We’re sourcing food as fresh as the taste! The Calgary Zoo continues to break ground in food sustainability practices with the recent recognition of two significant designations. Just this past month, the zoo became the first tourist attraction in Canada to be certified as Leaders in Environmentally Accountable Foodservice (LEAF), as well as 100% Ocean Wise.
When members and visitors dine at the Calgary Zoo, they can find a wide variety of food selections to choose from. Whether eating classic restaurant fare like burgers and chicken fingers, or munching on an array of freshly made salads and wraps, it’s not easy to enjoy eating local and sustainably-sourced food.
“Our food philosophy is to be continually striving to be an industry leader in promoting local food and sustainable practices and we do so by minimizing our environmental footprint wherever possible,” says James Neilson, Executive Chef, Calgary Zoo. “Sustainability is key to the restaurant industry, it not only allows us to keep dollars in the pockets of local farmers and families, but also protects the environment for generations to come. It is one of the ways we as restaurateurs are able to do our part and take action in living a sustainable lifestyle.”
One recent accomplishment James Neilson celebrated was the Calgary Zoo’s new designation as 100% Ocean Wise. In food preparation for Kitamba Café, all concessions outlets and catered events, the zoo will only be using sustainable fish and seafood. Overfishing is the biggest threat the oceans face today and by sourcing from organizations that take pride in sustainable fishing practices and careful harvesting methods, the zoo remains steadfast in its commitment to ensure the health of our oceans.
Through a stringent evaluation process, the LEAF certification ensures the zoo is reducing energy, water and waste in its on park restaurants and concession stands. This achievement recognizes the zoo’s practices in sourcing locally produced food as well as initiating the three-stream sorting system for composting, waste and recycling in both front of house and back of house operations. We asked Carmel Nicholls, Concession Operations Manager, about the process of preparing for LEAF.
Q: Do you have a food or sustainability philosophy? What is it?
A: “We have a food philosophy as we strive to be an industry leader in promoting local food and sustainable practices by minimizing our environmental footprint and educating industry partners and clients on the significance of these practices. More importantly, our organization-wide mission is to take and inspire action to sustain wildlife and wild places. Food sustainability aligns well with our mission.”
Q: What sustainability accomplishments have you made at your restaurants that you are most proud of?
A: “We have increased both the size of our on-site gardens along with starting a new pure organics compost program. By increasing the amount of local suppliers we use tenfold, we have developed many new relationships with like-minded individuals. We were recently named a 100% Ocean Wise designated partner.”
Q: Why do you think sustainability is important in the restaurant industry?
A: “Sustainability is key to the restaurant industry, it not only allows us to keep dollars in the pockets of local farmers and families, but also protects the environment for generations to come. It is one of the ways we as restaurateurs are able to do our part and take action in living a sustainable lifestyle.”
Q: What are the benefits of LEAF certification for the zoo?
A: “The LEAF Certification increase awareness among our visitors, donors, customers, and the public about what the zoo is doing and how they can contribute. This certification gives us an amazing sounding board to work off of when communicating with guests about the things the Calgary Zoo is doing in the area of sustainability within the food service industry.”
Q: What sustainability goals are you striving to reach in the future?
A: “We are constantly evaluating how we do things and are looking at new and different ways that we can have an impact. We would like to take a more aggressive approach to challenging other industry partners to follow our lead. By endeavoring to make an impact in the food services industry, the zoo is helping to create a more sustainable future.”
Learn more about the zoo’s conservation and sustainability work. You can help with just a visit- admission to the zoo supports these initiatives.