Side order of sustainability

The Snail of Approval and Zero Foodprint awards help diners put their money where their values are


There’s no doubt that most of us want to know that the food we order at eateries is not bad for the Earth—and not just those of us in Boulder. Forty-three percent of U.S. diners say they’ll pay more at restaurants that focus on sustainability. Half of us want restaurants to be more transparent about sustainability, according to a recent Censuswide national survey.

Here’s the rub: How do you know that your platter of sizzling fajitas actually supports sustainability, social responsibility and transparency? I mean: Who has the time to vet brunch?

It can be hard to be sure that your money is actually helping good chefs and farms and the planet.  

Two fresh initiatives from national organizations—the Snail of Approval and Zero Foodprint—are designed to help diners identify local eateries and food businesses that are doing the right thing. 

Slow Food’s Snail of Approval awards began in January. The inaugural Boulder County winners include Farow Restaurant, Blackbelly Market, 24 Carrot Bistro, Fortuna Chocolate, Pastificio Boulder, Mountain Fountain, GB Culinary, Dryland Distillers and Whistling Boar catering. 

“These are businesses that share the same values around sustainability,” says Maya Brook, executive director of Slow Food Denver, which has teamed up with Slow Food Boulder County on these awards. 

To win the Snail of Approval, restaurants, bars, farms, breweries, wineries and other food producers are evaluated in the following six areas: sourcing, environmental impact, cultural connection, community involvement, staff support and business values.

For Hosea Rosenberg, the decision to apply for the Snail of Approval was “a slam dunk.” 

“I’ve always aligned myself with Slow Food’s values,” Rosenberg says. “It matches our mission at Blackbelly. We live that way. It shows in the way we approach sourcing ingredients and treat our staff.” 

Rosenberg is Blackbelly’s award-winning chef and owner. He also operates Blackbelly’s in-house, whole animal butcher shop as well as Boulder’s Santo restaurant.

“It’s so easy for restaurants to lie about all the locally grown produce and meat they use,” he says. “The Snail of Approval means so much more than Yelp reviews or Trip Advisor ratings because it isn’t greenwashing.” 

Educating diners about sustainability is part of Blackbelly’s mission as well connecting with local ranchers and farmers. “These people are our community and customers,” he says. 

The Snail is a tool that helps diners decide which eateries they’ll support.

“When I go out to eat, I’d rather spend my money at a restaurant that is following sustainable practices,” Slow Food’s Maya Brook says. “Over time we hope diners will use the Snail of Approval as a dining guide.” 

For a complete list of restaurants and food businesses or to apply for the Snail of Approval:

River and Woods is one of Boulder’s Zero Foodprint businesses, putting an optional 1% fee on their meal checks, to promote sustainability. Photo courtesy of Sue France.

Leave a 1% tip for the planet

Simply put, Zero Foodprint makes supporting sustainability at local farms more transparent for restaurants and diners. 

“As much as 70% of a restaurant’s carbon footprint is in the ingredients they use,” says Anthony Myint, executive director of the national Zero Foodprint non-profit organization. “If we changed the way food is grown, it could be a society-level climate crisis solution.” 

Restore Colorado is Zero Foodprint’s public-private collaboration between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and local governments that fights the climate crisis by building healthier soil on local farms and ranches. 

Zero Foodprint restaurants put a 1% fee on their meal checks. Consumers can opt out, but so far few of them choose to, according to Myint.  

Zero Foodprint businesses in Boulder County include Ash’Kara, Dry Storage, Nude Foods Market, River and Woods, Whistling Boar catering and Wonder Press.

“Hypothetically, you could buy the nice grass-fed beef from the rancher, but it doesn’t help the rancher transition to regenerative methods,” Myint says. “The whole organic movement after 50 years is still just 1% of American acreage.” 

Some restaurants use produce and meats from sustainable local farmers and ranchers and follow other practices, but not all eateries can do that. 

The local Zero Foodprint roster also includes all five Boulder Subway locations owned by Tim Schiel.

“Some restaurant owners want to make a difference but they can’t shop at the farmer’s market, but they can send 1% of purchases to help local farmers plant cover crops, afford compost and transition from fertilizers,” Myint says. Among the recipients of the regenerative assistance is Longmont’s McCauley Farms. 

“This program lets individuals take real local action they can see,” he says.

To see the complete list of Zero Foodprint food businesses or to apply for the program, go to:

Local Food News: Grey Poupon Ice Cream

New York-based Van Leeuwen Ice Cream is opening a scoop shop at 1750 29th St., Boulder in August. The shops’ more out-there flavors have included Grey Poupon and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese ice creams. … La Marquesita is open at 1515 Main St., Longmont, serving sweet and savory crepes, ice cream and Mexican frozen desserts. … Scrumptious, the Longmont ice cream and candy shop, has reopened at 508 Main St. … Coming soon: Alpine Modern Cafe at 29th Street in Boulder; P.F. Chang’s To Go at 1100 Ken Pratt Blvd., Longmont

Words to Chew On

“I sometimes think the act of bringing food is one of the basic roots of all relationships.” —The Dalai Lama 

John Lehndorff hosts Radio Nibbles at 8:20 a.m. Thursdays on KGNU (88.5 FM,