In this episode of Nourish by MN350, Sarah Riedl, Cassie Hagen, and Lisa Chou talk about how partnerships between small businesses, non-profits, and government entities have been successful at reducing food waste in Minnesota. Amazing leaders like Dan Swenson-Klatt from Butter Bakery and Leslie Duling-McCollam from Ramsey/Washington Recycling & Energy discuss inspiring examples of the kinds of partnership we need more of, how they’ve been part of MN350’s Clean Plate Club campaign, and the challenges we still face towards achieving a waste-free future, plus lots of ways listeners like you can take action.
Learn more about MN350’s Clean Plate Club campaign at https://mn350.org/clean-plate-club/.
You can find Dan’s Butter Bakery blog at https://butterbakerycafe.com/blog.
The R&E BizRecycling Program info can be found at https://bizrecycling.com
See these resources to find out more about the federal legislation discussed in the episode:
If you’d like to get involved in the Food Waste team, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can find a full transcript here.
Daniel Swenson-Klatt 0:00
Even though I had a real heart for wanting to do the composting and do the environmentally friendly packaging, that's not how the business was set up when I bought it, and it was going to require a big change over. And I had support from Hennepin County to make that initial change. And those those few bits of dollars and support to get started, launched me on the way and in the sense of having available grants to make that first step. That's an incentive that's going to make a lot have a lot of impact over the years. So I encourage courage efforts to keep pushing that one through is statewide. There's plenty of room for growth.
Sarah Riedl 1:35
Hello, and welcome back, everybody. I’m your host, Sarah Riedl, Communications Manager for MN350 & MN350Action, and we’re coming to you from the homeland of the Anishinaabe, Dakota and Ho-Chunk people, or what is now known as Minnesota. Today on the show, we're going to talk about how partnerships between small business nonprofits and government entities have been successful at reducing food waste in Minnesota, which is more important than ever for the climate justice challenges we're facing. And I'm joined by Cassie Hagen and MN350. volunteer working on reducing food waste. Cassie, thank you for being here. Do you want to tell our listeners a little bit about yourself?
Cassie Hagen 2:13
Sure. Thanks for having me. Like Sarah said, my name is Cassie Hagen. And I've been the volunteer leader of the food waste workgroup at MN350. For about a year now. Our group runs the Clean Plate Club which is currently made up of 18 restaurants and food establishments that are in the Twin Cities metro area. Our goal is to promote restaurants that are reducing the diversity and food waste on social media to show the public the importance of tackling food waste. I'm also a Minnesota GreenCorps member at the University of St. Thomas,which is an environmental subset of Americorps in Minnesota and I am serving in the Waste and Recovery department. My work includes communications and outreach about waste reduction and diversion, especially our new composting program. And I'm really excited to be here to talk about this important topic.
Sarah Riedl 2:56
Awesome. We're excited to have you so previously on this show. across the different episodes. We've interviewed businesses and nonprofits and legislators separately, but we haven't covered these groups together and talked about how their partnerships are crucial to fight an issue as big as food waste. As we've mentioned before, according to project drawdown, food waste accounts for 8% of all human caused greenhouse gas emissions, and here in the US, up to 40% of the food we produce is wasted while in many places across the country. And here in Minnesota, people are not getting enough food or don't have access to healthy fresh food in their communities. reducing food waste is a critical lever to push when we're talking about the intersection of climate and justice. So Cassie, you and our food systems team organizer Lisa Chou, who many of our listeners have heard on the show before you were able to sit down with Daniel Swenson-Klatt of butter bakery and Leslie Dulling McCollum of Ramsay Washington recycling and energy to talk about how different sectors can work together and support each other in reducing food waste.
Daniel Swenson-Klatt 4:03
I'm Daniel Swenson-Klatt. I own Butter Bakery Cafe in South Minneapolis.
Cassie Hagen 4:09
Dan is super mission oriented and sometimes taken risks to make butter bakery, which is a member of the clean plate club. So community focused and to minimize his waste. But he's also been innovative through things like a subscription model for baked goods that he calls a community supported bakery, which we'll hear about later on.
Leslie Dulling McCollum 4:26
I'm Leslie Dulling McCollum and I'm a Program Coordinator with Ramsey Washington recycling and energy or r&d for short. And my work focuses on a variety of upstream waste prevention strategies, including food waste prevention.
Cassie Hagen 4:43
Leslie is a true advocate of waste reduction in all areas and helps oversee the biz recycling program, which you'll also hear about later in the episode. And with that, let's dive in
Lisa Chou 5:05
So Dan, can you share? How did you start your restaurant? And how has it changed over the years?
