Upgrade Our Take-Out Containers or Protect Business? San Diego Can Do Both

Laurie_CafeVirtuoso

By Phil Blair, Executive Officer at Manpower and Laurie Britton, Owner of Café Virtuoso

It’s no surprise that our daily routines as a café owner and an executive for one of San Diego’s largest employers are pretty different. However, the two of us – Laurie Britton of Café Virtuoso and Phil Blair of Manpower Staffing – stand together in our belief that great local leaders strive to do right by business owners and their customers. By limiting harmful single-use food containers in our restaurants, it is possible for San Diego’s City Council to support healthy business and a healthy community all at once.

With our combined experience — advising on successful business strategies, and transitioning a café to more sustainable products – we know how a well-planned move away from single-use plastics helps business owners keep profit margins healthy and customers happy.

The products in question are single-use plastics, especially those made of polystyrene foam. Polystyrene foam products include what we often call Styrofoam – commonly used to make the food containers you see in restaurants. There’s no question that these products are harmful to our coastline and our customers. The Surfrider Foundation’s San Diego Chapter reported that in 2017 alone, volunteers collected 12,575 pieces of polystyrene from San Diego County beaches. Polystyrene is made from styrene, a known animal carcinogen that was found “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” by the National Toxicology Program.

To combat these and other risks, the City of San Diego has committed to reaching “zero waste” by 2040. So, how will we get there? Our community has already learned that efforts to recycle polystyrene foam products such as Styrofoam are not the answer. It’s clear that in order to reach our goal by 2040, we must take action now.

Enter: The ordinance to limit certain single-use plastics, proposed by Councilmember Chris Ward. The proposed ordinance offers good news for small businesses looking to keep supply costs affordable while serving our hungry customers. Instead of simply banning single-use plastic products without options or recourse, the ordinance creates a pathway for restaurant owners to transition to better products with the support of the City, fellow businesses and our customers.

Under the ordinance, polystyrene foam products would be banned while plastic utensils and straws will be available to customers only upon request. The best part is that business owners would not have to navigate this change on their own. The ordinance requires that the City support businesses through the transition to more sustainable products. For example, San Diego’s Environmental Services Department will provide information on more cost-effective products. In addition, any small businesses that would experience financial hardship as a result of the ordinance may receive two-year waivers as they move incrementally toward better products. It is even possible to give customers a choice to pay an additional cost for the convenience of single-use products. This is especially helpful because owners like Laurie have noted that when given a choice, customers often opt for a sustainable option.

By working through this process to limit harmful products together, our restaurant community can move toward a more level playing field for us all. Because this ordinance means that all businesses must transition to more sustainable products eventually, those alternative products will gradually become the norm. We will be able to continue business as usual without any worries about competitors gaining some small advantage by using cheaper but harmful products.

We will both continue to join our voices with Councilmembers Ward and Bry, Business for Good, the Surfrider Foundation San DiegoSan Diego CoastkeeperClimate Action Campaign and many others in urging the City of San Diego to approve this ordinance as a roadmap to a healthier future for businesses and customers alike.

On October 15, we will be encouraging City Council to adopt this ordinance to support businesses as they transition to products that keep our community and environment healthy. We hope that every resident with a favorite San Diego coffee shop or taco spot will stand with us and add their name to Surfrider Foundation’s Fight The Foam petition at fightthefoam.org.

San Diego, the Welcoming City

by Juan Pablo Sanchez, Owner of Super Cocina

Creating “an inclusive economy in San Diego” has been a regional buzzword for the last couple of years. But what does that really mean for those of us who don’t spend their time in economic development think-tanks, government hallways or philanthropic board rooms?

Continue reading “San Diego, the Welcoming City”

In The New Economy, Everyone Is An Investor

by Alan Haghighi, owner of FruitCraft Fermentery & Distillery

There is something about the desire to get reacquainted with what it means to be human that drives the next generation of business owners we see today. We want our businesses to serve our clients’ needs while advocating social justice, a clean environment, and compassion for each other.

Most of all, we strive to return to a sense of community. A place where we know and trust one another and actually care about our shared fate.

But ironically, in order to bring these social enterprises into existence, business owners like me — who had little start-up capital — often have to turn to funding sources whose values couldn’t be further from our own. Continue reading “In The New Economy, Everyone Is An Investor”

Why Keeping Up Appearances Is The Only Way Forward

by Hasani James, Owner of Exclusive Window Cleaning

As business owners, we all wear it. We have to. That professional veil that projects our most competent, confident selves to the world. The thing that puts mandatory grins on our faces and keeps the high-fives coming despite dismal sales forecasts, sluggish growth, or near-empty bank accounts.

The perception that we have it all figured out is as crucial for our own sanity as it is for our clients’ tranquility and our employees’ motivation.

Continue reading “Why Keeping Up Appearances Is The Only Way Forward”

The business case for a ban on (certain) single-use plastics

by Mike Torti of C&M Motors, Inc.

Something amazing is brewing in San Diego, and not a new craft beer this time: our city officials are proposing a ban on certain single-use plastics that include expanded polystyrene food and beverage containers.  

Which means that we’re all likely to hear confusing thoughts about this topic in the weeks to come, especially from groups who’ll make it sound like a death sentence for businesses and consumers. Seeing as I’m both in business and spend the bulk of my free time chairing the San Diego chapter of Surfrider Foundation, I feel well positioned to provide this primer on why banning styrofoam plates and single-use plastic utensils is good for all of us in San Diego. Continue reading “The business case for a ban on (certain) single-use plastics”

When Marriage Isn’t Forever And Your Business Might Not Be, Either

by George Thornton, owner of The Homebrewer

The idea of starting your own business can be infectious. In fact, I often joke that entrepreneurism is a disease.

And one of the symptoms of this disease is the rosey lens through which we view our entrepreneurial partnerships. Continue reading “When Marriage Isn’t Forever And Your Business Might Not Be, Either”

Raising Businesses and Children

by Lauren Passero Brookes, Owner/Operator of Kensington Cafe, The Haven PizzeriaDEL SUR Mexican Cantina

I’m a woman, a business owner and a mother. That’s all you need to know about me in no particular order. And my story’s punch line is really an exercise in circular logic: Pregnancy turned me into a better business owner; being a better business owner made me a better mother.

Now let’s mix in a few more stereotypes and judgmental factors about my business acumen:

  • I opened a restaurant but I can’t cook.
  • I launched it at the height of the Great Recession.
  • I try to make everyone happy and dread upsetting anyone.
  • I opened a second restaurant when I started my family.
  • I opened a third restaurant with a toddler and newborn.

Continue reading “Raising Businesses and Children”

Figuring out Council Policy 900-12

By: Vilavanh Sanginthirath, CEO of Innovations City

After 17 years, small business owners are working directly with the City to create the right kinds of supports to help us grow. Spoiler alert: it’s how the City can invest $57,000 in small businesses instead of a large grocery chain, so keep reading…

Engaged. Excited. Empowered.

Those were some of my emotions as I was listening to each speaker and waiting for my turn to make public comments at the last City Council meeting on this topic. Or, for the fact-checkers out there, the city council’s Economic Development and Intergovernmental Relations committee – ED&IR, for those in the know.

Continue reading “Figuring out Council Policy 900-12”

Going Against the Grain

By: Jamie Hampton, CEO of Mixte Communications

The story of Mixte’s beginning involves me on a bike at an intersection having an existential crisis about cars on roads versus bikes on roads.

There’s more to Mixte’s beginning, a darker side that I don’t acknowledge often, but in today’s world of #metoo and women’s marches, I find new meaning in the deeper story. Continue reading “Going Against the Grain”