GUILLERMO DEL PALACIO
Updated Tuesday, 4May2021-01: 08
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The commitment to a sustainable way of doing things is also beginning to be valued in the hospitality sector, which is beginning to flavor its dishes with a new green spice, and for prestigious awards, which increasingly take into account the impact on the environment when awarding restaurants. Sustainability does not begin with the plate, the stove or even the kitchen: the measures can be taken from the moment the shopping list is made or, going even further, with the very conception of the restaurant. Thus, at the beginning of April,
, from Biscayan
, added a Repsol Sustainable Sun to its three Michelin stars, whose galaxy has also included green stars for years, which have already awarded both the restaurant and the chef.
"It is something that goes beyond a sustainable kitchen", sums up Atxa. His path, he explains by phone, began around 2006, when they focused their interest "on where we bought, what we bought, who we bought it from and what we put on the plate." "We gave tremendous importance to content," he says, "but after a while, I begin to reflect a little on the continent itself as well and on the needs that one is encountering, but as an individual on his own environment rather than as cook or businessman ".
This moment coincided in time with the transfer of his restaurant, so he decided to make it as sustainable as possible. The result is a place that uses 18 perforations to take advantage of geothermal energy or photovoltaic panels, but that also recycles rainwater, used recycled materials in its construction and even has a seed bank with "more than 400 indigenous seeds that were about to disappear. "
Precisely these seeds serve to give the best example of Atxa's way of seeing things: each of its business cards - in which even the least impactful typeface has been used - can be planted, as it contains some of these seeds. , so it helps to conserve these plants. "It may seem stupid, small or nerdy, but it speaks very well of the times in which we live and the importance that small gestures have for us," he shares before citing other projects, such as one to recover the oil they use. to create handmade soaps.
"There are an infinity of small projects that in the end they add up and make a small mountain", he explains.
The world of food, he acknowledges, has a certain weight in climate change, so they have decided "to try to spread this illusion" and to raise awareness about the environmental impact, but not only to colleagues: "we must understand that each of us at home we are a small restaurant ".
We all have a capacity, in that small restaurant called home, to be able to create a transformative element around sustainability. "
There are several who have collected this witness.
The Saddle restaurant, for example, has also opted for geothermal energy, with the added complication of doing small surveys in the center of Madrid.
"We did more than 60 punctures at a depth of 160 meters in the center of Colón, in front of the Ministry of the Interior", presumes Haryán Rodríguez, CEO and one of the owners of the establishment.
"It is not a posture, but it has a reason for being: we pay 40% less light as a consequence of the thermal jump", he explains.
This has earned it, in addition to a Michelin star, a LEED Gold certificate, something that not even Azurmendi has achieved at the moment in Spain (although it can boast a LEED Silver).
The geothermal energy used by restaurants such as Saddle or Atxa consists of drilling the ground to get hot water.
"It starts from the basis that you make some punctures on the ground, you go down to 170-180 meters and there the temperature is always around 16 or 17 degrees," explains Haryán Rodríguez.
"When you have a heating system that you have to turn on when you enter the house and that house is at six degrees, the thermal jump from six to 22 is consumption," he continues.
However, when the water rises to about 17 degrees, the thermal jump is less and so is the consumption.
Like Azurmendi, Saddle resorts to the zero kilometer product. "You are implementing these issues at the hardware level, in the restaurant's own installation; then a gastronomic proposal that accompanies these concepts has to come," he summarizes. "And we do not say it anywhere because we understand that the client perceives it by the mere fact of the products that we present."
But, according to Rodríguez - who first approached sustainability because he is dedicated to real estate development - it is not only about reducing costs or saving money: "it is a matter of principle." "It is difficult to understand not assessing certain issues," he laments. "It is difficult to understand buying something if you know that 20 animals have been killed [to produce it]." And, in addition, he believes that it is something that the client values, especially after everything that happened this year. "What has happened to us is going to stay in our retina for a few years and it is going to be a very important added value."
"It is something that we demand as actors in the world of hospitality, but that our clients also demand of us", agrees Atxa.
"That is the way to go: to normalize and value those products, those ways of doing that are fair with our environment, our planet, our ecosystem and our society."