Daniel Swenson-Klatt 5:11
Well, let me say that I have first wasn't always the restaurant owner. My first 20 years were actually teaching, reading and writing to middle school students in a variety of settings. That also included doing some management at the Children's Museum. So by the time I hit about 20 years in, I had a run out of my patience and had some tired knees, and it was time for something new. And I was thinking about a place that might be close to home how to work close to home. For me, that landed as picking up a coffee shop, I had some familiarity with coffee shops, mostly as an attendant, spending lots of time there either for writing, or for meeting friends, I thought of them as welcoming places. But I also had this first job as a short order cook. So being in a kitchen wasn't a scary place. For me, I was looking forward to the possibility of cooking again, I've had a long lifelong love of baking, including baking scones, and thought might be a great place to put those into action. And, you know, I always had this desire, even in my own all of my teaching years to create welcoming spaces, create gathering spaces, and it's hard to just kind of do a gathering space without some food behind it. So a restaurant seemed like a good option. I was very fortunate to find one within walking distance of my home. It actually was not a coffee shop, it was a bakery. So I was I was kind of stretching myself a little there to say, well, I'll, I'll just try to follow those passions too. And, really, it's been quite a gift to be able to give back all of the great experiences I've received over the years to now create a space for my neighbors.
Lisa Chou 7:02
That's a beautiful story. So in addition to being a super delicious bakery, you also build community, fight homelessness, and fight for workers rights. And there's really so many things that you do differently from ordinary restaurants, and ordinary restaurant owners, that makes butter bakery more community oriented. Can you share more about those efforts, and what motivates you to put extra efforts into those actions than your ordinary bakery?
Daniel Swenson-Klatt 7:30
Well, we had actually outgrown our original storefront after a few years. And so I was looking to kind of find a little bigger place along the way, also someplace that might be able to highlight more of the goals I had around being a zero waste space or sourcing locally. And I was really very fortunate and felt very honored to be invited into a partnership with a brand new building the Nicollet square housing program on Nicollet Avenue, they knew my background well enough to know that I might be a good fit. And it really was a way for me to invest even deeper into my community by becoming a worksite, supportive worksite for young adults who've experienced homelessness. And you know, from the beginning, I also wanted to build relationships with my farmers and the people who were making the ingredient making products for me. So I sought them out, I made the efforts to go find farmers and help them by me, became a community supported agriculture site early on. And I became a member invested myself in with farms and kind of helped build that relationship that way. Like many owners, I, you know, we're invested in our community. But I, you know, I chose to live in my community, I wanted to be walking distance, I wanted to know all my neighbors, and I decided to serve on neighborhood boards as a way to show that investment and I still volunteer in lots of neighborhood projects and find ways to kind of share that business experience where I can. I've also kind of thought of myself as if I'm going to be in a welcoming community space, I want to open it up. And so we've invited artists and musicians and community events and make it a space that should feel like a neighborhood space. Most restaurant owners will tell you they base their menu around their customers. And we certainly do including naming food after our customers who helped us decide that it's like an investment in my own customers as well. And you know, I had lots of pressure early on from my neighbors who were very environmentally conscious and progressive and wanted a restaurant to do the right thing. So I felt like I had the urging of their support to to go farther to try some things that hadn't been done. To be a pioneer in places where I know it would be tough, but I also would know I'd have support. I've always known that if you know, you just kind of be that one voice, you can, you can change the world. It's possible. It's not easy. But you know, I've had that hope that optimism and so I get out and do the advocacy work, whether that's for, you know, earn sick and safe time or minimum wage or wage theft, but now it's for paid family leave things that have felt like, make a difference. Anywhere for any any restaurant owner. Yeah, I love all of that.
Lisa Chou 10:36
I wish I wish everyone I wish it would be when I grew up. Having a business serving community seems effortlessly but I'm sure it's a lot of hard work. Thank you.
Cassie Hagen 10:46
So Lesley Ramsay Washington recycling energy has a vision of a vibrant healthy communities without waste, which is a beautiful and inspiring vision that we love at MN350. But what are the biggest categories of wastes that recycling and energy has managed over? And where are they coming from?
Leslie Dulling McCollum 11:03
Over Yeah, so these patterns tend to fluctuate quite a bit. So I, I tried to track down what information I could and it can be really challenging to really gauge what those largest categories are. But historically, food waste and other organic materials tend to be one of the larger categories in our two counties. And as well as paper or plastic, bulky items, we also see a lot of just challenging materials like textiles, and furniture, which is another bulky item. And just things that are difficult to process and a lot of things that could be recycled or reused but just aren't getting to the right places. So these are some of the challenges that we're we're trying to work on, and always trying to figure out where these things are coming from. So sometimes the sourcing can be challenging as things go through multiple, multiple systems or multiple transfers before they come to our sensor. So our work is always trying to figure out how do we address these efforts upstream, before waste comes to our center?
Cassie Hagen 12:14
That actually perfectly leads to the next question. You said that food waste is one of the larger categories of waste that you deal with, what do you see as the biggest source of food waste, if you're able to identify it?
Leslie Dulling McCollum 12:27
Or yeah, it, that is a tricky one to identify the source for. But thankfully, there's a lot of good national data around this that really highlights that food waste coming from household makes up the largest percentage of waste. So it's a little challenging to figure out the best ways to manage food or scraps of food that we can't get that into people necessarily, but there are alternatives to disposing of them. And then there's also a significant waste coming from the business sector. So from restaurants and grocery stores. So we're trying to work on addressing food wastes at all of these different levels.
Cassie Hagen 13:07
Great. Yeah, I think food waste is really tricky. So we know that Minnesota has a goal of recycling and composting and 75% of municipal solid waste by 2030. How have the strategies for achieving this goal changed throughout the past several years?
