Local eatery a paragon of sustainability in downtown Grand Rapids

Though the organic food craze of the past decade may be dying down, it is taking on a new form and leading to more lasting and permanent change. You may have heard of some of these new movements taking root across the country: urban gardening in food deserts, the locatarian (sometimes known as locavore) lifestyle or perhaps just the increase in popularity of whole foods stores, farmer’s markets and vegan/vegetarian restaurants.

When I think of the local food movement and vegan/vegetarian eating in Grand Rapids, my mind automatically goes to Bartertown Diner. Surprisingly enough, it’s not really the delicious food that fuels my desire for a meal there, nor is it the fact that they use only local foods or the wonderful service and atmosphere they provide that reels me back in each time. It’s the driving desire and vision behind all of those factors and aspects, that are themselves by-products of this central vision.

So what do supporting local food, cooking vegan/vegetarian, buying used plates and crafting their own furnishings, composting food and paper waste, finding local artists to help create and share evocative and thought-provoking imagery, working as a collective in pay and say and connecting with other community events all have to do with each other? Sustainability, not merely in one aspect but as a way of life.

Bartertown owners believe that all business practices, not only the source of their food, is part of sustainability. Their idea of being sustainable is not only being “green” but being, as we at Calvin love to put it, good stewards of everything around them and in everything they do. In order to achieve this, they frequent thrift stores, find creative ways to reuse things that they stumble upon and happen to have and even used the old doors from the building to make fully functioning (and totally terrific) tables.

Not only does this mean that everything they buy must be sustainable, but it also means that everything they do should encourage and promote sustainability in the community. As such, they hold classes on vegan food preparation secrets and techniques and on ways for locals to be more sustainable in their own lifestyles and eating/spending habits.

Beyond bringing about social change in the community, they hope to also set an example and suggest a new way to run restaurants, with a fair and equal work environment. However, perhaps even more important to them than changing the restaurant world is providing the best dining experience possible so that their customers can look back fondly and remember having one of the best meals they’ve ever had.

I know that I for one have had one of my best meals ever there. I’ve enjoyed getting to know them and their vision. They’re out to change the restaurant world, to bring about positive lifestyles in Grand Rapids and to create wonderful memories by being sustainable through and through. Visit Bartertowngr.com for information on hours and location.