Pita Jungle's story:
Bassel Osmani, Nelly Kohsok, and Fouad Khodr founded Pita Jungle, a fast-casual restaurant chain that offers healthy options, in 1994. The company has grown from three employees at launch to more than 600 workers at 13 locations in the southwestern United States. Most restaurant operations are known for producing tremendous amounts of waste and using large amounts of energy, but Pita Jungle's founders have managed to reduce the environmental impact of their restaurants by creating and executing a sustainability plan.
What led you to implement a sustainability plan?
The reasons to implement a sustainability plan are twofold. 1) Ethical: it is the right and responsible thing to do. 2) Customer satisfaction: our customers appreciate it, and as a result of that appreciation, engaging in sustainability efforts rewards us with positive branding and marketing benefits. These measures are taken with a strong emphasis on trying to decouple our economic growth from environmental degradation related to our restaurants.
What sustainability initiative did you implement?
Carbon offsets. Pita jungle realizes that all the measures mentioned so far do not suffice to wipe off its carbon footprint. For that reason, the company has opted to purchase carbon credits. Carbon offsets through carbon credit purchases is a viable mean to be environmentally responsible that is still affordable and fits with our business model. The credits are bought through a broker from the Chicago Climate Exchange. For the current year and through March 22, 2012 pita jungle has bought enough credits to offset the emissions of 949 metric tons of CO2e. The credits purchased will benefit the following projects: Brazil forestry, Montana Agricultural soil, India Energy Efficiency, India Renewable Energy, and Northern California Redwood.
How else do you remain sustainable?
Pita Jungle has been moving away from foam and other non-recyclable products. Our cooking oils are captured and recycled for other uses. Our menu was designed with numerous items that require minimum or no cooking time; processing food is virtually not existent or kept to a minimum. We pushed for the allocation of recyclable trash bins, a concept although ubiquitous at the residential level, is virtually unheard of in commercial settings.
Did your employees have a difficult time with these changes?
Because of our company culture, we attract employees that are passionate about concepts of sustainability and environment preservation. In more than a few instances Pita Jungle adopted friendlier environment procedures because of employee’s suggestions and efforts. Our employees are very enthusiastic about Pita Jungles involvements to enhance sustainability and are quite frankly, along with our customers, instrumental to the direction and actions we have taken.
What future initiatives do you plan to implement?
We are strongly aware of the importance of sourcing locally, whether for food or other materials. Local sourcing however poses a lot of challenges, from availability to cost; it is a goal that we will strive for and are hopeful that in the future options that are viable logistically and economically will present themselves. For the foreseeable future we will maintain our policies as far as promoting a low environment impact diet, attempt at using recyclable materials, trash recycle and carbon credit offsets. As greener technologies start entering the realm of what is economically feasible, we hope to be able to make use of such technologies, thus coming closer to fully fulfilling the goal of being sustainable.
Creating a sustainability plan that is unique to your business is not as difficult as you think. FOX Business profiles entrepreneurs who took a less common path toward sustainability and yielded rewarding results.