The presence of foam to-go boxes around town shows that many restaurants aren't taking even minimal steps to green up. Yes, eco-friendly packaging, locally grown veggies, and naturally raised meats tend to cost more. But spots have proven the model can work, with customers willing to pay for what they believe is right.
Help by voting with your dollar, and support places that invest in making change as much as making money. You can seek them out with the free LocalFood CS app. And below, you'll find a short list of local leaders who've made significant efforts toward sustainability. Tweet us @csindependent with #SimpliCity if you know of anyone else deserving extra credit.
Adam's Mountain Café
Adam's (26 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, adamsmountain.com) commits to buying local or organic first, is around 75 percent GMO-free, and runs with a menu that's nearly three-quarters vegetarian. All seafood meets Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch List guidelines, and the café purchases from area entities such as Arkansas Valley Organic Growers (AVOG) and Austin Family Farms. Freshness and excellence reign.
Bingo Burger & Skirted Heifer
A lot of chains vie for attention with burgers that admittedly taste good, but include no nods toward sustainability. Two downtown spots that deserve your patronage instead are the Skirted Heifer (204 N. Tejon St., goo.gl/k2opIh) and Bingo Burger (132 N. Tejon St., bingoburger.com). Both serve grass-fed Colorado beef and make many other efforts, such as incorporating recycled materials into their sharp decors. Bingo also uses San Luis Valley potatoes and Pueblo chilies, and pours an impressive variety of Colorado beers.
Margarita at PineCreek
Look no further than the Margarita's hosting of the Colorado Farm & Art Market on growing-season Saturdays to see that this kitchen is tied to local food producers more tightly than anyone else in town. Locally procured items of course remain seasonal across the eclectic menus, but the Margarita (7350 Pine Creek Road, margaritaatpinecreek.com) emphasizes their use at lunch, brunch and dinner alike. Overall, the restaurant demonstrates beautifully how fine dining can be mindful at many turns.
Pizzeria Rustica & TAPAteria
Pizzeria Rustica (2527 W. Colorado Ave., pizzeriarustica.com) holds a rare four stars from the Green Restaurant Association, and nearby sister outfit TAPAteria (2607 W. Colorado Ave., tapateria.com) follows the same practices, though it hasn't been certified. Everything here matters, from low-flow sprayer heads to LED lighting, recycling, composting and buying local, where possible. Co-owner Dave Brackett has extended himself to make sure that your authentic Italian wood-oven pizza or Spanish tapas plates arrive as low-impact as possible.
Seeds Community Cafe
Not to mix social consciousness with earth-friendliness, but Seeds (109 E. Pikes Peak Ave., seedscommunitycafe.org) firstly serves the wider community with its "pay as you can afford" model. The cool part beyond that is wide sourcing of local items, from locally baked bread to organic produce from urban gardens and natural meat options. Offering modest portions, with seconds if you desire them, cuts down drastically on food waste — one of the wider industry's biggest problems.
Among other "green" eateries, you'll find: Ola Juice Bar (27 E. Kiowa St., olajuicebar.com), Nosh (121 S. Tejon St., nosh121.com), The Blue Star (1645 S. Tejon St., thebluestar.net), Garden of the Gods Gourmet (410 S. 26th St., godsgourmet.com), and eateries across The Broadmoor (1 Lake Ave., broadmoor.com).
Correction, July, 30, 2015
An earlier version of this article stated that Adam's Mountain Café is GMO-free. In fact, according to owner Farley McDonough, they are currently around 75 percent GMO-free with an ultimate goal of becoming 100 percent GMO-free.