With the same idea, but -in a way- on the other side of the hospitality industry is David Ramos, CEO of Klimer.
His company is dedicated to both the
and the distribution sector (they sell the containers in which food arrives at home from restaurants), but he applies these precepts to both worlds.
"If I sold plastic, I would earn more money because it sells itself," acknowledges Ramos.
But he prefers not to.
After a few beginnings in which the shipments were made of plastic "because there was nothing else", a few years ago they began to test with containers and containers made of bamboo, wood or sugar cane. And so until today, where plastic only appears in their catalog where it is essential (due to temperature, for example) and even in that case they resort to RPET, a recycled solution. Even the shipments they make as a distributor dispense with polluting materials: "we pack in cardboard, the seal is made of paper and we do not use plastic, but a machine that produces corrugated cardboard".
"We have managed to instill a little all this, which has cost us," he admits: "at the beginning they told you that you were a carero".
Two years ago, coinciding with a greater interest in sustainability, "there was a flurry of requests for information, estimates, samples ... And the next day they made you an order for plastic: it was a price issue."
In this case, Ramos believes that the awareness of end customers has helped, which has meant a kind of forced awareness of companies.
"In the end, customers are not aware of sustainability, but they are forced to buy cardboard or biodegradable packaging for an image issue," says the manager.
"I have clients that if they put a photo on Instagram with its plastic container they gave them a shoe that you don't see."
Despite this, he believes that there is still a long way to go: "we are on the right track, but much awareness is lacking."
The pandemic was a small step backwards -sometimes, inevitable: they worked with companies and food banks to distribute food and in that case they had to throw away what they had-, "but today we are already in the wave again" .
"In the end we all want to go to a forest and keep it clean."
One of the keys that everyone agrees on is the importance of awareness at all levels. "Sometimes we have to make an effort to first raise awareness as adults and then transmit all this to the new generations in schools and teach them that there is a fairer way of being able to feed ourselves," explains Atxa. "And not only to feed ourselves: to buy, to cook, to make better use of disposable organic material," he adds.
"In the end, it is not enough that they offer me more sustainable and healthier products in the best corner of a supermarket, because if I do not have a real conscience I will continue to misuse, to continue buying badly, not helping my own planet ", keep going. And he gives tobacco as an example: "They have already explained to us that smoking is bad, they have put us in the way of buying tobacco and we continue to smoke."
What Atxa is clear about is that you don't have to dedicate yourself to haute cuisine to take the plunge.
As he is also clear that he is not discovering something new: "when you talk to the veterans of the circular economy restaurant they say 'what are you telling me? If I have always bought the pastor next to me, at the I shop here and I'll bring her kitchen pants so she can sew them on my upstairs neighbor. '
They, he reasons, "already have it in their DNA."
The Azurmendi restaurant, in Larrabetzu.
"Now it is us, those of the culture of what I have seen on a page and I want it to reach me in 24 hours, the ones who have to consider some things," says Atxa. "That I do not want to go to the village to live without electricity and make a bonfire every night to cook; that seems to me a delay and in nothing sustainable and progressive," he points out. "But it is true that we have to become aware of the speed at which we are living and how we are doing things."
In this sense, the chef has high hopes for the new generations: "I believe that the new generations (despite everything that is said, which seem to be the culprits even of killing Kennedy) as a whole are people better prepared than us, they are people more aware than us, with another vision, who have other tastes, who have a different way of looking at life ". "There has not been a single generation in the history of the human being that has not been better than the previous ones."
So now, after -or, rather, during- a pandemic that has altered everything, Atxa is committed to raising awareness, reasoning and breathing.
"We live in such a hectic way that we have forgotten how, what and why we are doing," he argues.
"For me it is important that we breathe for a second, think and act later: sometimes you run more thinking a little where the road is going than walking aimlessly."
- Why are small acts so important?
- We all have co-responsibility and we all have the opportunity to straighten this out.
And we have to believe.
But you have to really believe.
You don't have to put on a pin and count;
must be done.
We have to be doers, to a greater or lesser extent.
If here it is not about who does more or who does less: it is about that we all have to join together and we have to do it, because we are risking everyone's heritage, which is our planet.
The only and unrepeatable.
Because if there is no planet there is nothing else.
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