Green eats: Magnolia Bistro strives for eco-friendliness

The popular Magnolia Bistro buzzes with energy on a Friday morning. Businessmen and women sit side by side with college students and locals, who enjoy a mostly organic and locally-sourced breakfast or lunch. Magnolia strives to use Vermont ingredients as much as possible, but many patrons don’t realize that the carpet they are sitting near is designed by a company that is Leadership in Environmental Design (LEED) certified or that they are using recycled glass jars to spoon ketchup all over their chipotle black bean and cheddar omelet,   according to owner July Sanders.Sanders is passionate about her work. Since first starting in the business at age 16, she has some insight into the restaurant industry. “I’ve seen that a restaurant can be very wasteful,” she said. “But I don’t want to disregard an industry that I love because the industry doesn’t fit my values.”Now, at age 29, her downtown Burlington bistro strives to be as green as possible.  In fact, Magnolia is recognized by the Green Restaurant Association (GRA) as a certified green operation.The GRA is a national third-party certifier and, according to their website, a restaurant can easily produce 50,000 to 100,000 pounds of garbage each year. Close to 95 percent of that waste consists of material that could be recycled or composted.Sanders and her staff compost and recycle, in addition to taking various other greenmeasures. “Everything in the restaurant has a thought behind it,” she said. “We searched high and low for biodegradable paint thinner [and] the tables were made in Lyndon.” Even their food has an eco-conciousness. “We try to get items that are as local as possible,” Sanders said. “Our jam is locally made and we buy ketchup in bulk.  It can be more expensive and more difficult, but it’s a fun challenge for us.” From the servers walking by with cleaned plates and the pleasant atmosphere of the dining room, it’s apparent that Magnolia’s customers are happy. “Their jam is really good,” senior and environmental studies major Katie Carroll said. Mary Seaman, senior and environmental science major, used a couple of positive words to describe her dining experience. “Dank sauce,” she said — aka really delicious.Magnolia has certainly made a name for itself in Vermont. Other local and national businesses called the restaurant asking for advice on how to green their services, Sanders said. “Many Burlington restaurants … do a pretty good job [of being green].”Sanders hopes that Magnolia will serve as a template for other local businesses.”We went above and beyond to get the word out about green practices,” she said.