The best leaders lead by example.
We often talk about our chefs as stewards of the food system, educating us about nose-to-tail dining or our impact on local food systems. But you don’t have to be a chef to enact change within your communities. As customers we have the power to speak with our dollars, supporting those restaurants that promote sustainability in everything from sourcing to disposable containers.
Take The Rayback Collective, Boulder, Colorado’s first food park. Partnering with more than 60 different local businesses and food trucks, The Rayback is a backyard party that you’re invited to—seven days a week. “It’s been great to provide the trucks a consistent platform,” says Hank Grant, Co-Founder and President of The Rayback Collective, and with a packed house nearly every night of the week (yes, Mondays too!), Boulder’s environmentally conscious clientele have been influencing food trucks with their disposable take away options, “More trucks are using compostables while they’re here.”
In today’s world, customers recognize eco-friendly options and even expect it when dining out—no matter if they’re in a fine dining restaurant, an outdoor event, or eating from a food truck. In fact, trucks fairly new to The Rayback rotation have recently made the switch from traditional styrofoam containers to compostable and eco-friendly options, which has so far jived well with customers, “You can see [the appreciation] on the faces of the customers,” adds Shea Brazil, Director of Events at The Rayback Collective.
A Collective Family
The Rayback Collective calls the space formerly occupied Rayback Plumbing Supply as home. Owned by World War 2 Honorably Discharged veteran Marion Rayback for 60 years, Rayback Plumbing responded to service calls and new construction projects before specializing in the sale of used and new plumbing supplies. A beloved member of the Boulder community, Rayback also actively donated through programs to help Boulder Seniors and Habitat for Humanity.
With close proximity to bike paths, the old site of Rayback Plumbing seemed like the perfect fit for the new concept, which was shaping up to be much more than just the seasonal food park initially envisioned. Plans evolved to include an indoor/outdoor event space, a bar, stage and much more says Grant,“Events drive involvement, and are the heartbeat of the community.” But bringing this new gathering place to Boulder wasn’t without its challenges. Navigating city permits and rallying influential people to rally behind the idea was key to getting it off the ground. After a substantial ground-up development plan that restored the building and brought everything up to code, The Rayback Collective opened its doors in July of 2016.
Honoring its roots, the aptly named Rayback Collective serves its community through their passion of food, drink, music and play. “Since the beginning it’s been about preserving the Rayback legacy of community,” says Grant, “We’ve kept in close contact with the Rayback family.”
Steps in the Green Direction
The Rayback has always supported eco-friendly goals, recently installing more bike racks to further promote alternative methods of transportation. And after just one year into its run, The Rayback is already talking zero waste, “We’d like to go zero waste in 2018,” says Grant, who is working closely with PACE (Partners for A Clean Environment) in Boulder and EcoCycle. The Rayback is currently identifying ways to divert waste, including landfill waste, water waste, energy waste and much more.
And what about getting partners on board? The Rayback team anticipates that it’ll be a learning process together.
While some food truck operators have actively made the transition to compostable disposables after just a few months at The Rayback, some trucks decided on that path early on. “I love compostables,” says Executive Chef Jaime Martinez of the Two Hands Mobile Kitchen, They’ve come a long way, and the impact on the environment is important. I want my kids, and their kids, to still have a planet.”
Indeed for Farm and Smoke, a catering business which also operates a food truck, supporting local farms and engaging in eco-friendly practices has been its M.O. since the beginning. Featuring a scratch-made menu, restaurant veterans (and brothers!) Matt and Alex Wallace are classically French-trained chefs who like their menu to reflect the area’s natural seasonality, “It really puts a smile on your face to see people’s faces light up when you say something like ‘Palisade peaches’.”
At the heart of its mission is community, and the team at The Rayback hopes to work closely with its current and new partners to achieve sustainability goals together.
The Rayback Collective is open most days from 11AM – 10pm, with hours differing slightly on weekends. For more about The Rayback, visit therayback.com.