The Spotlight Ecokite features individuals or businesses that promote the eco-lifestyle in their community. If you’re think you or someone you know fits the bill, tell us about it!
Current Spotlight: The Noodle Box
The Noodle Box hails out of Victoria, British Columbia, a resultant from Jodi Mann and Nick Crooks. The two met when Jodi in Australia, where Nick worked as a Sous Chef and Jodi was a Kitchen Hand.
Eventually, the two discovered their shared passion for life, and consequently left together to continue to travel to South East Asia. There they realized their love for South East Asian cuisine and began to eat their way through the villages, storing all the information they needed in their taste buds.
Later, when they were in Canada, Jodi and Nick decided they were going to bring South East Asian cuisine to Victoria, fusing it with Canadian ideas.
In 2001, The Noodle Box opened, first from a hot dog cart. For two years, they dished out their delicacies, but issues with the health department is what led them to the idea of bringing it indoors.
Now a chain of restaurants, The Noodle Box is thriving – but there is more to it than meets the eye.
You see, The Noodle Box employs a recycling and composting program. Since 2004, they’ve been working alongside ReFuse, BFI, Sea to Sky Organics and Smithrite Disposal, as a part of an in-house recycling program.
Among their achievements and practices:
- Containers, chopsticks and napkins are biodegradable and turned into compost
- All food waste is composed
- All cardboard, paper, glass, and cans are recycled or composted
- Their paper products are 100% post-consumer product
- A 30% reduction in landfill waste is a result from their efforts thus far
We had the opportunity and pleasure to speak with Jodi herself, and query a collection of questions about The Noodle Box and their practices.
Ecoki: What make’s The Noodle Box unique from other restaurants?
Jodi: The Noodle Box is unique in many ways. Our style of service, which features a simple yet flexible menu, an upbeat atmosphere and the heart of the show, an open kitchen where you get to watch the cooks perform amazing wok-frying feats. What might not be so apparent is The Noodle Box’s commitment to it’s people, it’s community and the environment.
Ecoki: What’s your involvement in the company?
Jodi: I started the restaurant with my husband Nick 8 years ago from a street cart and in that time have done everything that was required; cooking, dishwashing, serving customers, laying the hardwood floors, painting the walls, hiring staff, creating systems etc. We have spent the last 2 years writing our operation manuals that will allow the restaurants to operate efficiently and up to standard while lessening their dependency on Nick and myself. We have also been working with Studio 7 designs to create a new website design company in Victoria, BC which has just been launched.
Ecoki: What made you/The Noodle Box want to go in the direction of recycling and composting?
Jodi: The biggest reason we wanted to work towards lessening our footprint is out of care of the environment and hating to see wasteful habits. Nick and I worked together at a restaurant in New Zealand about 10 years ago where were greatly inspired by the owners. They had an organic farm where they tried to grow most of the produce used in their restaurant, they also did things like grind their own flour, kept bees for honey and composted all food waste from the restaurant and put it back into their gardens. While we aren’t blessed with 5 acres of prime growing land, we do what we can and are always seeking to improve our practices.
Ecoki: Your website outlines the recycling procedures; other than on your website, how do customers know what to do with their Noodle Box?
Jodi: We have our recycling stations clearly labeled with signage and instructions, there are pamphlets at our front counters with instructions that people can read while they eat and our servers are usually quick to offer help when they see customers new to our recycling system.
Ecoki: Are there any other eco-friendly measures your noodle bar takes to stay sustainable?
Jodi: As our business is about 50-50 eat-in and takeaway, we offer the eat-in customer ceramic bowls instead of the white takeaway box, for those taking away we offer biodegradable bags as well as re-usable cloth bags and bamboo eating utensils opposed to plastic. One thing that we have been offering for years, that I still love and am very proud of, is our purified water on tap at front counter that customers are encouraged to use over purchasing bottled water. We also do things like donate our used deep-fryer oil to customers that convert it to bio-fuel. Also, our recycling stations were custom made from recycled fir, as is our hardwood flooring (at the Chinatown location) and the eating bars in all 3 locations are old growth fir that were once ceiling beams in a local school gymnasium.
Ecoki: How do you picture The Noodle Box in the future of sustainable businesses?
Jodi: We are very open minded and if we come across a way of doing things smarter, more efficient or eco friendly it’s been quite easy to implement it into our daily practice, not to mention our staff are super supportive of our efforts and are quick to adopt new systems. I don’t know if I would consider us “leaders” in sustainable business, restaurants have infamously large footprints, we are just trying to lessen ours and perhaps inspire people along the way to make changes wherever they can. Beer T-Shirts.
Ecoki: We know that ethical business is also focused on fair employee treatment. How are employees treated/honoured at the Noodle Box?
Jodi: We have a very strong family culture within our restaurants that we encourage and are very proud of. We have created an atmosphere of respect and open communication and have built these principles into each persons job description.
We want to see staff grow and learn new skills all the while building confidence in their abilities and allowing people to learn from their mistakes. We believe in promoting from the ground up (so to speak) and almost every manager has been a dishwasher before climbing up through the ranks and Asian Relationships.
Our restaurants are very physically demanding and we expect our staff to work to very high standards therefore if someone has made it onto the schedule, they deserve to be there and will be rewarded with above average hospitality wages (we have never paid minimum wage for any position), a free meal each shift and health benefits after 9 months of employment . We have recently created an incentive program that awards managers and outstanding staff for excellence and promotes things like high moral, strong work ethic and effective communication.
Ecoki: Are you active in the community, too? (Spreading the eco-word)?
Jodi: We are trying to practice what we preach and have recently moved into an old farm house with a yard that will allow us to become more and more self-sufficient. Our new yard has a peach tree, grape vines, kiwi vines, and black current bushes and this next summer/autumn I will be getting a crash course in canning and preserving. Next week we have 6 laying hens being delivered to their new coop that Nick and my brother just built. After that, once spring is more securely in place,I will be planting our vegetable garden and hopefully harvesting a bountiful crop come September.
Ecoki: Anything else you’d love to highlight about The Noodle Box?
Jodi: We have grown our business very cautiously and thoughtfully while remaining ethical and true to a few guiding philosophies since day one. It’s only been in the last 2 years that we learned the term values-based business and right away felt it epitomized what we were trying to achieve. While it’s not “traditional” business practice I do believe it’s becoming more and more common.
For more information on The Noodle Box or to plan your visit, check out their website .