Leslie Dulling McCollum 13:22
Yeah, so I can only speak from RNase perspective,
Cassie Hagen 13:26
a reminder to our listeners that our N E stands for Ramsey, Washington recycling and energy center.
Leslie Dulling McCollum 13:31
So r&d was originally focused on addressing solid waste them Ramsey and Washington counties, and really just targeting materials that are recyclable or compostable, sometimes reusable. And I think in recent years, we've really grown to include more programming and staff focus on upstream waste prevention, rather than just focusing on what's coming to the center. Some examples of what we've done are recovering surplus food from grocery stores or supporting organizations that do that developing educational materials about our waste system so that people are more informed and can make better choices about what happens with their items that they're disposing of, or getting rid of preventing pollution from businesses by helping them switch to cleaner technology. So we're we're also in the planning process for rolling out residential food scraps collection in both Ramsey and Washington counties, which will be a huge shift for getting food waste out of the waste stream as well.
Cassie Hagen 14:38
Thank you for sharing. Those are all great strategies, and I'm really excited about the composting or the residential organics pickup program. I think that's going to be really successful.
Leslie Dulling McCollum 14:48
Thanks. Yeah, we're hopeful it will be
Cassie Hagen 14:50
you had mentioned that you're working a lot on like reducing waste before it comes to the facility is that You run. But can you share a little bit more about the waste management hierarchy and how that fits into your organization's strategy for long term sustainability,
Leslie Dulling McCollum 15:09
or so the state has a waste management hierarchy that really prioritizes strategies for managing waste based on what provides the most benefit for community and the environment. So the highest priority is reducing consumption and then followed by reuse, and then recycling. So we're using these priorities in collaboration with the County Solid Waste master plan to make sure that we're guiding our programs and our funding to have the most impact for our communities. So we're looking not only at amounts and types of wastes that are coming in and trying to target those upstream, but also focusing on how do we really tried to tailor our programs, to reuse, to reduction to education campaigns for different audiences to make sure that we're doing everything we can to have that that greater impact but also address waste at different levels of the hierarchy. Knowing that it's, it takes a multi pronged approach to do all of that.
Cassie Hagen 16:16
Absolutely, I think the focus is often on the end of the stream of waste, but if you stop it at its source, and you don't have to deal with it at the end, so it's great that you have those practices in place. EPA actually has a hierarchy specifically for food waste as well, it prioritizes source reduction followed by feeding people, feeding animals industrial uses, which includes food to fuel oil to fuel, things like that. Composting and lastly, landfill or incineration. There are many other general waste management hierarchies that are more elaborate as well. The one I use at St. Thomas is called The Seven R's of waste, which includes refuse, reduce, reuse, repair, replant recycle and rot. The clean plate club, however, mostly focuses on repurposing food waste, donating it, and letting it rot through composting. The vision of our clean plate club is to promote restaurants who are doing amazing work. And both of you, Leslie and Dan have played a big generous part in it. Ramsey and Washington recycling and energy for being the origins of the business recycling grants and butter bakery for being a noteworthy business. How do you see partnerships between nonprofits, businesses, and government entities be invaluable toward fighting issues as largest food waste, and even larger, like climate change and social justice?
Daniel Swenson-Klatt 17:36
I found early on that my efforts were useful, but just as a small business, not particularly big impact. And so my efforts early on became working with my neighborhood organization to help them see how they could do the same kind of reduction and move to environmentally friendly products and do composting. And when they began that process as a nonprofit organization, they had a bigger, wider scope of impact. And they began to ask the city, why doesn't that happen at a city level? So my efforts at that small level did have the ripple effect. But I couldn't have done it alone. I really needed other voices, including the nonprofit sector and the city speaking up for it.
Cassie Hagen 18:33
Thank you for sharing. Leslie, how about you?
Leslie Dulling McCollum 18:37
Yeah, I think these partnerships are so critical for really having a greater impact. Because the more that I, I've come to understand food waste, and just the larger impact that it has on environmental justice and climate change. It just, it really isn't one particular entity that's creating a problem. It's not one entity that can solve it. It's something that we all have a role to play in. And it's something that a lot of people are really passionate about. And a lot of businesses and communities and organizations and residents want to do the right thing and want to make these changes, not only to provide a better environment, but also to save money and to save resources. So I think that we all just have a really important role to play and we'll we'll do a lot better if we work together and we need those partnerships to be successful and having those larger impacts.
Cassie Hagen 19:53
I want to reiterate what Dan and Leslie said, challenges as big as food waste aren't caused by any single person or business But all of us together. So partnerships really are important. They help us utilize a wide variety of skills, funding streams, and unique gifts to solve the challenges more effectively together.
Sarah Riedl 20:11
You know, MN350, we certainly know the value of organizing in order to make systemic or structural change. It's what we do. And I know I hear a lot of people here organizing, and they think grassroots are individuals coming together. And that's obviously a big part of it. But Dan, unless we really show that these larger entities, you know, businesses, nonprofits, they need to come together as well and have a powerful impact on issues as big as climate justice. So the real question is, why aren't more organizations doing what butter and Ramsey Washington r&d are doing? Cassie, I know, you asked our guests this question. So let's listen.
