He remembers noticing the magazine covers and media buzz about global warming and climate change around him and thought, “let me find out if I can anticipate a trend somehow.”
And so Duarte positioned himself to be in the forefront of the sustainability trend commonly referred to as ‘going green.’ His first step was to power his truck with vegetable oil so he could stop paying for grease removal and transfer the waste to energy- saving money and getting free fuel in return. From there Duarte tried several energy-saving practices and eventually pioneered techniques of his own in conjunction with the utility company to save energy and make his appliances more efficient.
In those early efforts Duarte saw how being more efficient translated into savings and ultimately a lower carbon footprint, which means his restaurant reduced its overall greenhouse gas emissions. But the more he investigated environmental best practices, the more he realized how he was only scratching the surface of what could, and in his words, "should," be done. Now after years of research and attending seminars on sustainability, both as a researcher and guest lecturer, he sees things in a new light.
“Now we are looking at sustainability as a whole engine,” he explains. “We look at the social aspect, the economic aspect and the environmental aspect.”
The “social aspect” refers to the impact on human life in terms of labor conditions for the workers who harvest his supplies. When possible, Duarte and his staff travel to the source of these supplies. They visit local farms for seasonal produce, travel to Sicilian vineyards for organic wine, and are connected with a network of local fisherman for sustainable and fair-trade seafood. That network is called Trace & Trust, which is an organization that vets its member food producers and distributors. Duarte is helping the organization use technology to track fish from local waters to the dinner plate. He envisions technology that not only insures sustainability and fair-trade, but allows his customer to know the food source and the “story” of the people behind that food.
Self-described a “geek chef,” Duarte has no plans to rest on his laurels. He says he is seeking to optimize Taranta’s eco-friendliness, but also to teach what he’s learned to others. His dream is to become a university professor who teaches sustainable restaurant operations.
If he succeeds, he’ll rework the old proverb by not only teaching a man how to fish, but also how to do so sustainably.
This article is being published under an arrangement between the Boston Globe and Emerson College.