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ECO-EATERIES

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The owners of a French restaurant on Annapolis' Main Street, an Irish pub on Maryland Avenue and a small market in Eastport all share the same environmental zeal.

Jean-Louis Evennou was so thrilled when his staffers designed a green T-shirt to advertise their eco-friendly policies that he drove them to New York City and treated them to a pricey French meal. Now he has proudly mounted the shirt on Cafe Normandie's wall.

Fintan Galway instructs his waiters to discuss sustainability every time they hand patrons a straw. The ones he's ordered are 100 percent compostable, but he and his business partners still discourage Galway Bay customers from using them.

Lisa Park, who has painted her fingernails and the walls of Leeward Market bright green, regularly digs through trash to recover recyclables accidentally thrown away.

But their passion amounts to more than quirks. All three Annapolis eateries recently qualified as Certified Environmental Stewards, joining five other local establishments in the city's new plan to push businesses and residents to go green.

"There are a lot of programs that restaurants have to comply with," said Maria Broadbent, Annapolis' Environmental Program Coordinator. "They all have to have systems for grease recovery, certain permits and ordinances, but this is really to award and honor the ones that are going beyond compliance, and are really stewards of the environment."

The program grew out of the Sustainable Annapolis initiative, which started a few years ago as an energy task force. Since then, the city has developed strategies to reduce carbon emissions, use energy efficiently and improve the health of the bay.

"This is the only program that we know of that's run by a municipality and is a certification verification program," Broadbent said.

Still, other cities across Maryland are tackling the issue in their own ways. Howard County's restaurant week starts Monday, and it encourages local businesses to use local products. Twenty-five different establishments are participating in the effort to promote the environmentally and economically friendly initiative.

So far, Annapolis' program has certified eight total restaurants. In an effort to include the entire community, Broadbent developed a separate stewardship program for homeowners. Branches for other businesses are in the works, she said.

With the help of an intern, she composed checklists that award points to applicants for all the ways they could help the environment. To qualify, restaurants need 100 out of more than 700 points, and homeowners need 150 out of the 800 available.

All three of the most recently certified restaurants didn't need that boost. Evennou, who makes his own biodiesel fuel from Cafe Normandie's used oil and composts all his food scraps, said he scored more than 200 to begin with. Anthony Clarke, one of the owners of Galway Bay, said he qualified with a little more than 100, and Park said Leeward Market racked up at least 130 points.

Still, Broadbent worked with each restaurant to make sure their reports were accurate and to help them earn even more points. The checklist includes extra resources and explanations of all the initiatives.

"It's nice to know all the parameters that we needed to become certified," said Galway, who works with local distributors as much as possible.

Park said she earned points for various steps she had taken that she didn't even realize were environmentally friendly. All of her flowers and herbs come directly from her garden, and she schedules employees' shifts together so they can carpool.

Points vary depending on how time-consuming and expensive the initiatives are. For example, Galway's "green team" that discusses their environmental programs is worth 5 points. Park's baked goods, which come from within a 10-mile radius, count for 10. Evennou is in the process of buying a solar water heater, which means 50 more points. The entire workbook is 19 pages.

As a reward for all that effort, Certified Environmental Stewards get a certificate, window decal and use of the program's logo. Sustainable Annapolis, Downtown Annapolis Partnership and other city Web sites list the certified restaurants. And the Annapolis Department of Neighborhood and Environmental Programs offers free, ongoing technical assistance to help the restaurants implement their changes.

But Galway, Park and Evennou said they're not doing this for the publicity. Sure, Galway and Park put the decal on their windows and Evennou framed his certificate, but their intentions are on a larger scale.

"I'm doing this to save whatever we have left," Evennou said. "I try not to provide any more destruction or pollution. I think everybody should do that - open their eyes and not close them and say everything's going to be fine."

Evennou said a lot of customers have commented on his certificate, and, like Galway, he's training his staff to talk to patrons about his initiatives.

Ruben Dobbs, an Annapolis resident who waits tables at 49 West, said he always appreciates restaurants' environmental efforts.

"I heard that Boatyard was recycling and that made me more psyched to go," said Dobbs, 34. "I was like, yeah, OK, cool, I want to give them my business."

Park said business hasn't picked up since she got certified, but it's only been a few weeks. Galway said the same, but it's not that the program's publicity isn't working, it's just that the economic climate is hurting business in general. But he's still hopeful.

"If you get publicity for going green, maybe it's good for your business and it's a win-win situation," said Galway, who also noted that saving energy is also cost effective.

But otherwise, going green can be pricey. The compostable straws that both Galway and Evennou order cost twice as much as normal straws. And the price of Park's produce hurts her wallet.

"I lose money on breakfast because those eggs that I buy are so good, and I think Eastport deserves to have good eggs," she said. "But I can't put the price up on those sandwiches too much more."

Even so, all three restaurant owners said the price is worth it. And they're all in the process of doing even more. Galway's trying to replace more of his disposable products with recyclables. Park just installed a dual-flush toilet and wants to redo her counter with recycled wood. And Evennou is setting up a water purifier, so he doesn't have to use bottled water.

"It all has a certain cost in terms of the economy and time, but we've always felt that it's well worth it," Galway said. "I think sustainability is very important. You can make conscious decisions to lessen the carbon footprint and what's wrong with that?"

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