Cassie Hagen 20:52
Dan, what do you think it's in the way from other restaurant owners or workers adopting the policies and values that you've made happen at butter bakery?
Daniel Swenson-Klatt 21:02
Well, unfortunately, and, and I, I know this history now, one that I didn't when I started, but unfortunately, our food system has been undervalued from the beginning, from farmer to producer, kitchen worker to server. It's a historical challenge. And it really did start with the early development of the hospitality sector, that whole industry within the United States, unfortunately, based on a slave economy, we have a hospitality industry built on that same economy. The same workers who cooked and cleaned and farmed, became the undervalued workers, when slavery was removed, and the industry of the hospitality industry kind of took its place. You know, I just imagine how different it might feel. If we valued workers who work with food who work with service a little differently, we'd have a very different way of imagining what we're doing in a restaurant setting. You know, they, the sense of creating better choices, often comes with more expenses. And for any restaurant owner. That's a real challenge to to take on additional costs without having the ability to really set a price that really shows the value of what you're offering. And I've worked really hard over the years, of course, to try to come up with affordable ways to make that work. But I think it, it really does get in the way. It's a huge barrier for other restaurant owners.
Cassie Hagen 22:54
I really like how you said that people who work in the food and service industry are undervalued. I've never thought about it like that. But that makes a lot of sense. And is unfortunate, but important to realize.
Daniel Swenson-Klatt 23:10
And it is true that in other areas, food producers are seen as crafts, people, artisans, they have great honour and skills that are you know, regarded highly. And that has not been the history within the United States.
Leslie Dulling McCollum 23:27
Lisa Chou 23:28
I definitely love how you connect it to slavery historically, and other marginalized communities that are more that have historically been seen as disposable, and connecting that to Rams in Washington County here today talking about recycling. But, but really like when we see so many when we see people have disposable. When we see food waste, or all the other materials, you talked about Lesley as disposable. We're like losing so much value that our communities could have. I love that question. You mean,
Daniel Swenson-Klatt 23:57
it does, it does raise a pretty high barrier. You know, I chose mission over profit at the beginning. That was one of the things I decided to do. And so that that particular barrier was reasonably easy for me to break. I wanted to operate a place that I knew I could believe in, that I knew my customers would believe in. But sourcing compostable environmentally friendly products has really been challenging. And from the very beginning, it was always more expensive, the options were more limited, the sourcing was always a little more difficult to come up with, you know, it could certainly be a barrier for folks for whom you know, the industry itself is challenging in itself. So why put an extra layer on it? I feel very fortunate that lately especially in Minneapolis because of the ordinances in place. There are more options. There are more folks getting involved in supplying these products. And that does help all of us. I've never wanted to be just the only one. So it's helpful to have others join and raise the value of what that feels like for being involved in composting. I think one other barrier that we often run into is that for this, the folks who aren't involved in environmentally friendly practices, if you've got a contract with them, it can be really hard to get out of them. And they're not going to if they're not going to change and you want to change that's a hard, hard process. And it took me several years to change my waste hauler, took me several years to change a linen distributor who wasn't very environmentally friendly. Those contracts are really tough and, you know, really appreciate some support at some level for anyone who wants to make a change, to give a little more help in getting out of those contracts when they don't suit you and your priorities.
Lisa Chou 26:09
You mentioned earlier, when you were starting your bakery and getting more connected with community, you became a pickup site for CSAs, which is amazing. I love that. And when I lived in St. Paul, I had subscribed to your community supported bakery, so CSB. And that was the first time I'd heard of it. And I love the idea.
Cassie Hagen 26:28
So CSA stands for our community supported agriculture, and is basically a food subscription service that's directly sourced from a farmer or a group of farmers you pay upfront at the start of a 10 or 20 week season. And it allows farmers to have the early season income to start growing their crops to know how much they should grow and to simplify distribution by knowing exactly when and where to deliver the food, unlike the uncertainty of farmers markets. And the piece that Dan and butter bakery filled in the CSA model was by being a designated pickup site where farmers could drop off a bunch of CSA boxes for their members, until the members could pick up their boxes later that day. It might not sound like much but serving as a CSA hub for his neighborhood makes supporting local farmers so much easier than asking farmers to deliver those 30 boxes at 30 different houses, for example, those same benefits of a subscription model help to sell perfectly fresh bread and other bakery items to more neighbors without having to generate waste from unpredictable sales.
Daniel Swenson-Klatt 27:24
Thank you for bringing that up. And it really is a challenge as a small scale restaurant. And, you know, we're we're not, you know, not different from many restaurants or small spots with limited resources and capacity. It's easy to run out of things, it's easy to disappoint people, when they show up tell you the MC, you know, it's gone for the day. So one of the ways we tried to increase production in a way that would feel within our own capacity, but also meet the needs of some folks who really wanted a product was to create a subscription model. And for us, bread was one of the things that was hard to do at a larger capacity within our space. So the subscription model group created a way for us to plan organize and prepare in a limited way, but serve a larger number of people. And it really has meant that we haven't had to do though, just make a whole bunch of things and hope people show up. And at the end feel sad when people don't. So it really has reduced that sense of worrying about waste as well. I have really appreciated it as a model. And we've looked at it for working into other ways too.
