Waste not, want not: This is becoming the mantra for a growing number of businesses in the Gorge food service industry, as became even more apparent in “Sustainable Systems at Work,” a recent discussion series designed by the Northwest Earth Institute and spearheaded by the Gorge Owned Business Network.

“It was a great opportunity for a group of like-minded business owners with similar business models to get together and talk about some of the challenges we face and solutions we have found in trying to be as sustainable as possible in our business practices,” says Stacie Creasy, co-owner of Sixth Street Bistro.

“Sustainable Systems at Work” focused on ways to reduce waste (energy, water, food) and expand menus to include local farmers and ranchers. Bringing together a varied group of stakeholders in the food service industry, the group included representatives from Celilo Restaurant, Sixth Street Bistro and Doppio Coffee + Lounge in Hood River, Mid-Columbia Medical Center in The Dalles, Mt Hood Meadows, Hood River School District and Tri-County Hazardous Waste.

The five-week discussion course culminated with a round table discussion featuring representatives of the entire vertical supply chain – from food producers to waste haulers to manufacturers of compostable take-out containers to Dirt Hugger, a commercial composting company based in The Dalles.

While the course still left questions for many in the group—such as how to how to balance environmental and fiscal responsibilities—all left with a better understanding of the options and realities of today’s market.

“There was great value in having a direct conversation with the people involved in the supply chain, top to bottom,” says Ben Stenn, chef at Celilo Restaurant.

“We are proud to be part of this community, which is so supportive of local producers,” Creasy says. “And we are proud to have two great organizations, Gorge Grown Food Network and Gorge Owned Business Network, that promote and support local farmers and ranchers and promote sustainability within our community.”