A guide to living local in New Hampshire

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Attainable Sustainable:

900 Degrees of Green

By Tom Long / Fiddlehead Contributing Editor

There is nothing half-baked about 900 Degrees’ commitment to sustainability. The wood-fired Neapolitan pizzerias are as green as the fresh basil leaves on their signature Margherita pies.
It’s a win-win for everybody. Great food that’s green guilt-free.

The restaurants use ovens powered by wood, which is a renewable resource. They buy local produce to reduce the pollution inherent in long haul rail and trucking. And they buy organic when possible, which cuts down on the use of chemicals.

There are occupancy sensor lights in the restrooms to save electricity; servers offer guests water and straws only if they ask for them. And even one-third of the choices on the wine list are green – from fruit grown organically, bio-dynamically and/or through sustainable farming.

“I was green before there was a word for it,” said Priscilla Lane-Rondeau, owner of the highly regarded eateries in Epping, Manchester and Portsmouth.

Lane-Rondeau was raised on what she calls a “gentleman’s farm” in New Ipswich, where her father, a teacher, and her mother, a school administrator, raised goats, pigs, chickens, a cow and a donkey.

“My parents were raised during the Great Depression and were very frugal, but they enjoyed living what we now call a green lifestyle. We had our own eggs and milk and they made soap from pig fat,” she said. “We also composted. I thought everyone did. Growing up like that I have always been interested in sustainability. It’s imbedded in me.”

It’s not easy being green. It’s an ongoing process, according to the restaurants’ website: “900 Degrees is committed to continually evaluating our operations in order to employ environmentally friendly methods of providing the best service to our guests. We believe that each initiative that we pursue with the help of our guests, no matter how small, helps preserve our beautiful state for future generations … 900 Degrees is devoted to minimizing its carbon footprint in order to reduce the impact on the environment and protect our natural resources for years to come.”

900 Degrees uses energy-efficient florescent lighting, low-flow dish rinsing devices, compost boxes, cardboard-only dumpsters, LED lights, recycled paper towels, toilet paper and takeout boxes, Green Seal-certified cleaning supplies – and that’s only the beginning.

A commitment to green also has financial ramifications for businesses.

“I save on some of the initiatives, break even on others and some cost me money,” Lane-Rondeau said. “Take the straws. Right now, I offer people a corn-based straw in Portsmouth, because I can compost them after they are used. In Manchester, local regulations are problematic, and I cannot compost, so I offer a paper straw, but they’re more expensive. My real goal is to avoid using anything that cannot be reused or composted.”

Any advice for people who want to adopt the lifestyle? “You want to start small,” she said. “For instance, anything you could use twice is a saving. Or ask your server not to bring you a straw, that’s simple. Or stop drinking water in plastic bottles, that’s easy. Or don’t go to Ocean State Job Lots and buy 10,000 little things from China.

“If you pick one thing and stick to it you’ll feel better, and before you know it you’ll want to do more and more. It’s definitely something I’ve always been passionate about, and it’s something I’d like to share. I have grandchildren and I want to make a better world for them.”

The restaurant also has a Going Green pulldown tab on its website, which includes 900 Degrees’ environmental mission statement, lists of its green practices, accomplishments and awards, participation in environmental education and organizations and a list of “Random Acts of Green.” It also has news about energy saving and other green tips, like eco-friendly decorating for the holidays and environmentally sound ways to stay green on a budget.

Check it out at 900degrees.com.