We here at EL EL have been deeply concerned with sustainability for a really long time. From the start, we have used design, sustainability and a sense of humor to navigate the extremely long road towards opening and running our own business. Everything we do here at EL EL is done with a certain amount of thought, discussion and more than a little hand- wringing. It is not by accident that we don’t have a bigger parking lot, or that we don’t serve alcoholic beverages or that we are not open on Sundays. Our decision to use a large portion of our landscape to grow food, our choice to stick with our Quick-Service model and what we choose to put on our menu are all choices based around our ideals of sustainable design. We want what is best for all of us, economically, ecologically and psychologically.
Sustainability is far more than the choice to use unbleached paper napkins that break down readily in landfills or compost piles (although we made that choice early on). Our commitment to sustainability requires choices be made throughout our organization practically every day. Do we serve beef? Where do we order our garlic from? Should we build a traditional walk-in cooler, or a modern, high-efficiency CoolBot? We might not always make the right choices, but rest assured we are obsessing about it just the same.
Now what is the deal with our trash situation? For years, we have been known as that place with the weird garbage set-up. We have had our customers sorting waste by type for over 10 years, redeemable stuff here, compostables in this bucket, recyclables in this can... Most of our customers are totally behind this, and a few are mystified or even annoyed. Yes, some people still throw away our red plastic baskets, and put partially-eaten burritos in the holes for redeemable bottles, but generally folks get it right. This year, you’ll notice that we just have trash cans! No recycling anymore (although we still send the food waste to the farm and redeem the redeemables). It is all due to a very complicated issue regarding the solid taste disposal system in our region. All of our waste, including the single-sort recyclables, have been trucked to the landfill and dumped! It was quite a shock for a lot of us, particularly those of us who have been paying for 2x dumpsters! Apparently, our solid waste is now again going to be used to generate electricity, so that is an improvement. Rest assured our solid wast committee is working to solve this problem on a regional basis, but for now- it is not us, it is them . . .
And what about the straws? We have been trying to source paper straws since late last year. What appears to be the only U.S. manufacturer has been overwhelmed by demand, and is having to re-tool to meet their commitments. We are desperately trying to source paper straws, but for now we can only get the evil plastic straws. We beg you to just not use them, if you can avoid it.
Please take a moment to engage with us about the concept of sustainable design. We’d love to learn some more stuff about it, and we are always looking to make improvements. Thanks for reading this far, you must be hungry by now-come have a burrito!