I suspect you will recognize the names of Alex and Danielle Amarotico whose visionary leadership guided Standing Stone Brewing Company up until a couple of years ago. Their efforts yielded numerous awards and accolades around the state for sustainability during the last decade. They have branched out on their own and renovated a really cool building in downtown Medford which is an exciting new restaurant and future brewery called Common Block Brewing. It is across the street from Pear Blossom Park at The Commons.
Being efficient with resources is just one of Common Block’s attributes, alongside several other initiatives that have inspired today’s WasteNot Champion article. The historic Monarch building was built in 1947 and has housed several car dealerships, as well as a seed and feed store. The new wooden stairway leading to a special dining area upstairs is re-purposed wood from a 100-year-old brewery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The type of wood, which was alive 500 years ago, is called Heart Pine and is now extinct or nearly so in the wild.
During the 18-month renovation, Alex got certified as a contractor and welder and did a substantial amount of the construction and fabricating necessary to create a restaurant from scratch equipped with all the cooking, ventilating, heating and cooling for the building. One of the features of the restaurant that I hope will become the “new normal” is that all the beverages are on tap (except for cocktails). This includes soda, hard cider, beer, wine and sparkling wine.
Of course, the first three items are not unusual to have on tap, but wine and sparkling wine are uncommon. What this means for waste prevention is significant. If the majority of your drinks are coming out of taps into washable cups, that leaves zero plastic and glass bottles to recycle. It also requires less storage space than what would be needed for those smelly sticky containers. In the last year Common Block has avoided 220 wine bottles each month. Annually, this amount weighs in at 1.5 tons. This savings does not include the other resources typically used in bottling, such as corks, foil, paper label printing, storage space and labor that was avoided.
Alex and Danielle believe in creating a culture with staff and community that promotes greater awareness of the impacts of daily behavior and business practices. Their philosophy is about “being the change they wish to see in the world” (Ghandi). Danielle and Alex have invested in their employees by creating positive and supportive conditions for people to thrive. They believe that promoting good health is good business for employees and the community. This includes exercising together, sponsoring local races, sponsoring employee entry into races, providing shift meals each day that allow employees to eat the same food as customers. This also ensures that employees have an intimate knowledge of the food they serve. And if employees wish to bring their leftover meals home, they do so with their own reusable containers!
Another WasteNot effort is a pilot program that diverts pre-consumer produce trimmings and paper towels from going to the landfill. Instead, this “resource” goes to a local farmer. If this pilot is successful, the program could expand to include all food scraps from the restaurant, including what is left on the customer’s plate.
In the near future, Common Block will increase the presence of local growers on the menu. It currently sources ingredients and beverages from a handful of Rogue Valley farms and producers. Danielle has a new program in the works that supports employee alternative transportation. Depending on employee feedback, this may include bus passes, an organized carpool system, or an employee bike program, similar to the one she initiated at Standing Stone some years back.
I have shared only a few of the impressive attributes of this new restaurant. As if these were not enough, since it is a place to fill your belly, the food is great! Each of the dining areas integrate metal, wood, glass block and curvatures that create a look and dining experience that is anything but common. In fact, Common Block Brewing is an uncommonly unique and delightful place that practices and achieves ‘wasting less’ while offering so much more.
Risa Buck has served on the Ashland Conservation Commission and in waste prevention education for more than a decade. You may reach her through firstname.lastname@example.org. Find past WasteNot columns online at bit.ly/rbwastenot.