PORTSMOUTH — With Earth Day fast approaching, Seacoast eateries are joining a local nonprofit to encourage plant-based foods and reducing environmental impact.
Spearhead by Seacoast Area Renewable Energy Initiative (SEAREI), local favorites are participating in “Planted for the Planet” from Thursday, April 22 through Sunday, April 25.
The 22 participating restaurants will offer a variety of plant-rich menu items dubbed “Earth Day Entrées” for patrons to enjoy throughout the weekend.
Black Trumpet chef and owner Evan Mallett said his restaurant will take part in the “restaurant week type format” to highlight why consuming less meat and conducting more eco-friendly food practices are necessary.
“I don’t think we have a lot of time to waste in addressing the needs of trying to reverse climate change, which may or may not be possible,” he said, “but at least try mitigating it to a point where your grandkids are going to have a safe place to live in.”
Patrons are being asked to order Earth Day Entrées at participating restaurants, take a photo and post it to social media with the caption #PlantedForThePlanet.
On April 22 and April 25, Planted for the Planet will be hosting “Take Out and Tune In” virtual events featuring local speakers well-versed in sustainability, farming, and eating.
Mallett will be one of the panelists on April 25, saying he was excited to be approached by SEAREI to speak on the importance of topics like local sourcing and plant diets.
“What I liked about their proposal was that the kind of thing I really sink my teeth into is the community grassroots efforts. That’s where change happens, that’s where progress happens,” he said.
Raising awareness of plant-based foods
Keith Tharp, cofounder of Sustainable Seacoast, is helping to organize Planted for the Planet. He said the Seacoast is “an amazing restaurant zone” and the initiative will help those businesses highlight their array of plant-based options.
“It’s a great opportunity to explore some potentially new cuisine options that people potentially haven’t thought about,” he said.
The idea to promote plant-based foods came after SEAREI members read the book “Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming,” Tharp said. A reading group came together last year to discuss the top 10 solutions to combat climate change, one of which was incorporating plants into one’s diet.
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COVID-19 curbed the ability to put the solution into action. Now, with Planted for Planet a go for this year, Tharp said “increasing plants in the diet is one of the more powerful ways we as individuals can impact the environment.”
“We’re very excited about it,” he said.
Plant-based recipes are also being posted online for people to create themselves.
Tharp said SEAREI is giving away hundreds of dollars in gift cards to the 22 restaurants offering Earth Day Entrées. Those and other prizes will be awarded to select Zoom event attendees and those who post photos on social media of their purchased meals or ones they make themselves.
Restaurant owners talk importance of plant-based foods, local sourcing
Carolyn Dagostino, co-owner of BRGR Bar, said that her renowned burger joint is excited to showcase its vegetarian and vegan options through Planted for the Planet.
“For us, we serve meat and we serve all kinds of stuff, but it’s always been about being as local and having as limited an impact (on the environment) as possible,” she said.
BRGR Bar will be offering delicacies such as a vegan caesar salad, a vegan “Cool Beans Burger,” vegetarian mushroom duxelle croquettes, buffalo Brussels sprouts and a vegetarian-based “Earth Burger.”
Dagostino said there’s a variety of ways to make it seem like you’re enjoying meatier meals when, in reality, you’re eating plant-based foods.
It’s a concerted effort BRGR Bar has been making recently. “Over the past year we’ve been making a push to have more plant-based options on the menu,” she said.
At Black Trumpet, the main Earth Day Entrée will be a spring paella with fiddleheads, mushrooms and legumes. Mallett and his team will also be whipping up Governor Dale Farm greens with grapefruit vinaigrette, garbanzo poblano soup with tomatillo cream, pickled peppers, pepitas and pea shoots, and chocolate coconut mousse parfait with whipped cashew cream, and cascara and maple sap lady finger.
A March 2016 University of Oxford study illuminated the global effects that diets relying less on meat could have. Consuming more fruits and vegetables could save up to 8 million lives by 2050, the report found. Moving toward plant-based diets could also “reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two thirds, and lead to healthcare-related savings and avoided climate damages of $1.5 trillion.”
Mallett, a self-described “devout carnivore,” said less meat consumption would also lead to lower-income households having more nutritious options, including occasional meats, at their disposal.
That doesn’t necessarily mean the collective community needs to stop eating meat altogether, he added. Consuming less meat would allow for local supply to be available for all, including those with lower incomes.
“I’m not asking anyone to stop eating meat or to start being vegan. I’m just saying, let’s be really conscientious and respect meat and where it comes from,” he said.
Acclaimed chef and Portsmouth restaurateur Matt Louis said a few of his restaurants, including STREET, Moxy and The Franklin, are participating in Planted for the Planet.
“It’s definitely right in line with what we strive to provide and the message that we hope to give the community through the restaurants,” he said. “Sustainability, proper food products, clean eating, clean food – it’s all so important to us.”
He isn’t sure what items his restaurants will be featuring but emphasized how simple it can be for local restaurants to access Seacoast-sourced products.
Doing so leads to a better carbon footprint for the Earth, he noted. “It’s really not that hard. We have farmers, growers and fishers. These products are really almost given to us right now, right at our fingertips,” he said. “You don’t even have to really look that hard and we’re really fortunate in our community to have that accessibility.”
While some information about climate change and the future of the environment comes across as “apocalyptic,” Mallett said the call for locals to enjoy a plant-rich diet is attainable.
“Having a plant-based diet is what this group chose to focus on as a low-hanging fruit, which is a great, unintended pun,” he said.
The list of participating restaurants and additional information about Planted for the Planet can be found at plantedfortheplanet.org.