Cassie Hagen 28:46
So Leslie, what this is a hard question, but just do your best. What counts? Or restaurant industry wide challenges, patterns or policies do you think keep us from solving our food waste challenges?
Leslie Dulling McCollum 29:00
Yeah, I think there are a lot of things and and they're evolving and complex. I think one of the biggest challenges that we've heard about is just restaurants still struggling economically and with customer patterns that everything due to the impacts of the pandemic and just constant changes. So I think that really impacts how efficiently restaurants can purchase and prepare food and anticipating what to expect for its customers and customer needs. I think staff shortages of course at restaurants are also really challenging to navigate and it makes it harder to prioritize food donation and composting when there aren't enough staff available. There's also historically just been a lot of perceptions of liability being a top concern for restaurants. When it comes to donating excess food. We do have the Good Samaritan Law which shields rest friends who are donating food in good faith from any liability, but a lot of restaurant owners and managers still often cite liability and corporate rules as a reason for not systematically donating food. So that's always still an ongoing challenge. And then finally, I think there are just some, some perceptions that as is cheaper or easier to throw things away than to figure out the system for for composting or alternatives to disposing of food identifying organizations for donating. So something that we're just working really hard on and continuing to engage with businesses on is just creating more awareness and education on how to reduce, recover and recycle foods. It's just it takes an ongoing effort. And we know it takes a lot of commitment from restaurant staff and management. So just trying to build support for businesses to still make it a priority and continue to improve.
Cassie Hagen 31:04
That was a perfect answer. Thank you. What decisions by food manufacturers and Packaging Companies interfere with municipalities ability to effectively sort or recycle materials like organics, plastic, paper glass,
Leslie Dulling McCollum 31:20
or yeah, there are a number of challenges that come up from food packaging decisions that are made. And especially when packaging types are a mix of recyclable, compostable, and not some challenges that we've seen recently have been with aluminum cans and plastic bottles, but have the shrink wrap plastic around them because part of the item is recyclable, but only if you cut off or peel off the outer part. So that's something that's really challenging for consumers to navigate. And for, just for us as an organization to keep adapting education around that to go coffee cups are challenging, I think a lot of people think they're recyclable. that's rarely the case. So having recycling labels on things or the recycling triangle on on packaging, that may not be recyclable in your area. That comes up a lot things like black plastic, which has the correct number for recycling, but can't be processed by some of the recycling facilities here. So those are just some of the things that we're seeing. And one thing that I find interesting is that the companies that are often designing packaging, for products aren't necessarily in conversations with the end markets for those materials. So there seems to be a disconnect in decisions that are made around packaging and where they end up and what that end life is for them. So that's something that's pretty just a systemic challenge to deal with.
Cassie Hagen 32:56
Definitely. It's interesting that you brought that up, because I think that speaks to what we were talking about earlier about how partnerships between like nonprofits, businesses, and governments are so important for fighting food waste, at the end of the life of a product. But it's also really important at the beginning of the life of a product, because it's so confusing the recycling process. Yeah, everything that you mentioned are things that I have seen it from experience, I got St. Thomas, which is where I work, doing waste audits, people always recycle black plastics and coffee cups, and you can't blame them, because they seem like they're recyclable, but they're just not. And one great solution that you have LED is the biz recycling grant program. And we are hoping that you could share a bit about that program and the partnerships. It's facilitated between the county and the DEA, like recycling energy and the over 4000 local businesses that you've worked with since the program began in 2013.
Leslie Dulling McCollum 33:57
Sure, yeah, I'm happy to share about that. And I will use a small disclaimer that I'm not directly involved with that program. So I can't take credit for the great work that's happening there. But I'm happy to report out on the work that's being done. So this recycling is our longest running and largest program and it works with businesses, nonprofits, schools, apartment buildings and institutions to reduce waste and recycle better. So that includes financial and technical assistance for for restaurants and other businesses to assess their current waste and then make improvements through staff training, recycling and composting bins and labels, reimbursement for recycling and compost collection and compostable packaging as well as high efficiency appliances. And then in the last couple years, especially in response to the pandemic, the desert recycling program has been able to provide some more flexible Fill in larger grants to help businesses have more financial assistance and support as they're navigating all of the changes that are happening, and also to help them think about more innovative ways to reduce waste. So it's been exciting to have that, that flexibility over the last few years to be responsive and really work with businesses where they're at to try to adapt some of their practices.
Cassie Hagen 35:26
Absolutely. That's such a great program. Thank you for telling us more about it.
Sarah Riedl 35:45
Well, the bins recycling grant does sound like an amazing program. You know, just thinking about what Dan said about raising the value of what it feels like to compost. You know, for a small business making the environmentally conscious choice might feel good, but they also have a bottom line to me. So putting a monetary value on these climate friendly choices, like what Ramsay Washington recycling and energy is doing with the biz recycling program, that can add a much more tangible incentive.
