Oxford restaurants get on board SPORK

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, July 21, 2016

By Reid Posey


One of the trademark features of Oxford is its renowned restaurant scene, and now, one local initiative is bringing these restaurants together in an effort to reduce waste, become more eco-friendly, and integrate locally-grown foods into their operations.

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Inspired by Project Green Fork out of Memphis, SPORK, or Sustainable Practices for Our Restaurant Kitchens, was established in February as a Lafayette Leadership program. However, beginning in September, Sustainable Oxford is set to take on the responsibilities of the project.

Before this transition period arrives, SPORK is set to host an official kick-off event at the Powerhouse on Aug. 2.

The event, lasting from 6 to 8 p.m., will feature kids’ activities, musical performances, and refreshments courtesy of several local businesses participating in the SPORK program, including Snackbar, Oxford Canteen, My Michelle’s, and the Ravine.

Those who attend the event will also be able to learn more about the many other sustainability programs in place around the community.

Tickets for the event, which can be bought either online in advance or at the door on the day of the event, are $10 for adults, with free admission for children.

SPORK also has a donation fund set up on the crowdfunding website generosity.com. Donors of various levels are eligible for different prize packs corresponding to different amounts of donation. These rewards include tickets to the kick-off event, tickets to the Spring SPORK Supper, SPORK stickers, t-shirts, and prize jar tickets to win a drawing for gift cards and other prizes courtesy of participating restaurants and other local businesses.

Under the SPORK program, participating restaurants must sign a contract with SPORK to agree to comply with certain guidelines. SPORK gives restaurants a time period of 3 months to integrate their policies into their operations so that they can receive SPORK certification.

First, restaurants must agree to certain practices regarding sustainable products, including removing and abstaining from the use of Styrofoam products; providing take-out containers and cups that are compostable, biodegradable, made out of recyclable materials, or created from recycled materials themselves; and agreeing to use recycled-content paper products when possible, including products such as toilet paper, paper towels, and napkins.

The restaurant must also recycle all possible materials, as well as establish and maintain a grease and oil collection system.

If possible, depending on the kind of detergent their dishwasher requires, restaurants also agree to replace toxic cleaners with non-toxic, biodegradable cleaning products.

The restaurant is required to complete an energy audit to find easy, inexpensive steps to limit water and energy consumption and to save money in the process.

In order to prevent pollution, SPORK also asks participating restaurants to maintain grease traps and kitchen hoods properly in order to prevent overflows and emissions to sewer and storm drain systems. They also ask businesses to clean up the inside and outside of their restaurants to keep them free of debris.

Finally, the last requirement on their contract mandates that each restaurant will conduct business with at least one food vendor within a 250 to 300 mile radius of Oxford.

If restaurants fail to continue to meet these standards, they may lose their SPORK certification at the discretion of the program.

Restaurants that pass their SPORK certification pay a membership fee of $150 for their first year of membership and then $100 each subsequent year in order to cover the costs of technical assistance and promotion.

According to the contract, participating restaurants will receive a SPORK certification sticker for display, will be featured on Sustainable Oxford’s website, and will be included by name in the program’s advertising efforts.

So if supporting businesses that place an emphasis on eco-friendly practices and local products is your thing, keep an eye out for a SPORK sticker and know that they are doing their part to make their community a better place.