In a small-scale attempt to achieve zero waste, three chefs in Helsinki, Finland founded “Restaurant Nolla” in 2018, becoming the first to operate without any single-use plastics, trash cans, or vacuum-sealed food items. Other restaurants around the world are also working based off of a similar zero-waste model, including “Silo” in Brighton, England and “Graffiti Earth” in New York City.
One of the first challenges Restaurant Nolla faced in establishing a fully sustainable work environment was changing how the ingredients they purchased were packaged. They asked suppliers to switch from delivering ingredients in single-use plastic bags to reusable plastic containers. The locally-sourced produce they obtain from organic farmers is also delivered in reusable crates. This transition proved beneficial not just for the chefs’ goals, but it also turned out to be cheaper for their suppliers.
The restaurant’s menu is planned according to what is in season and how all parts of a vegetable or fish can be cooked. Restaurant Nolla serves a set four or six-course menu, which offers regional cuisines and popular Finnish dishes, as opposed to letting customers request specific dishes. This system allows them to predict how much food to order per night, avoiding a surplus of ingredients if a specific item isn’t as popular. The beer they serve is brewed on-site, and their wine is crafted by eco-friendly producers.
At the end of each night, the small amount of food waste left, which can’t be reused, goes into the restaurant’s own technical composter. The soil is then returned to local producers or given to customers who wish to use them in their own gardens, continuing this sustainable cycle of production. Nolla also uses the information gathered from software that measures and tracks food waste to plan future menus.
The gift cards available at Restaurant Nolla are made from compostable paper embedded with seeds, which can be planted to grow poppies, and the menu is only listed on a chalkboard.
The restaurant’s chefs believe that the changes they’ve made, particularly asking suppliers to package food in reusable containers, can be easily adopted at other restaurants. After a while, the sustainable approach they took simply became part of their routine while simultaneously offering their clients a high-quality dining experience.
Written By: Ligia Clara