White Dog Café
Climate Savvy Restaurant Served Up for Main Course
The White Dog Café in Philadelphia, described by Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream co-founder Ben Cohen as "food for the body and the spirit," is a remarkable place. With a four-part mission that includes serving customers, the community, each other, and the earth, the White Dog is much more than just a great restaurant; it's proof that social responsibility and profits can co-exist. Owner Judy Wicks describes the evolution of her business as "living your values." Over the restaurant's eighteen-year history, Judy has had to face up to the unpleasant truths of the commercial food industry and the negative environmental effects of factory farming. As her own consciousness has evolved, she has discovered and implemented innovative ways to use her business as a vehicle for creating change and raising awareness. Today, the White Dog Café is a booming business with over one hundred employees that also strengthens communities at home and abroad and positively influences its guests too.
The folks at the White Dog are particularly concerned about the harmful effects unsustainable farming practices can have on the global climate. Consequently, almost every tasty morsel you consume at the restaurant is seasonal and comes from a network of local, organic, family farmers. Through Community Energy, a Pennsylvania-based company that sells only new, renewable energy, forty-four percent of the White Dog's electricity is now generated by wind power. By fall of 2001, the White Dog will be completely powered by renewable energy. The White Dog Café is working with Community Energy to reduce its energy consumption too. Recognizing that it still creates some carbon emissions even with these efforts, the White Dog offsets these emissions by planting trees in Chiapas, Mexico, home of Mut Vitz, a cooperative of indigenous farmers of organic, shade grown coffee, which is, of course, available at the restaurant.
The White Dog Café takes its role as a business leader seriously. Judy Wicks represents the White Dog on the board of the Social Venture Network (SVN), a nonprofit network committed to building a just and sustainable world through business. One of SVNs recent prominent and timely accomplishments was a full-page ad that appeared in the New York Times in June of this year as an open letter to President Bush and Vice President Cheney. The letter, signed by over one hundred business leaders, urged the Administration to adopt a strong leadership role on the issue of global warming. As described in the letter, the signatories have themselves already taken steps to address climate change such as educating themselves and their networks about the issue, increasing energy efficiency in their businesses and in some cases, purchasing green power. The ad was made possible largely through Judy's indefatigable organizing drive.
Through the restaurant's Green Team, the employees can get in on the action too. It was this group that researched Pennsylvania's electricity suppliers to find the most environmentally friendly in the area. Most recently they completed an "eco-audit" on their supplies, equipment and work practices to discover areas where environmental improvements could be made. They've also planted trees with local school children, helped one school transform a paved lot into an organic garden, and led a recycling campaign among local businesses. These activities, as well as visits to local farms, have helped employees gain a greater understanding of the environment and how they can have a positive impact.
Visitors to the White Dog can engage in lively dialogue during regular Table Talks on such diverse social topics as the relationship between church and state and the connection between cancer and diet, but the White Dog's drive to educate and inspire doesn't stop with dessert. Each year, eager customers embark on guided Eco-Tours to learn first-hand about urban sprawl or the workings of local family farms. Through the International Sister Restaurant program, more adventurous customers can trek off to places like Cuba, Vietnam, Lithuania and Mexico to share cultural and culinary experiences and gain personal understanding about the lives of local people and how US foreign policies affect them.
Judy Wicks is driven by the perpetual question "how can we be agents of change?" The White Dog Café is a refreshing oasis of that idealism in action. From internal management systems to outreach at home and abroad, the White Dog Café truly embodies the spirit of "living your values."
For a virtual tour, visit www.whitedog.com. For a great meal and lively conversation, visit 3420 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, tel: 215-386-9224.
The Black Cat Gift Shop located next the White Dog Café. Offers "Whole World Products", gifts that support local and international communities.
Chefs Collaborative is a network of culinary professionals who promote sustainable cuisine by celebrating the joys of local, seasonal and artisanal foods. Collaborative members recognize the impact of food on the well being of communities and the integrity of the global environment
The Green Restaurant Association, founded in 1990, helps restaurants and its customers improve their environmental impact.