2 Vail restaurants champion resort town sustainability
News News | Aug 25, 2023
In an industry fueled by consumption, sustainability is often not the first thought of a thriving restaurant industry. From food waste to plastic drinking cups and straws; dumpsters and landfills find themselves overflowing as a byproduct of well-fed and happy customers.
So the question remains, how do you support Vail’s green initiative while also delivering a fine dining experience?
Two Vail Village restaurants have figured it out. Sweet Basil and Mountain Standard have some of the most unique sustainability initiatives in Vail Valley. They are able to make an industry of consumption and waste, one of second chances and renewable resources.
Chef Will Edwards of Sweet Basil was the originating force of restaurant composting in Vail. Fostering a passion for sustainability, in the spring of 2021 he established the first commercial composting program in the area with help from the Town of Vail and Vail Honeywagon. The effort was not only with the intent to be stronger stewards of the environment, but to also lead the way and establish a green restaurant program that can be replicated and embraced by the rest of the community. “Within six months, we had effectively cut our traditional waste in half”, Edwards said, “the rest being compost. It was more than we ever imagined.”
Training the staff on what is compost, what is recyclable and what went into the trash bin was a steep learning curve, but they all figured it out quickly and all pitched in to do their part. As a child who visited Vail annually, Edwards and his family would always celebrate his dad’s birthday with dinner at Sweet Basil, unaware that one day he would be running the whole culinary show. After progressing through the ranks in New York City’s restaurant industry, Edwards landed in Vail for a sous chef position at Sweet Basil in March 2020 and was promoted to chef de cuisine in 2021.
Driving a diverse palate in the kitchen while simultaneously striving for better sustainability practices in the Valley, Edwards’ passion reaches beyond his restaurant. Last month he presented a workshop through the local nonprofit Walking Mountains Science Center on waste diversion for sustainable business practices.
“It’s important that we’re setting the example for other restaurants to follow,” he explained, “not just with the food and service, but with how we operate holistically.”
Only eight months after launching the composting program at Sweet Basil, Edwards brought the same practices to their sister restaurant in Vail Village, Mountain Standard.
Chef McLean Hyde of Mountain Standard is also very passionate about the zero waste initiative, earning him the moniker “Dirt Daddy.”
“If it used to be alive, but is not anymore, it is most likely compostable.” he said while training the kitchen and waitstaff on best practices between waste and compost. Common compostable items from the restaurant include: animal by-products including shells and bones, biodegradable cups and straws, remains from enjoyed meals, kitchen prep leftovers and more.
By emphasizing a successful composting strategy at Mountain Standard, Hyde is keeping excess waste out of plastic garbage bags and landfills, also seeing a reduction in traditional waste by over 50% like Sweet Basil.
Not only does Mountain Standard take the extra care mile with compost, but the restaurant itself was built upon the premise of sustainability. From water glasses made from recycled wine bottles, utilizing reclaimed wood from beetle kill trees, and dining room chairs made from recycled coke bottles, Mountain Standard believes in a green initiative.
Sweet Basil and Mountain Standard are among a growing number of businesses in the Vail Valley to make sustainability a priority. The Vail Valley Partnership will partner with Mountain Towns 2030 (MT2030) and will host a Climate Solutions Summit Oct. 18-20 in Vail. “Collaboration among mountain communities to help share best practices and achieve its individual and collective sights on achieving sustainability goals is an ambitious and necessary effort, and MT2030 is the format to initiate and develop those solutions.” said Chris Romer, CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership “We are thrilled to host the program in Vail and look forward to sharing our business and community successes with others and learning from our peer communities.”
For more information about Sweet Basil or Mountain Standard visit SweetBasilVail.com or MtnStandard.com.Chef Will Edwards of Sweet Basil.