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"It is a way for us to make a statement, to show how small measures can have a big impact," says Dan McGowan, president of Big Bowl who is developing eco-friendly initiatives for Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises (LEYE).
McGowan was spurred to take bottled water off the menu after learning about the environmental impact of the industry – from the enormous amount of energy expended to transport palettes of water across highways and oceans (Tau, the water Big Bowl previously served, is bottled in Britain) to the waste the bottles create. Some 38 billion water bottles are pitched into landfills each year.
"When you think of water in environmental terms, you realize how wasteful bottled water is when perfectly good water comes from the tap," says McGowan.
The move, he says, is in line with Big Bowl's commitment to the environment and the community.
Since Big Bowl returned to the ownership of LEYE, the restaurant has gone green, embracing sustainability by purchasing local and seasonal produce, heirloom pork and antibiotic-free chicken from family farms, responsibly fished seafood and direct trade coffee. Big Bowl's efforts extend beyond the kitchen with bamboo waiter uniforms, recycled paper products and aquatic-friendly cleaning products.
Sales from bottled water are about $25,000 a year, which McGowan acknowledges is not a huge sum compared to purchases of Big Bowl's ginger ale made on premise with sugar cane and fresh ginger root or other signature beverages.
"Taking bottled water off the menu starts a conversation with the diner," he says. "This can lead to understanding that choosing bottled water over tap has an environmental impact that few of us ever think about."