Mireya Navarro

New York Times Writer

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Sustainable Catering

“Back to Earth,”among the country’s first sustainable catering and events company, plans to open an affordable full-service organic restaurant in the summer. “Terrain” will be located at the David Brower Center in downtown Berkeley , Calif. , near the University of California campus, in the cradle of Chez Panisse Restaurant and the local-foods movement. The center, a LEED-certified green building that will also house a theater, an art gallery and office space for nonprofit groups, is named after the environmental pioneer who served as the first executive director of the Sierra Club and later founded “Friends of the Earth” and other environmental organizations.

I got to taste Back to Earth’s recipes while doing research for “Green Wedding” and met the owners, Eric Fenster and Ari Derfel, at the wedding of their then-executive chef, Stephanie Hibbert. They were all in pirate-inspired garb, which was the theme of the wedding, but I learned some serious basics while in the midst of this playful event (for more on food, drink and Stephanie’s pirate wedding, check out Chapter 8 in “Green Wedding: Planning Your Eco-Friendly Celebration.”) For example:

  • The number of courses determines the amount of plates and other
    equipment required to be transported and washed. For the least impact,
    pare down the courses and choose a seated dinner rather than the
    buffet, which also requires more plates and utensils for seconds.
  • Just wine and beer and a signature cocktail like a mojito is
    preferable to a full bar that requires seven different kinds of
    glasses.
  • Ban bottled water to avoid the plastic and the energy required to
    deliver all those bottles. For all water needs at an event,”Back to
    Earth” brings a filter to hook up to the tap.

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