Wok This Way To a Better Future
Wok This Way is a vegan Asian-inspired food truck dedicated to doing what’s good for people and the planet. We work to empower special needs individuals through employment and make a change.
The food truck was designed to be sustainable from the start. It all began when Kristine Mill’s nephew, Jake, was born with down syndrome. Jake became quite the chef and the two of them started doing pop-up restaurants all over the Phoenix area. Jake inspired Kris to start Wok This Way, and now, 16-year-old Jake is both a cook and co-owner. The pair strive for sustainable consumption and production to combat climate change and create a better future for us all.
Why We Went “Green”
Modern food systems continue to have a negative impact on the environment, contributing large amounts of waste and food waste. They’re also major consumers of energy, fossil fuels, and water. When Kris learned this during the initial development of the truck, she knew Wok This Way needed to do better.
With no pre-existing “green” food truck to look up to, it was clear we needed help.
Collaboration has played a large role in our journey. Wok This Way joined the Green Restaurant Association’s (GRA) program to develop our business. We have also worked with Local First Arizona’s sustainability program. The latter’s SCALE UP program allowed us to learn alongside other sustainable businesses. It gave us an opportunity to share our ideas and develop our current initiatives. With these organizations' help, we’ve already implemented many strategies.
Recycling & Composting
We cut our waste through service composting, biodegradable packaging and utensils, and recycling. Waste generation has negative impacts on the environment and human health. Composting and recycling our materials can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and health hazards.
We developed a vegan menu to promote cutting down on meat. Meat consumption can raise dietary GHG emissions, adding to the greenhouse effect. The lower GHG emissions seen in vegan and vegetarian diets, make meatless meals a more sustainable option.
The truck will begin to run on fuel from biodiesel centers. This lowers the GHG emissions and particulate matter (PM) found with standard diesel. Biodiesel is a non-toxic and sustainable alternative.
We’ve been recognized by the city of Phoenix as a Platinum-green business leader. We're also recognized as a zero waste business and have a few green certifications. We’re grateful for these and the opportunity to show customers that we’re serious about making a change.
Our efforts have been rewarding to the environment, customers, and ourselves. Many customers tell us they’re choosing more plant-based foods. And promoting sustainable choices to others was always a goal of ours. Now we inspire not only customers, but other businesses as well. To us, the real reward is knowing this work fights for a better future.
We’ve made great progress on our path to sustainable consumption and production, but the journey isn’t over. At least 40 states are expecting water shortages, and modern food systems use about 30% of available energy. Our next steps will focus on these issues. The food truck's electricity and heating will come from a rooftop solar panel and rechargeable battery pack. If needed, a generator with compressed natural gas can provide back-up power. By using renewable energy, we can lower GHG emissions, create jobs, and save on energy costs. We even estimated that using solar and battery power would reduce our energy bills by about 60%.
Improving our water-use efficiency will also be a priority. Water used for irrigation accounts for almost 65% of the world’s freshwater. This level of water-use can contribute to water scarcity. We aim to recycle 100% of the truck’s water by collecting greywater. Greywater is collected separate from sewage flow. By providing the community with greywater for irrigation, we can conserve potable water and lower costs for city water customers. We estimated that we’ll save about 40 gallons of water per event. That's more than 4,000 gallons saved each truck season!
Tips and Insights
There are many reasons to develop a sustainable restaurant and many ways to do it. Here are a few simple tips that helped us on our path to being green:
It all starts with doing your research. As you learn more about the food industry and its impact, you recognize simple ways to make change. It gives you an opportunity to decide how sustainability fits into your business.
2. Inclusive Hiring and Equal Pay
This can be one of the easiest ways to help. It’s in your control and can make a big difference in people’s lives. By creating and promoting an inclusive workforce, you can create a positive impact. Including sustainable economic growth, reducing inequities, and decent work for all. It can also improve your staff’s interest and dedication to your sustainability efforts.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Collaborating with the community and other businesses is a great way to learn and grow. There are many organizations, like the GRA, that can help your business. They provide consultations, support, and individualized help. Some even offer free tools to estimate your current impact and give suggestions.
We hope you’ll join us on our path to a better future for people and the planet!