A large part of water conservation is education, and the Long Beach Water Department, in partnership with the Long Beach Environmental Services Bureau, has put together a few creative ways of getting the word out.

Last Saturday, that meant the bi-annual Taste of Sustainability restaurant tour to showcase a few of Long Beach's environmentally-sustainable eateries.

"What we're trying to do is promote restaurants that are making the greatest efforts in helping the city reduce its waste, as well as engage with its residents," Erin Rowland, waste diversion and recycling officer at the Environmental Services Bureau, said. "By doing this we hope to create a very fun environment, but also one where people can learn about our programs."

About 50 people showed up at Long Beach Beer Lab to hop on the Big Red Bus — which is known for its boozy cruises around the city — to take a tour of four eateries. They were Padre (525 E. Broadway), The Harbor (130 S. Pine Ave.), The Ordinarie (210 The Promenade N.) and Long Beach Beer Lab (518 W. Willow St).

The restaurants were selected because they are each one of 61 area restaurants that have met all of the requirements for the water department's Certified Blue Restaurants (CBR) Program. 

To qualify, all restaurant owners have to do is contact the Water Department to evaluate the building's water flows. Based on the evaluation, sites are fitted with free aerators and water-saving spray valves, all installed by department staff.

"All an owner has to do is call us and we work out the rest," Rowland says. "It takes about 20 minutes of their time, and our team installs the equipment."

There's another layer to the tour as well.

The city voted to go foam free last year by approving the Polystyrene Food Packaging Ordinance — which means that restaurants will need to forgo styrofoam to-go containers and instead use compostable and recyclable containers. Three out of the four restaurants during Saturday's crawl have already gone completely "foam free," something that restaurants are not required to have completely implemented until Dec. 3.

In order to incentivize businesses to make the big switch sooner than later, the #FoamFreeLB initiative was launched. Restaurants that meet the requirements early can apply for recognition from the city, which includes a kit to advertise the business as Long Beach certified foam free.

More information about the #FoamFreeLB initiative is at longbeach.gov/lbrecycles/news/foamfreelb-kit.

But the tour isn't just about the message. It also was about the food.

For just $25, attendees were able to sample foods and specialty drinks from all participating restaurants, including grilled cheese and tomato soup from The Harbor and margaritas and yuca fries at Padre.

So far, Long Beach Beer Lab has gone above and beyond with their energy-saving efforts, Rowland said.

Aside from being both a Certified Blue Restaurant and completely styrofoam free, the brewery also partially powers its building with solar panels and minimizes food waste by composting.

"Long Beach Beer Lab is one of the most sustainable restaurants in our city," Rowland said. "And they're the perfect example of what we're trying to accomplish through our outreach."

To learn about the Long Beach Water Department Certified Blue Restaurants (CBR) Program, go to lbwater.org/blue.

Stephanie Stutzman can be reached at sstutzman@gazettes.com.

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