Cassie Hagen 36:17
And not only does it add an incentive, but it also helps overcome a barrier because materials like proper signage and compost bins cost money, and grants like those offered through the best recycling program enable restaurants and businesses to take that first step towards diversity in food waste.
Sarah Riedl 36:31
All right, well, it's that time again, we've been inspired by our guests work, and have heard about the barriers they're facing in achieving their visions of a waste free future, where people food and our environment aren't treated as disposable. Now, what can we do to help them?
Cassie Hagen 36:49
There are so many ways to help whether you're a regular diner at restaurants, or someone passionate about federal policy, there really is a huge variety of ways to get involved. Let's hear what Dan and Lesley had to say.
Lisa Chou 37:01
So what are some habits that restaurant customers could adopt? Or questions they could ask that would help restaurants be more sustainable and socially responsible?
Daniel Swenson-Klatt 37:12
Well, if diners just chose to bring a container, or a tote bag with them, they might be able to bring home extra food for later use or, and by doing that would both reduce food waste, and packaging. And as simple move, we've just recently kind of learned kind of starting to learn how to encourage this sense of having something returnable that you bring with yourself, the old tote bag to the grocery store is, you know, kind of becoming habitual now. So I'd love to see that happen at a restaurant level two, I wouldn't be I wouldn't be sad if someone said, Oh, I have my own container. I'll put that in there. I'm taking it home. I also just encourage diners to ask any restaurant they attend. Whether the food waste is being diverted from the trash might get a blank look. But it's worth asking.
Lisa Chou 38:12
Yeah, those are great ones a couple of times I've when I've gone out to eat and think I'll order something with leftovers. I brought a container but it's still feels even awkward to me who like cares enough by like, just pull the container out of my bag and just put my finger in it. But but it would be amazing if that was the norm. Yeah.
Daniel Swenson-Klatt 38:31
We'll have to get past that awkwardness.
Cassie Hagen 38:36
Agreed? Yeah, I've been trying to do that more recently. But it does feel awkward. I think the more people do it that do it, the more people will do it. And it'll snowball. My fiance always tries to pick up trash when people are watching. And he says that it's uncomfortable, but that he wants people to see him do it so that they do it too. And I think that that applies here as well.
Lisa Chou 38:57
Yeah, maybe we just need like some celebrity endorsement. And then the last question I've got, we kind of touched on this when I asked about the community spirit bakery subscription. But do you have effective ways that you track and manage your ingredient ordering prepping and waste that way you have effective feedback loops for improving practices over time?
Daniel Swenson-Klatt 39:20
No, I am full of spreadsheets, I love data. And in this case, data is helpful. It really does help to just identify where the patterns are. Practice careful ordering. I have so many spreadsheets that I often feel like I need help and just organizing them and I've been really happy to bump into some other organizations with some better tech, you know, behind them, including my friends at Forever wear who are helping to manage some of that and think about how to track even better.
Cassie Hagen 39:58
Yeah, they're another awesome come Are you finding packaging waste, which is so often generated alongside food waste forever, where it provides restaurants with returnable to go containers like bowls and coffee cups and reusable clam shells. So customers don't have to contribute to single use packaging waste that often isn't recyclable or compostable. They also reduce food waste by providing customers with an option to take home their meals. And the alternative might be having the restaurant throw away the food or hopefully compost it.
Daniel Swenson-Klatt 40:26
You know, as a small business, we do work to invest all of the all of the staff were involved in production. In recognizing what wastes they're creating, they each have their own little compost bucket to work with, so they can see what they're doing, and have a sense of what they've created as well. My hope is that that's part of how they invest in reducing making better use of their ingredients. And also just being more attune more alert to what they're doing. So less mistakes happen. But I'm really happy that there are other organizations out there thinking about how to how to support businesses in actually monitoring their waste and managing it as well. I always
Lisa Chou 41:17
think it's incredible when there's restaurants who don't, and I guess it shouldn't be incredible, but they don't, because sometimes, some restaurant owners aren't the most spreadsheet savvy and don't want to sit at the computer. But it's amazing from like an economics view to think that they aren't tracking this ingredient that they're paying for, and where it's whether it's going to a consumer, a customer or going to trash. So I'm so happy to hear you, you've created really cool ways to train your staff and do all that. And it would be great if more restaurants did that are happy
Daniel Swenson-Klatt 41:48
to share, happy to share how that worked. You know, in some ways, it's it does feel like it's an added layer. And yet, as you were saying, it's such a big part of just knowing how well you're doing that it's good for business to
Lisa Chou 42:07
what can our listeners do to support you, Dan or restaurants like you,
Daniel Swenson-Klatt 42:14
we would suggest the best thing to do is to let restaurants know that it matters. And that's as easy as asking when you go to a restaurant. But it's also doing the research. And I know that's been a feels like that's that's becoming a bigger part of how restaurant diners are looking for restaurants is doing their research. And to make the effort to support folks who are doing the right thing. It's no secret that restaurants watch customer traffic. And when they see some restaurant doing well, because of what's being promoted. That becomes part of their practice. 20 years ago, when I started the started the restaurant, local sourcing was not on everybody's mind, it wasn't something you'd put on your menu wasn't something you might even attempt to do. There was just a small group of us trying to make that part of how restaurants work. If you don't do local sourcing now, you're probably not doing so well as a restaurant because it's that's what people are looking for. And I think we can do that with with waste reduction, too. If that's what's getting asked for and supported, more restaurants will just make that decision. It's it's kind of how it works out there. And I would say that, yeah, asking at any space, what they're doing, how it's working. We'll encourage them to think about it as well.
