How Sustainable Is Your Restaurant? Sublime Works to Reduce its Carbon Footprint with Rooftop Garden

Categories: Ethical Eating
The restaurant industry is known as being an industry full of waste. Meat is fed corn that has been grown with petrochemical fertilizers. Produce is 'protected' with harsh pesticides. Provisions are trucked in from who-knows-where. Food scraps from the kitchen and huge meal portions end up in the trash. Recyclable material is thrown out. Broken or damage fragments of decor sit in landfills never fully wasting away. When you think about the overall carbon footprint of these activities, it must be astronomical.

Some restaurants, however, are trying to change that; Sublime, one of the area's few vegan restaurants, is conscious about attempting to reduce its overall carbon footprint, one small step at a time. Executive chef John Lenhard and Jay McCobb of Farmer Jay's Pure Organics showed us how.

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For years, Sublime has strived to be as sustainable as possible. First off, being a vegan restaurant, it is able to avoid all of the environmental problems associated with the production of meat: no factory farm waste pools, less farmland used for dishes. Lenhard talks to lcoal vendors in an attempt to source products as locally as possible. The kitchen saves the food scraps to donate to local animal sanctuaries. When the old table tops are changed out, they are also donated to local wildlife organizations. 

With sustainability in mind, the restaurant has taken the next step: starting its very own garden. About four years ago, the restaurant installed a rooftop garden. Two years ago, McCobb was brought in to consult. Since then, the program has expanded to include a house with a dedicated garden and in-house gardeners. Right now, the garden does not grow enough to meet all of the restaurant's demand, items picked fresh are frequently used as specials and as means for customer education. Before being used, freshly-picked tomatoes are frequently displayed at the entrance of the restaurant, at the hostess stand. According to Lenhard, "I wouldn't say marketing, but it's a great way for people to understand what we do as a plant-based restaurant. People can see fresh heirlooms displayed and get excited about eating local products." 

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Sublime's Roof-Top Garden

Joanna Luge and Laura Grippo tend the gardens in exchange for occupancy of the house. Both women started off knowing little about farming or gardening. According to Grippo, "I've been learning as I go. I pick up a lot from the internet and then I come out and try it, but we're lucky to have Farmer Jay. I wish I had him on speed-dial. He knows so much." McCobb has been brought in to train the women about insects, soil, pH balance, and mineral content.

Luge and Grippo grow herbs, lettuces, kale, tomatoes, peppers, and more. With Lenhard, the women pick out seeds for desired products and plant them weeks apart to keep them going on rotation. As with most gardens, this garden tends to slow down a bit over the summer. However, the team has had some success over the past few months. Lenhard is particularly fond of the arugula,which he frequently uses in salads; as well as, the heirloom tomatoes, that are often used in caprese salads with homemade cashew 'cheese.' A wide variety of heirloom lettuces will be available in the next few weeks.

Photo by Sara Ventiera
Farmer Jay Advising Laura Grippo (left) and Joanna Luge (right) with Executive Chef John Lenhard
"Moving forward we must figure out ways to grow our food locally, in urban areas. Sublime is leading the way. Restaurants can learn a lot from their example; and in the future, I believe this will be the norm," says McCobb. McCobb, who also put together the herb garden at Tanzy, is currently working on proposals for other similar projects in the south Florida area.

Location Info


1431 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale, FL

Category: Restaurant

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