Entrepreneurs Tackling Climate Change: “COMPOST! 90% of all food ends up in landfills where it releases methane”

With Julia Kravets, Founder of Little Choc Apothecary

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

COMPOST! 90% of all food ends up in landfills where it’s compacted and covered, which removes oxygen. Without oxygen, the decomposing food releases methane, which is a greenhouse gas 25% more potent than carbon dioxide. Placing more compost bins in food areas, as well as educating people about composting would be very helpful in reducing overall greenhouse gases.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Julia Kravets, Founder and CEO of Little Choc Apothecary, NYC’s first fully vegan and gluten-free creperie.

-Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

During my career as a fashion model, I developed a keen interest in nutrition while having to maintain my figure for work. I was not willing to give up eating dessert, so experimented with ways to make desserts healthier and nutritionally dense. Books such as The China Study, and documentaries like Earthlings led me (and my desserts) into becoming vegan. I soon completed the Plant-Based Nutrition certificate program at eCornell, and was taking every dessert-making class at the Natural Gourmet Institute in NYC. I was living and breathing healthy food and nutritious dessert, and was learning about the environmental impact of factory farming.

I wanted to create a place where anything on the menu would be nutritionally dense, and can be used by your body to promote health, while promoting animal welfare, and agricultural sustainability at the same time. I opened Little Choc Apothecary to address all of that.

-What is the mission of your company? What problems are you aiming to solve?

My goal is to make healthy, cruelty-free food delicious, and more readily available to an ever-growing community of conscious eaters, and anything-goes foodies alike, while maintaining the integrity of the ingredients we use.

I want to show other businesses that it’s possible to run a successful restaurant using sustainable, plant-based practices, and inspire them to adopt those practices for themselves.

At the moment, my goal is to make the company as close to zero waste as possible. This means getting better at composting, learning and teaching staff about proper recycling practices, buying local and organic ingredients, and coming as close as possible to only using reusable dishware and utensils. It’s a fun challenge that I enjoy solving and optimizing every day.

-Can you tell us about the initiatives that your company is taking to tackle climate change? Can you give an example for each?

Studies show that meat and dairy consumption are two of the biggest contributors to climate change. Little Choc is 100% plant-based; our products are made from scratch, and are free of any chemical binders, gums, artificial flavors, and overly processed sugars and flours. We source our ingredients from farms and distributors who focus on sustainability, and providing local, organic, and fair trade products whenever possible. By being an eco-friendly business, and choosing to work with other sustainable businesses we make it easy for consumers to make climate-positive (as well as health-positive) choices without putting in much effort.

-What was the most difficult thing you faced when you first started your company/organization? Can you share how you overcame that. This might give insight to founders who face a similar situation.

The single most difficult part of running a business is one I still face today — it’s hiring the right staff, and training them to perform at their best. My training strategy has evolved so much over the years, but every person is different, and needs a different approach, so one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to developing and maintaining relationships with employees. It’s always a journey! I make sure to stay on top of entrepreneurial/business-related podcasts, and keep my ears perked for any staffing-related advice from other organizations.

My best advice is to make yourself available to all staff, so you can answer any and all of their questions promptly and without judgment. Another important aspect of training staff is to make sure your rules and protocols are as simple as possible. Overly complicated rules make both staff and managers frustrated, which results in poor and inconsistent service.

-Many people want to start a company to tackle environmental issues, but they face challenges when it comes to raising enough money to actually make it happen. Can you share -how were you able to raise the funding necessary to start your organization? Do you have any advice?

At first, I attempted to raise funds for my project through Kickstarter. I was sure I’d get funding after I jumped out of an airplane, and ate a homemade cookie in mid-air, but that only slightly impressed donors, because the campaign only reached half of its $45k goal. I secured full investment for Little Choc, however, when one investor who saw the Kickstarter campaign met with me in person, and was impressed by my drive and organization skills — and delicious treats, of course.

My single piece of advice for fundraising is to not be discouraged when you fail. As long as you know your stuff, you’re passionate about the business idea, and you’re organized enough, you will get funding eventually. Be careful who you take money from. When you’re pitching investors, they’re not picking you, but you’re picking them. Make sure that whoever wants to give you money aligns with the ideals of your company, and will support them throughout. You don’t want someone who will pressure you to do the easier, but less ethical thing.

-Do you think entrepreneurs/businesses can do a better job than governments to solve the climate change and global warming issues? Please explain why or why not.

I do. While governments can debate the issue of global warming, we as people have the ability to vote with our choices — we create demand, and businesses and governments follow. For entrepreneurs, creating a sustainable business is a large-scale vote. Every day we make choices in terms of which distributors we work with, and what kind of product we put out. If we have that kind of control, why not make our decisions as conscientious as possible.