Lisa Chou 43:46
Those are great suggestions. how can listeners follow the work that you do and keep up to date with what butter bakery is up to?
Daniel Swenson-Klatt 43:53
Well, I like to say keep an eye out at the state legislature or as well in the news because we'd like to get in the news. And but if you if you also just like hearing the stories I do a monthly set of stories around what we're trying to do as as a sustainable business practice. And you can find that through my website. I'm at butter Bakery Cafe and and I hope that that those stories do make a difference in thinking about what it's like to not just own a restaurant and run a restaurant but to try to do it sustainably.
Lisa Chou 44:36
Yeah, that's great. I think I started subscribing to your newsletter when I first lived in Minnesota but I still get it every once in a while yeah, it's it's beautiful to see all the community work that you do through that. Thank you. So it's definitely a cooler newsletter than I think an ordinary restaurants.
Cassie Hagen 44:51
What's your vision for what the county could look like with a food waste free future?
Leslie Dulling McCollum 44:56
Yeah, we would love to see a stronger more resilient food system that reduces the overall environmental impact of food production and food use at every level, I'm really prioritizing getting the best use out of food that's being produced, ideally supporting our local food systems. Because the more that we're able to do that, we're better able to reduce that environmental impact as well. And it would be great to see just food waste being prevented at at all different levels from from the farm to food producers and distributors, grocers and restaurants and household food waste really isn't necessarily any one person or group fault. But we all have a role to play in preventing it. So just really trying to get food, good food to people and having businesses and households be equipped to maximize the food that is available. And then what whatever is left over the scraps and such, ideally being composted and not not going into landfills.
Cassie Hagen 46:02
We would also like a resilient food system and dream.
Lisa Chou 46:08
I'll add one more question I forgot to write here is what can listeners do to support you?
Leslie Dulling McCollum 46:13
Yeah, I think the biggest thing is really just learning about food wastes and and strategies for preventing it. Since household food waste is such a huge source of food waste, I think just really the more you learn about strategies for for reducing the amount of waste you're producing, such as meal planning, and monitoring what food is in your house, eating leftovers, visiting websites, like save the food.com and other resources that help you kind of plan for how much food do you really need, I think those things can be really helpful for reducing that waste. And then also just participating in food scraps, drop off programs, and then eventually the household food scraps collection that will be coming out. I think we want people that participate. And we also want people that continue learning about how to reduce even compostable food in the first place. So those things are great ways to get involved. Yeah, absolutely.
Lisa Chou 47:19
We've got some legislation that we've been following within our food waste team. One of them that we've heard about is through Governor Walters budget proposal, there's a big allocation for waste prevention, recycling grants and loans as much as almost $19 million, which is amazing. Are you Are you familiar with that, or want to share anything on that?
Daniel Swenson-Klatt 47:40
My response to seeing grants for waste prevention, good leads me back to the beginning. Because even though I had a real heart for wanting to do the composting, and do the environmentally friendly packaging, that's not how the business was set up when I bought it, and it was going to require a big change over. And I had support from Hennepin County to make that initial change. And those, those few bits of dollars and support to get started, launched me on the way and in the sense of having available grants to make that first step. That's an incentive that's going to make a lot have a lot of impact over the years. So I'd encourage courage efforts to keep pushing that one through statewide, there's plenty of room for growth.
Lisa Chou 48:44
Yeah, it's amazing to hear from you as a recipient of grant funding to hear like the impact can make and how it's an opportunity for us to have collective action towards tackling an issue as big as this. And another bill I just heard about in the last month is a house bill by Representative Athena Hollins from St. Paul, and she wrote this bill that's modeled after the federal Zero Waste bill and also provides grants for investments in composting, electronic waste, reuse, and recycling, recycling, market development and composting. So, you might have the same comments on that. But I'll see if either of you have thoughts
Leslie Dulling McCollum 49:19
in general it's great to see state support for these kinds of efforts and having state funding become available and state prioritizing waste prevention in general and zero waste programs. I think it aligns really well with our knees priorities at the county level and it's it really helps us do the work that we do. We can't do it in isolation in our small area of the state. So I think just having larger efforts in place in the legislature helped build just general support for for the work that we do and also supplement that A funding and technical support that we're able to provide for our businesses and nonprofits and other groups to make improvements. I think it takes that kind of systemic effort.
Lisa Chou 50:12
Absolutely. And then there's two federal policy policies we've been tracking on our team that didn't relate to some of the things we've talked about. So one is the food donation Improvement Act. And then the other is the food date labeling act. So when you talked about the Good Samaritan Law, you said it's confusing to businesses are not widely known. So there's a federal act, that's hoping to make it clear. You make it even more widespread for protections. So if you have any thoughts on either that one or the food date labeling act that seeks to standardize what we put on manufactured food products, so that consumers know what, what these terms mean, or which one indicates food safety, versus just quality, all these different things.
