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Go Green, Go Community

February 27, 2014

By: Trisha Weeks, Trisha Weeks is a Service Manager and Sustainability Team leader at the LongHorn Steakhouse in Sanford, Florida.

Go Green, Go Community

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very quarter my restaurant’s Sustainability Team gets together to perform an evaluation of our restaurant’s water and energy use and to discuss sustainability news from Darden. At one of our recent meetings, I posed two sustainability challenges to our 11 members: “What can we do in our restaurant and what can we do for our community?” After some great discussion, the team decided to focus on two areas: recycling and volunteering.

Already at all LongHorn restaurants, we are committed to sustainability. For example, our restaurant was built with recyclable and easy-to-replace carpet tiles, water-efficient irrigation systems and LED lighting. Our first Sustainability Team project focused on what our team members could do every day in our restaurant. We decided to help our team focus on recycling glass. To make it easy for our local municipality to recycle the glass, we needed to be mindful in sorting the glass from other waste and recyclable materials. We now have a 20-gallon bin behind the bar where we collect the glass. On our busiest nights, we fill the bin two or three times! For both our team members and our guests, we are proud to know this glass goes directly to a recycling facility instead of to a landfill.

Darden’s commitment to sustainability is part of a broader citizenship vision that also encourages us to get involved in our local communities. We wanted to give back, and volunteering on a local Habitat For Humanity project was something that everyone wanted to do.

Our restaurant was built late last year, and we wanted to share the sense of pride that comes from being in a new building with a local family. Habitat for Humanity’s commitment to provide clean, safe and affordable housing was the perfect project. Twenty team members from the restaurant took part in the project and we spent the day putting the finishing touches on a new home for a family in need. Our team put down sod, painted walls and cleaned up the yard, even breaking out the power tools to breakup old pieces of concrete. It was a wonderful day, and everyone felt like they had made a real difference to a family in our community. The team is already asking me what we’ll be doing for our next project!

Darden has a long-standing partnership with Habitat for Humanity. In fact, all of the leftover materials from our restaurant remodels, such as furnishings and platewares, are donated to Habitat for Humanity ReStores retail outlets throughout the country. To date, Darden remodels have contributed more than $2.3 million in furniture and décor donations.

I’m proud of my team getting involved in helping our community and our planet. Our Sustainability Team has been a great team-building tool and way to get everyone in the restaurant involved.

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