Plant-based options for everyone
PLANT CITY is the world’s first entirely plant-based food hall, based right in Providence. Located on South Water Street across from the Providence River Pedestrian Bridge, PLANT CITY has something for everyone: this East Side staple houses four restaurants, a marketplace and cafe, and an outside patio.
The first floor of the food hall includes new.burger, offering American cuisine; MAKE OUT Cafe, featuring smoothies, sandwiches, baked goods and a “build a bowl” concept; a Coffee Bar and the MARKETPLACE boasting a wide selection of lovingly sourced food, drink, specialty goods. Upstairs, DOUBLE ZERO serves pizza and Italian cuisine, and BAR VERDE offers mexican and latin-inspired fare. Downstairs, the Community CELLAR serves as a sharing space for local events, classes and workshops.
Given its commitment to demonstrating a sustainable food system, it’s no surprise PLANT CITY's approach to waste is equally inspiring. Kim Anderson, Managing Member of Everhope Capital, and Creator & Co-founder of PLANT CITY, joined us to share about Plant City’s zero-waste efforts.
Can you tell us about PLANT CITY’s approach to composting?
PLANT CITY produces around 1,000 pounds of compostable discards per day. That’s a lot of compost. I tell everybody we don’t have trash, we’ve got recycling and we’ve got compost. Between the front and back of house, the only trash we really have is some wax paper from some of our products, and once in a while something non-compostable that someone brings in from outside.
Why did you decide to compost?
The simple answer is that not doing it wasn’t an option. One of our baked-in missions of who we are is to demonstrate a sustainable food system. So if you’re going to produce food and face the climate crisis, you can’t ignore composting. It’s important to us to include composting in front of house to educate and encourage others. It takes thirty seconds for a customer to understand why we’re doing this. I’m always happy to speak with anyone who wants to know more about it, both customers and other businesses!
What are some of the challenges you’ve experienced around composting at PLANT CITY?
The front of house can be challenging. We have signs everywhere explaining what goes in which bin. Every hour when it isn’t busy, we send staff to pull compostables out of the trash or recycling and put them in the compost. We’re always inspecting from multiple angles to avoid contamination. Ultimately, we just handle the issue by being on top of it.
What are some of the rewards?
Reducing our carbon footprint and being 100% mission-aligned with why we exist is great. Our customers really appreciate it, too. There’s a lot of showing up and making sure we’re building good habits. When you hear that you’re diverting 6 tons a week, that’s awesome, it feels great. All the effort and work is worth it.
How has composting affected your bottom line?
For us, per month, composting is less expensive than if I were sending our compostable waste to landfill. Our compost is collected 6 days a week - our landfill trash only needs to be picked up twice a week, and we share our dumpster with the neighboring businesses. Taking our trash bin from 5 to 2 pickups a week has saved us about five to six hundred dollars every month.
How do you train your employees to deal with compostable waste?
We include compost separation in our staff training, and are always working on keeping compostables out of landfills. Team members regularly pull things out of the trash and compost to remove contamination. We put the compost in light green bags and recycling in clear so we can easily see and fix any contamination.
It’s really simple - everything that’s food or packaging goes in the compost. Glass and metal go in recycling, and we just work with the consumer to get it right. If our team members say to someone over the counter, “I just want you to know that all our packaging is compostable,” then before they even get to discarding it, they’re already aware. It’s about creating a circle of education.
What other ways does your business you meet your sustainability goals?
We’re constantly working with other local groups to host events here to share our information with anyone who wants it. We’re very open and transparent about how we do it, who we do it with, what the numbers are. We’re 100% palm oil free, and we have educational information ready for customers that explain how a plant based diet is the most sustainable diet for our planet and why.
We also try to buy as much organic, local produce as possible. We’re now working with Gotham Greens and Rhode Island Mushroom Company, Sprout Organics. We use Borealis Coffee, who’s now working on his organic certification. So a lot of local vendors. It’s always great when we have local.
What would you like to see in the future?
We'd like to see more products come in more sustainable packaging, for instance we found Path Water, which is packaged in aluminum cans. All of our packaging is recyclable - I would love to see more of that.
What advice would you give to another restaurant considering composting?
I want people to see that it’s doable and simple and can be integrated into their businesses. Find other restaurants and haul together. I’m always happy to help anyone who wants support getting it figured out. Just do it!
PLANT CITY Exterior | Photo courtesy of PLANT CITY's Facebook
Offerings from MAKE OUT | Photo courtesy of PLANT CITY's Facebook
Offerings from DOUBLE ZERO | Photo credit: Cassidy Bissitt
Offerings from BAR VERDE, DOUBLE ZERO, and new.burger | Photo credit: Cassidy Bissitt
Waste disposal at PLANT CITY | Photo credit: Cassidy Bissitt
Signage at PLANT CITY | Photo credit: Cassidy Bissitt