Myth Busters

Moving Beyond Green

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In the days before I first opened Chaco Canyon in 2003, I found myself shopping for the last items we needed to be ready.

I came to the section with disposable utensils and paused for some time. This was in the dark ages before compostable was an option so we’re talking rigid plastic, single-use utensils.  I just couldn’t do it, and made a hurried trip to Goodwill to stock up on silverware to hand out to people until I could come up with a better idea.

A funny thing happened as we pondered a better plan: the ad-hoc one worked great for everyone.  Nine out of ten customers, when offered the option of a piece of silverware, said that they had a fork or spoon in the car or office, and they didn’t need anything.  Those that took them tended to come back and return their fork (great for retention), and most everyone understood that – while this was an admittedly weird system – they appreciated not feeling guilty for using a manufactured item from a far-flung country once and then tossing it into the waste stream.

Put this system side by side with the “normal” thing to do in the restaurant industry: putting a disposable fork, spoon and napkin (and knife and chopsticks….) in every bag, just to make sure everyone absolutely gets utensils.  Taking the time to ask everyone who gets something to go, and explaining that they can actually take utensils (or bamboo chopsticks) takes a lot more time and effort, but one of the main differentiators between a business that is “green” and one that has in its mission to have Zero Impact on the planet someday.

We’ve saved over a half million single-use utensils from production and disposal just by making this simple choice – that’s a good start.

Choosing not to have disposable utensils, and dozens of other ‘unusual’ behaviors and choices we make every day at Chaco Canyon, are what makes us unique and special.  It’s why we won the 2013 Green Washington Award and the 2014 Recycler of the Year Award for small businesses, as well as many other accolades and awards throughout the years.

WSRA

The sustainability and zero impact ethos permeate the café, from myself to the staff, to our customers and out into the city.  One of our staff recently contacted me to let me know that, as part of a bridal planning committee, she was assigned to buy a bunch of one-time use Solo cups for the reception.   “The environmentalist in me cringed”, she stated, and then asked if Chaco could buy some re-usable cups for her to bring to the wedding, and then put them into use at the cafes afterwards as water cups.  Of course we can!  I love our staff.

Working for a sustainable planet has changed over the last 30 years.  Recycling and composting are no longer the hallmark of environmentalism; they are the base expectation to start from.  Thanks to smart local legislation around Styrofoam and plastic bags, Seattle is a true leader in the movement for a sustainable planet.  We as a community should keep pushing for more, better, and weirder solutions to loving our planet.  What are you doing in your house?

 

Chris Maykut
Proud Owner
Chaco Canyon Organic Cafes

Chaco CanyonMoving Beyond Green
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Why I Work To Make Clean Food Accessible To My Community

Chris Maykut and his daughter took fresh squeezed orange juice to her school and compared it with bottled brands for a little taste testing and nutritional experiment.

Are you formulating a hypothesis yet?

As a father of two public school kids, I have been able to witness firsthand what happens in the lunchroom of my children’s schools. As a foodie I’ve been surprised, disappointed and appalled.   This isn’t going to turn into a rant about what is served – I get the budget constraints and what the lunch staff has to work with. What shocks me is what kids bring from home and worse, the lack of knowledge and – honestly – concern for basic nutrition. Lots of Lunchables, candy, pasteurized juice and juice-like products. It’s pretty disappointing.

Fast forward to this year’s Science Fair, where I finally convinced my daughter, Raina, to engage in a nutritional science experiment.  She chose to compare three versions of orange juice in terms of (a) nutritional content and (b) blind taste preference.  She decided to examine variables between fresh organic orange juice from Chaco Canyon Organic Cafe, Odwalla pasteurized 100% orange juice, and…. the incomparable “Sunny D”.

While the nutritional analysis is fairly predictable, the tasting was what really stood out to me.  We conducted a blind taste test in her 4th Grade classroom at Greenwood Elementary a couple weeks before the science fair.  We predicted there would be a fairly even preference distribution throughout her twenty-five classmates, since the three options are fairly distinct from each other as far as sweetness, freshness, and flavor.  That turned out to be a very optimistic prediction.

Survey Results

Survey Says…

Not Freshly Squeezed

Sunny D

I knew things were going to go off the rails when the first taster tried the fresh, organic orange juice from Chaco. She scrunched up her face, spat the juice in a trash can, and blurted out “what the heck is that?” Wow. Twenty-two of twenty-five students voted Sunny D (option C on the example slips pictured) as their favorite. Only one student chose the fresh juice as their favorite and only three others even chose it as second.

What was even more surprising to me was the blind tasting at the Science Fair itself. While it was good that about 95% of adults preferred fresh, still 90% of students preferred Sunny D. The really disappointing reality was revealed in speaking to the parents themselves; while they generally preferred fresh, there was massive misconception about Sunny D itself.  Many thought that it’s “mostly juice” or has “good nutritive properties” and “some wholesome ingredients”. Aargh!

We can purchase a gallon of Sunny D here in Seattle for 99 cents – I wasn’t clear I could buy water for that price.  It’s a product that has absolutely no redeeming qualities, yet their marketing has established them as a “not bad” option for parents, while their formula is much more appealing to kids than real options.

The upshot: read ingredients and dedicate yourself to feeding your family good, wholesome food.  Fresh orange juice isn’t the best thing in the world for a healthy body, but Sunny D may be one of the worst.

 

Thoughts from the Owner at Chaco Canyon Organic Cafes
Chris Maykut

Chaco CanyonWhy I Work To Make Clean Food Accessible To My Community
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Proudly Serving Happy Valley Sprouts

Microgreens are quite a buzzword these days but what ever happened to sprouts?

Now that its springtime, these warm, longer days are urging me to put on the gardening gloves and get out in the yard to plant some tiny pea plants, cilantro, and mustard greens. It’s hard not to clip these little greens and put them on my sandwich. While microgreens are a labor of love and dirt, sprouts can be as simple as an overnight jar on a counter- it’s a shame that so many people shun them from fear!

 

Like any raw food, sprouts can be prone to hazardous bacteria such as salmonella, e. coli, and listeria. However, these outbreaks are rare, and the outcome of sprouting is an endless list of health benefits that I encourage you to look into if you’re looking to get a little more mineral nutrition into your daily diet.

 

In our kitchen at Greenwood, we sprout buckwheat, lentils, fenugreek or other seeds for specials or events such as our Valentine’s Day Dinner. However 99% of our sprouts are clover sprouts from Happy Valley Sprouts in Bellingham.

 

house salad

Happy Valley Sprouts tests every batch of sprouts they produce; they have never had an incident of food borne illness or sprout recall in 25 years of business. They deliver to us directly, so there’s no middleman. We benefit from this direct from the farmer relationship by getting fresher sprouts for a better price (which we are able to pass on to customers). Our direct relationship allows us to call Happy Valley Sprouts whenever we need to adjust our orders depending on how quickly we’re going through sprouts, and they adjust their growing batches accordingly, which leads to a fresher product! Every week, Happy Valley Sprouts delivers their product in large flats, which we save and return, cutting down on packaging and plastic waste. They’re able to sanitize and reuse the flats multiple times. Yay for reusing!

 

If you’re wondering how you can get more sprouts in your diet, beyond daily Chaco consumption of course, try out the EasySprout Sprouter that we sell in the cafe. Sprouts are highly nutritious and easily digestible. Visit the International Sprout Growers Association for more information on varieties, history, and nutrition values.

 

If you’re unsure whether or not you have time for sprouting in your life, check out this video below to see how it’s done.

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Happy Sprouting!

Chaco CanyonProudly Serving Happy Valley Sprouts
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