Leslie Dulling McCollum 50:58
Yeah, I think that both of these acts are really important for helping improve and pare down some of those systemic barriers to food donation, and also to consumer and business food waste. I think that anything we can do to make it easier to understand what the guidelines are around safe food donation and making it easier for businesses, that's great to have. And then food gateway balls are very confusing both for consumers and for businesses and nonprofits and other entities that have foods. So I think just having more consistency in the way that things are labeled and more education around those labels can really make a great impact and reducing food waste that at a lot of different levels.
Daniel Swenson-Klatt 51:49
As a, as a business owner who has been involved in doing food donations, I share that sense of wanting to do the right thing. And knowing that I have knowing that I've been able to offer food or encampments, for food shelves to just have available in our own little free library outside. Those are, those are ways in which I imagine food being valued at a even greater level. And that I would hope a food donation Improvement Act might encourage others to just make those steps as well. I'd also say that one of our biggest challenges in the kitchen at the shop is looking at the dates of when things are produced and trying to make decisions. And all of us have probably grown up being the kids who ate the stale box of crackers and thought, well, it's okay, I'm gonna, I'm not gonna die, it's good. Just doesn't taste as great. But you know, we really, we really have lots of challenges in this country about what it means to have Best Buy become the thing that just make something disposable when it's quality, may not have degraded much, and the waste that you create, to so sad to see for those of us who are always trying to imagine a way to kind of make it easier to deal with whatever you buy food labeling. There is room for improvement there.
Cassie Hagen 53:30
So for anyone listening who wants to get involved in food waste, the MN350s Food Systems team has a group called the clean plate club, which is currently a group of 18 restaurants, cafes and bakeries in the Twin Cities metro area, mostly that are working to reduce and divert food waste, and we encourage everyone to go support those restaurants if they are able. And you can find those on the MN350 website under the clean plate club. Well,
Lisa Chou 54:04
that wraps up and we're pretty much right on time. So thank you so much, Dan and Lesley for the amazing work you do for sharing your time with us tonight. It was pleasure talking about these wonderful things together.
Leslie Dulling McCollum 54:16
Cassie Hagen 54:18
Yeah, thank you so much. I was very tired when we started this call and I could talk to you both all day. Now that we've gotten started
Lisa Chou 54:29
Yeah, I feel like these podcasts recordings with awesome guests always just make me feel so hopeful about these huge overwhelming challenges but hearing how you've just done so much. So much work always always leaves me inspired.
Daniel Swenson-Klatt 54:43
me feel a lot better to know people are listening and watching too. You know, sometimes feel like you're out there all alone. So really appreciate all your support as well.
Leslie Dulling McCollum 54:57
I just want to say thanks to Dan for your Your perspective and everything you talked about there were so many times I wanted to be like, yes. I was trying to be quiet, give you a shout out. I'm really impressed with the work that you do and I need to check out better bakery.
Sarah Riedl 55:28
Well, that brings us to the end of our show for our listeners. You can learn more about Dan and butter bakery at butterbakerycafe.com. And follow at butter Bakery Cafe on Instagram and Facebook or at butter bakery on Twitter. If you're looking for more info on Ramsay, Washington recycling and energy, you can find it at recycling and energy.org where they have resources for both individuals and businesses, including that visit recycling grant program that we talked about. One more website that Leslie mentioned is save the food.com which has tools to help individuals plan and save food. You can also take a moment to call your elected officials and ask them to support the food donation Improvement Act and the food date labeling act. Cassie, do you want to add one more plug for MN350s clean plate club?
Cassie Hagen 56:17
Sure. Like I said before, if you want to learn more about the clean plate club or interested in having your restaurant join, we would love to have you and you can check out our website by going to MN350.org, clicking on campaigns at the top and then clicking on clean plate club. You can also find our posts promoting restaurants on MN350s, Instagram and Twitter platforms, which are both at MN350 dot climate movement.
Sarah Riedl 56:41
All right, and we will as usual have links to all of those resources in our show notes. And if you enjoyed listening to our show today and you would like to support the work of MN350s podcast team, visit the support this show link at the bottom of this episode's description. Wherever you listen, we are volunteers but your donation helps ensure that we can continue to bring you the stories of the leaders working at the intersection of food and climate justice. Thanks once again to Dan Swenson Klatt of Butter Bakery, and Leslie Dulling McCollum of Ramsey, Washington recycling and energy. Cassie thank you once again for joining me.
Cassie Hagen 57:15
Thank you for having me.
Sarah Riedl 57:17
If you liked this episode, don't forget to subscribe and share. Thanks for listening and we'll see you next time. Nourish by MN350 is a production of MN350s Food Systems team. We are changing the way people think about food production, distribution and consumption practices in the context of rapid climate change. This series is made possible by the hard work and passion of a group of dedicated volunteers. Our producer for this episode is Lisa Chou. This episode was written by Lisa Chou, Cassie Hagen, and Susan Russell-Freeman. And our audio editor is Ben Herrera. Our logo was designed by Fizz Design Collective and Our music is by Ecuador Manta. You can learn more at MN350 action.org/podcast