-What are some practical things that both people and governments can do help you address the climate change and global warming problem?

COMPOST! 90% of all food ends up in landfills where it’s compacted and covered, which removes oxygen. Without oxygen, the decomposing food releases methane, which is a greenhouse gas 25% more potent than carbon dioxide. Placing more compost bins in food areas, as well as educating people about composting would be very helpful in reducing overall greenhouse gases.

Next, serve more plant-based meals, or have more meat-free Mondays, or just more plant-based office lunch options in general. Meat and dairy consumption account for 14.5% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions — that’s more than all of the planet’s cars, trucks, planes, trains, and ships combined. Even discriminating which animal products you consume can make a huge difference. For example, beef has 14x more warming effect than chicken, so if you cut your consumption to one serving of chicken every day, beef twice a week, and an egg every weekday, you’ll be reducing your food emissions by half! That’s still a lot of meat, but it gives you room to try some more delicious veggies (and lower your cholesterol).

Reusables. Make a plastic bag fee mandatory, so people bring their own tote bags when they shop. For big companies, encourage staff to bring their own containers. Give “green” onboarding gifts, like metal sporks, and tote bags with company logos on them, instead of less useful things like pins and keychains. Let’s make it happen, people!

-None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I am grateful to my mom, and other family members who did not believe in me, and actively discouraged me from pursuing my dream. Disappointed by the fact that I didn’t become a nurse, like she wanted me to be, my mother refused to believe that I was going to be successful at anything else. I spent about two years talking about, and planning my business, and the entire time my mom berated me for doing “nothing” with my time. This kind of negativity lit a fire under my butt, and I was determined to be successful. It was a true pleasure inviting my mom to the opening night at Little Choc, and seeing her face of amazement that what I was working on this whole time was actually a reality.

-What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. For some reason, heroin addicts will find your bathroom particularly enjoyable to shoot up in. I don’t know what it is about our bathroom — perhaps it’s the cozy wooded look, maybe it’s the forest-like wall paper, or maybe it’s the Mrs. Meyers geranium scented candle, but for some reason, drug-addicts just dart to the second floor, through the length of the dining room, and into our adorable little bathroom to shoot heroin. At first I became suspicious when one regular (great guy, aside from the heroin problem), took about 20 minutes every time he went to the bathroom, and I started finding needles in our trash can — I told him to never do that again, and he never came back. Customer lost! Since then, I had to kick out about a dozen people for doing drugs in the bathroom. One time, a guy burned the entire toilet seat, along with a few picture frames, which I had to replace immediately. My staff and I have learned to seek out certain markers that would suggest a person is not coming in for the dining experience, and we just let them know that the bathroom is out of order ahead of time.

2. You can’t go on auto-pilot. The business evolves, and you need to be able to keep up with it. There’s always re-tuning, and fine-tuning to be done, as soon as you stop doing that, the business will collapse.

3. You can’t please everyone. As hard as I try to be nice to our staff, some people just don’t see it, or don’t care. For staff, I make personalized gifts, like tea blends, or homemade lip balms, or vegan macarons. I buy them remedies if they’re sick, and bring goodies like chocolate, or fresh farmer’s market corn for everyone to share. I show them that I care about them as human beings. Yet, I’ve had a few employees who absolutely despised me, and thought I was screwing them over in some way. I’m always open to talk, and explain whatever their concern is, but despite explanations, they couldn’t wait to stop working for me. You can’t please everyone!

4. People don’t see things the way you do. When I just opened Little Choc, I thought a lot of things would just be common sense, so didn’t think to write out rules for minute things, like “take the pit out of a date before you blend it”, or “don’t read a book during your shift”, or “turn on the lights”, or “read signs”, but, alas, those are all things I have to remind people to do every day.

5. Every compliment will feel like the first one. I’m still amazed by the love and support I get every day at Little Choc. When guests tell me how much they love the food, or when staff tells me that I’m the best boss they’ve ever had, I get little flutters in my chest — it never gets old!

-You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring a great amount of good to the world, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If everyone in the world reduced their animal consumption by half, we’d be well on our way to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and meeting that 1.5–2 degree climate goal. We can start by teaching kids the importance of eating more vegetables at an early age. Programs like Edible Schoolyard, where kids get to grow and eat their own food at school need to be more widespread, and perhaps mandated. Making the link between agricultural practices, diet and climate change is a huge part in fighting global warming.

-What is the best way for people to follow you on social media?

@little_choc and @juliadeclared

This was so inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...


From Farm to Landfill: Food Waste and Our Climate Crisis

by Mark Hyman, M.D.

Entrepreneurs Tackling Climate Change: “We can reduce the use of pesticides and chemicals in agriculture” With Jaco Nel

by Amine Rahal

Achieving Success Without a Degree

by Sarah Sheppard
We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.