Green chile

Durango has no shortage of businesses doing the right things when it comes to better matching resources with needs and going easy on the planet, but Zia Taqueria, the winner last week of the 2013 Green Business Leadership Award, operates with an unusually imaginative list of innovative and common-sense components.

There is not much that Zia Tacqueria does not do.

From the Herald’s story last week, let us start with the out-of-the-ordinary. Does an employee want (or need) to use a bicycle rather than a car to get to work? Zia’s owner Tim Turner buys two or three a year for them, he said. Since the restaurant’s inception, it has purchased about 25. Does a grower of the ingredients Zia needs for tamales, tacos and burritos want to use a greenhouse to get an earlier start on the growing season and to avoid its extremes? Turner has purchased two. The two growers reimburse him by charging reduced rates for their greenhouse-grown products.

Then, at the end of the day, the restaurant’s scraps are fed to chickens.

In the works, Turner says, is a cold-storage facility that will extend the season for serving locally grown produce.

Now for what can probably be termed the more common energy alternatives but nevertheless require investments: Zia’s first location, on north Main Avenue and 31st Street, uses a solar-heated water system; its new south location, on the frontage road on the east side of U.S. 160/550, opposite the Centennial Center, includes a 10-kilowatt photovoltaic solar panel.

And, of course, a great deal of ingredients for its menu items comes from local or nearby providers: Twin Buttes Gardens, Mountain Roots Produce, Sunnyside Meats, Adobe Milling and East Pines Ranch.

For a few years, the Green Business Leadership Award was part of the annual Durango Chamber of Commerce’s awards night, which was a couple of weeks ago. Now, the award is announced at a closely timed regular meeting of the Green Business Roundtable. While it has a large and enthusiastic membership, it serves a narrower crowd than does the Chamber. Thus, partly, this attention to Zia Taqueria on the Herald’s opinion page.

A large portion of energy conservation is certainly about building materials, window insulation and electronic controls on the thermostat. But, on the fringes, is a multitude of small steps, some of them unconventional and perhaps quirky that can be put in place to nibble away at the amount of fossil fuels mankind uses and to better match local demands with local resources. Up-front capital as an investment with a long-term view can be an important part of that.

Congratulations to Tim Turner and Zia Tacqueria for not seeing boundaries. Now, parking is limited at the north Main Avenue parking lot at noon. A complimentary drink for customers who arrive by bicycle?

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