Tackling Sustainability Through Food: How a Burlington Restaurant is Making a Difference

This post was written by Margaret Arzon, SEMBA ’17

In SEMBA, we are encouraged to connect and learn from other social entrepreneurs that are currently driving business to create a social and environmental good. As part of an assignment for our Entrepreneurial Leadership and Mindset class with Dita Sharma, my classmate Julie Allwarden and I sat down with the owner of Pingala restaurant, Trevor Sullivan, to talk about what inspired his business.

Without much of an entrepreneurial history, opening Pingala was Trevor’s first real venture on his own. Living by the motto, “Dream, Plan and Execute,” Trevor believes in choosing a passion and pursuing it fully. He claims that embracing failure is a key instrument to success. Inspired by the Henry Ford quote, “failure is merely the opportunity to more intelligently begin again,” he shared with us that just because you give up on an option, doesn’t mean you need to give up on the idea. Pingala hasn’t always had it easy. “Many people said an all Vegan restaurant wouldn’t succeed in Burlington,” Trevor said. However, in its 2 years, Pingala continues to be successful and has expanded ventures like the all vegan food truck, The Broccoli Bar. A regular at Truck Stop, a Friday night event hosted at Burlington’s performing venue, gallery and café ArtsRiot, Trevor reports that most people don’t even know it’s vegan, but some people will often come back in the same night wanting more.

Why a vegan restaurant? Trevor’s believes that, “Veganism is without a doubt…the most directly accessible and least expensive way to reduce our carbon footprint.” Trevor was Inspired by the data presented in the 2014 documentary Cowspiracy, which highlights the environmental hazards of the animal agriculture industry and shows how a plant-based diet can drastically reduce the effects of carbon emitted into the atmosphere. For example, it takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef, and livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, or 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. Pingala drastically reduces the contribution to green-house gases, carbon emissions, water consumption, and land and habitat destruction just by taking meat off the menu.

Hard work, perseverance and adaptability are key drivers of Pingala’s success and through its mission, is having a huge impact on the planet. As a hopeful entrepreneur and fellow vegan, I’m inspired by Trevor’s work and advice: “You’re going to be successful if you listen to your heart and what the universe is telling you to follow. Don’t be too hard on yourself in this business, you gotta be your number one fan. Go with it.”

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