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[GreenYes] our first ZW sub shop

The Colorado Daily

April 17, 2007

Zero-waste wisdom

By NICOLE DANNA Colorado Daily Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 17, 2007 8:43 PM MDT

While Cheba Hut Toasted Subs may not have the luxury of saying it was the
first sandwich shop on University Hill, it does lay claim to another first -
as the district's one and only zero-waste-dedicated restaurant.

"We're not 100 percent zero waste, but we're close," said Matt
Clark-Johnson, 26, co-owner of the Hill Cheba Hut, the newest restaurant of
the five-store franchise currently found in several locations throughout
Arizona and Colorado. The store has already drastically cut its waste
production, requiring just one weekly trash pickup instead of its usual

Zero waste means recycling as much waste as possible, and often includes

In a city such as Boulder, a literal "poster child" for environmental
awareness, Clark-Johnson said he is proud to be among the first to become
more eco-friendly.

He and co-owner Seth Larsen said they always knew they would go into
business together, but - as childhood friends from Chicago - never expected
they'd be leading their business district in a recycling revolution.

After replacing Silvermine Subs at their location at 1313 College Ave., the
two men opened the sandwich shop in the fall of 2005, said Clark-Johnson,
and since then have made a number of changes that have helped the business

"I think we do well. The theme helps get people in the door, but without
good product and great service, you won't do well," said Clark-Johnson, who
decided to go one step further with his recently implemented zero-waste

For Cheba Hut's owners, going zero waste was not only a personal preference
- it was also a way to make their restaurant more accessible to the
eco-conscious customer.

"It's an alternative," said Clark-Johnson. "It may be more to deal with, but
in the end, we believe it will increase our bottom line because it makes it
easier for our customers to recycle."

>From the cups and straws and utensils to the containers they use for food
storage, it's all corn-based compostable, said Clark-Johnson, and even
though it may cost a little bit more, it's worth it.

But they wouldn't have been able to do it without Robin Burton, the
zero-waste services coordinator for Ecocycle Waste Services of Boulder and
Broomfield counties.

"Our zero-waste service program has been designed as an alternative to
conventional trash services," said Burton. "So where a company might just
sign up with a trash hauler with a collection of everything in one big can,
we're offering collection of all traditional recyclables and compostables."

Composting service is very similar to trash service, but instead of going to
a landfill, it's taken to a commercial composting facility where
biodegradable organic matter is broken down in a controlled environment of
carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and water, allowing the natural process of
decomposition to occur.

"But it's different from a backyard compost pile because it includes
non-recyclable paper products, like towels and napkins," said Burton.

Composting also makes way for a new breed of corn-based products that have
replaced non-recyclable petroleum-based products, said Burton. Restaurants
such as Cheba Hut use corn-based products such as cups, utensils and straws
and are able to discard all their waste into one composting bin, making it
easier for both them - and the customer - to cut waste.

"The idea is that by using those cornstarch food-service products, customers
don't even need to think about whether or not something is recyclable,
because the company has designed its waste stream for compostability," said

What's the catch? Not much, said Burton. "All told, for businesses who
choose to use [Ecocycle] as an alternative, the cost is comparable," she

Ecocycle has been offering alternative waste management services to the area
since the early '90s, and began offering a zero waste full service three
years ago. With a local 750 customers, 70 currently use composting services,
said Burton, and currently 25 businesses can be considered "full collection"
members, where 100 percent of their discards are handled through Ecocycle.

"Our customer base has been fairly well established, but the zero-waste
concept has gained a lot of momentum in recent years," said Burton. "A lot
of people [in Boulder] have gained awareness, and a lot of businesses are
calling us - like Cheba Hut."

According to Burton, businesses in Boulder are realizing customers are
becoming more attuned to environmental awareness, and if they can do
business in an environmentally friendly way, it becomes a strong
public-relations tool for them, she said.

Eric Lombardi

Executive Director

Eco-Cycle Inc

5030 Pearl St.

Boulder, CO. 80301


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