Eco giants team up for community event |

Eco giants team up for community event

Local artist Sarah Berkowitz designed this colorful folding door, which will be auctioned off at the Earth Day Fundraiser for Recycle Utah Sunday, May 25, at Squatters Roadhouse Grill. (Photo courtesy of Recycle Utah)

When people dine at Squatters, it’s not just about the food. Or the beer. It’s about saving the planet.

Sustainable practices at the Park City restaurant include purchasing energy credits from Rocky Mountain Power’s Blue Sky program and using water-saving dishwashers, paper straws, biodegradable to-go containers, dual flush toilets and waterless urinals.

Considering the company’s commitment to the environment, it comes as no surprise that one of its primary community partners is Recycle Utah. On Sunday, May 23, Squatters Roadhouse Grill will host the third annual Earth Day Fundraiser for the local nonprofit from 5 until 9 p.m.

According to James Soares, Squatters’ director of environmental and social responsibility, Squatters began looking for an organization that shared its eco ideals when the Park City location opened in 2006.

"We felt like Recycle Utah had a very similar function as far as setting up grassroots involvement around some of the things we were interested in," Soares says.

Sustainability has always been a pillar of the Squatters business model. Founders Jeff Polychronis and Peter Cole built the Salt Lake City restaurant in 1989 with cobblestone salvaged from a street construction project.

From there, the mission to reduce its carbon footprint took shape one step at a time. Four years ago, Polychronis and Cole, along with operating partner Joe Lambert, hired Soares to oversee its environmental and social practices.

"To become a better business, we need to look at how to manage all of our natural resources because we rely on them for serving food in the restaurants and producing our beer," Soares explains.

His responsibilities include building company purchases and practices around the "triple bottom line" or "people, planet, profit" business model, which focuses on social, ecological and economic success.

Whether it’s a decision about food or equipment, Soares researches sustainable options and recommends the best choice.

The company isn’t afraid to test green initiatives on its customers. The recent switch from plastic straws to paper straws has been less than well-received by some patrons, but Soares says it has sparked a lot of conservations about sustainability.

"It’s been a great experiment, but people weren’t quite ready to make that transition," he says. The company will return to using eco-friendly plastic straws made out of cornstarch.

The Earth Day Fundraiser is typically held in April (closer to the actual day it’s observed), but Insa Riepen, executive director of Recycle Utah, says they pushed the event back this year in hopes of warmer weather.

Last year, Recycle Utah used proceeds from the event to purchase an EPS (Styrofoam) densifier. This year the goal is to raise enough money to purchase a biodiesel truck that can pick up recyclable materials from homes and businesses and deliver them to the warehouse.

If the event raises $10,000, the Raymond Family Foundation has pledged to match that amount.

The event will feature an opportunity drawing, children’s art activities and – for the first time – a silent auction with gift certificates, season ski passes, art, jewelry, vacation packages and items from local businesses. One coveted auction item is an "Olympic skeasel," an easel made out of skis with signatures from local Olympians.

"The fundraiser is really designed to be a family event," says Christie Babalis, vice chair of the Recycle Utah Board of Directors and the event coordinator. "We just hope that people will come learn about what Recycle Utah provides for the community and what our real message is. People in Park City have been incredibly supportive and we hope that we give something back that’s valuable to them."

Babalis encourages people to walk, ride or carpool to the event. She notes that Squatters is donating everything from the food to the venue to make the fundraiser possible.

Tickets are $40 for adults and $15 for kids and include dinner and two drinks. Squatters will offer a burger buffet, salads and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream for dessert. Tickets are available in advance by calling (435) 649-9698 or at the door.

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