Story by Becky Speere
Sandwiched in the online menu between the Buffalo Cauliflower Wrap and the Butternut Squash Alfredo are the words of Moku Roots’ owners Alexa Caskey (left) and Erica Gale (right), who have adopted a zero-waste stance at their Lahaina restaurant: Plates and salads can be taken to-go in a reusable Moku Roots tin for a fully refundable $10 deposit or opt to bring your own container. In the two years it’s been open, the staff at this vegan award-winner have wrapped takeout orders and leftovers in beautiful ti leaf bundles snugly secured with banana bark “string.” At a recent five-course fundraiser dinner for school gardens’ champion Grow Some Good, seat placement “cards” were written on ti leaves.
“From the very beginning,” says Alexa, “Erica and I knew that we wanted to create a business that didn’t contribute to the ever-growing waste problems on our small island. When we looked into packaging for take-out, we knew there were better alternatives to Styrofoam and plastic. Visiting distant places like Bali and Thailand gave us some great ideas for using banana and ti leaves. It was an organic choice to be waste-free.”
“Another outcome of our packaging is supporting ti leaf farmers on the island,” adds Erica. “It may seem like a small, unimportant move, but every dollar counts to farmers who work hard on their land to give us produce and ti. Another point to make is that the money stays on our island. By investing in local agriculture, we know it is the right thing to do.” In the long haul, diverting tons of organic food waste from Moku Roots’s kitchen into compost will be contributing to building good soil and aligning the restaurant directly with farmers. It’s proven to be a rich circle of life indeed.