Not to start on a negative note, but the proliferation of foam to-go boxes around town alone shows that many restaurants aren't even taking minimal steps to green up.
Yes, we know there's often an increased cost for more eco-friendly packaging, or locally grown veggies, or naturally raised meats. But spots have proven that it can be done, and enough customers are willing to pay a little more for what they believe is right.
In truth, there should be no separating your morals from your mealtime, but the vast majority of us look the other way when it comes to saving a buck and choosing conventional items that contribute to everything from water pollution and deforestation to inhumane ranching practices. Vegetarians and vegans would of course take that many steps further, but that's a digression.
The point is, in this era — when a National Renewable Energy Laboratory ambassador can deliver a local speech partly titled "Climate Change is Real," and yet some City Council candidates promote themselves as deniers — we have a long way to go.
One simple way to help is to vote with your dollar, and support places that invest in making change as much as making money. You can seek them out with the new, free LocalFood CS app for your smartphone. And below, you'll find a short list of local leaders who've gone beyond sourcing a single product or two and calling it good.
Adam's Mountain Café
Adam's (26 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, adamsmountain.com) commits to buying local or organic first, 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 chiles, 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. 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).