The Fresh Sourdough Express Bakery and Cafe recently received its "green" certification from the Green Restaurant Association, becoming the first restaurant in Alaska to receive that designation.
But owners Donna and Kevin Maltz -- considered socially responsible "green pioneers" in the foodservice industry -- are not new to environmental leadership. Donna used her years as an organic farmer in the late 70s and her degree in social ecology to take her experiences to a new level with the opening of The Fresh Sourdough Express in Homer in 1982. Conservation and sustainability have played a major role in the business's operations ever since. "We were ahead of our time" in the energy-saving and green practices the bakery/cafe put in place over the past two decades, says Donna Maltz.
The owners practice 3 Rs: recycle, reduce, and reuse. From the time they opened their bakery and cafe, they have composted the restaurant's waste; recycled paper, aluminum, glass and other items; powered down unused equipment and lights; and grow and purchased locally raised food. The Maltzes recently added low-flow spray nozzles and toilets, replaced old seals and gaskets and switched to compact florescent light bulbs, full spectrum lighting and energy efficient ballasts and hand-dryers.
Donna Maltz says The Fresh Sourdough Express buys local organic food to avoid shipping food to Alaska that could raise the restaurant's carbon footprint. The restaurant grinds its own organic grains, cooks its nutritionally dense food with organic, wild and local products, and uses bio-friendly, chemical-free cleaning products and chlorine-free paper products. The staff wear organically grown cotton t-shirts.
Long committed to using natural ingredients, Fresh Sourdough Express developed its own line of organic chocolate products under the AH!LASKA® brand. Today, the products can be found in health food stores throughout the United States.
Donna Maltz says the couple's guiding philosophy is to weigh the impact that every business practice has on the natural environment. That means "being conscious of everything from the soil to the table, and from the ceiling to the floor," says Maltz. "We have always blended ecology and social responsibility into our foodservice systems, acknowledging nature, the farmers and other producers of the valuable nourishment that sustains us.
"People starting new restaurants have a tremendous responsibility to their customers and the environment," she says. "Twenty six years ago, most people didn't care that we were a socially responsible eatery." Now, she says, "we are finally respected for our efforts and have found productive ways to share the wisdom we have acquired."