Good stewards Featured

8:42am EDT November 24, 2010
Elizabeth Lessner, CEO, Betty’s Family of Restaurants Elizabeth Lessner, CEO, Betty’s Family of Restaurants

As CEO of a restaurant group, Elizabeth Lessner was becoming increasingly alarmed at sheer amount of waste generated by her establishments.

“One of our core values is to leave our neighborhoods and communities better than we found them and in doing so, that means being good stewards of our environment,” says Lessner, CEO of Betty’s Family of Restaurants. “We knew it was important to take action so we hired a Sustainability Coordinator to help us address the obstacles that prevented us from going zero-waste (recycling and re-using everything we generate, creating byproducts instead of trash).”

As a result, Betty’s Family of Restaurants is on track to become the first restaurant group in Central Ohio to go “zero waste” by 2011.

Lessner was named one of 2010 Smart Leader honorees by Smart Business and Blue Technologies. We asked her how she overcomes challenges, innovates and gives back.

Give us an example of a business challenge you and/or your organization faced, as well as how you overcame it.

We hit a hurdle in terms of composting our organic and food waste. We partnered with our sustainability coordinator to form Eartha Limited, Central Ohio’s first compost hauler. Eartha Limited is still making its way through our state’s stringent regulatory agencies but we hope to debut the company by 2011.

In what ways are you an innovative leader, and how does your organization employ innovation to be on the leading edge?

It’s sad that something so basic as going green makes us an innovator, especially when it’s so easy. We hope to be the first restaurant group in Central Ohio to go zero waste by 2011. We work on a number of levels to reduce, reuse and recycle the byproducts we generate. One partnership we are particularly proud of is our relationship with a local company called Weisenbach Recycled Products. Our restaurants were having a difficult time finding a glass hauler to recycle our glass waste. We partnered with Weisenbach who makes gorgeous glass figures, plates and sculptures from our recycled glass. Most of the products you buy from Weisenbach were once wine, beer or liquor bottles.

How do you make a significant impact on the community and regional economy?

We work hard to buy local and support local as much as possible. We employ roughly 150 people at our restaurants and when our new recycling facility opens, we will be creating up to 150 more “green” jobs. We prefer local vendors and try to support the efforts in our neighborhood and community to patronize and support our local economy.

How to reach: Betty’s Family of Restaurants,

The Smart Leaders class of 2010

In August, 2010, Smart Business and Blue Technologies recognized 14 business leaders for their commitment to business excellence and the impact their organizations make on the regional community. Treated to a keynote address by TechColumbus CEO Ted Ford, these 14 leaders composed the honor roll: