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VOL. 128 | NO. 156 | Monday, August 12, 2013

Project Green Fork Celebrates Five Years

By Andy Meek

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Project Green Fork in recent days certified the 55th restaurant on a roster of eateries the organization has helped become more environmentally friendly.

That restaurant is The Corked Carrot, a craft wine bar and bistro Downtown at 314 S. Main St. And the organization’s founder, Margot McNeeley, is especially proud of that new certification – because of a happy coincidence.

Project Green Fork founder Margot McNeeley talks with Tsunami chef and owner Ben Smith. Project Green Fork is celebrating its fifth anniversary this month.

(Matt Timberlake)

Five is an important number for Project Green Fork at the moment, since the nonprofit’s 55th certification comes around the same time as Project Green Fork’s fifth birthday. This month marks exactly five years since McNeeley’s brainstorm gave birth to a venture that in 2008 got its official 501(c)(3) status.

On Aug. 28, Project Green Fork is marking the occasion with a bash at Felicia Suzanne’s Restaurant. Attendees can enjoy three small drinks and three small bites in the bar or on the patio for $25 per person, with all proceeds going toward Project Green Fork.

“We already had in the making an event at Felicia’s, which is she did this 11 months of giving,” McNeeley said. “One night per month, she’ll have a special menu, which is three drinks and three small plates, and all proceeds go toward the nonprofit she chose for the month. Since she’s a Project Green Fork Restaurant and on our board, she chose Project Green Fork. So we decided it would coincide with our birthday month and we could do a party and a fundraiser at the same time. So that’s what we’re doing for our birthday.”

Indeed, there’s much to celebrate. The impact of the organization’s work belies the fact it has a staff of just one – McNeeley, who has been supplemented by the help of interns through the years.

According to the venture, the average restaurant churns out 50,000 pounds of garbage a year, almost 95 percent of which could be recycled or composted. Project Green Fork was started because of that reality, and it supports a sustainable Memphis by helping restaurants reduce their environmental impact.

At the same time, the organization works hard to gin up plenty of attention and support for participating local restaurants. As a result of its work, Project Green Fork has helped recycle a little more than 1.1 million gallons of plastic, glass and aluminum; 500 metric tons of cardboard and paper; and almost 150,000 gallons of food waste.

Participating Project Green Fork restaurants include YoLo Frozen Yogurt, Huey’s and Cheffie’s Café, among others. The full list is available at projectgreenfork.org.

A few months ago, Project Green Fork successfully completed a Kickstarter campaign, crowd funding a project that’s resulted in new recycling containers in Cooper-Young.

“We, through a grant from the Office of Sustainability, were able to get those two new containers, and then the Kickstarter campaign to have the containers kind of match the look and vibe of Cooper-Young,” McNeeley said. “The Kickstarter is over, and we raised enough money to pay for the design and to pay UrbanArts to paint it. So we’re keeping it cleaner over there, and we’re publicizing it as a drop-off area for businesses and residents. That’s probably one of the biggest things we’ve done in the past year.”

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