lemon peel and other organic waste to a company called Sure Can, which turns it into compost. And their wine bottle corks are retrieved and recycled by the Cork Collective Group.
"I think we all need to shift our gaze to more long-term thinking and to broaden our perspective to be more inclusive and less linear," Naama Tamir told From The Grapevine.
For her and Assaf, that shift made perfect sense. The two grew up in Rehovot, a highly agricultural town near Tel Aviv, where farming was part of the curriculum in grade school. "The connection to nature and farming has always been very strong for us," Naama told us."In Israel in general, there is much attention to water preservation and environmental good practices."
The efforts are time-consuming and costly, for sure, which ushered in another challenge: Maintain these practices without compromising profits and quality.
"We call Lighthouse a multiple-bottom-line business," Naama said. "In the same way businesses and restaurants create systems and modify operations to drive profit, we do it with a few other bottom lines in mind."
It's an ongoing effort, but it's one that the Tamirs hope can become a model for the industry at large. "We enjoy the intellectual challenge and the rewards," Naama told us. But, "we won't sacrifice our values just for the sake of making more money."
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