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Here it's easy to be green

Chad Tomlinson, above, hopes that wallet-conscious healthy food will be a hit with patrons at the Green Day Cafe.

Chad Tomlinson, above, hopes that wallet-conscious healthy food will be a hit with patrons at the Green Day Cafe.

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For one local cafe, green is more than just a primary color, it's a business model.

The Green Day Cafe, located just outside of Winter Park on Lee Road, is an eco-friendly restaurant that aims to provide a healthy alternative to traditional fast food.

"We try to bring in the freshest fare, that's not going to kill someone's pocketbook, but that's still going to taste good and be healthy for them," a Green Day Cafe's owner, Chad Tomlinson, said.

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Chad Tomlinson, above, hopes that wallet-conscious healthy food will be a hit with patrons at the Green Day Cafe.

Everything from the building itself, the way the food is prepared, to the products the food is packaged in are all designed around being as eco-conscious as possible.

"All of our products are biodegradable, compostable and that's what really makes us Green Day Cafe," Tomlinson said.

Cups and to-go bags are made of corn. Utensils are made of sugar cane and corn starch, and to-go boxes are made out of compostable plant products, Tomlinson said.

The building structure that this prototype cafe occupies may look familiar. It's actually a revamped Taco Bell.

"Part of our theme is to go into existing buildings," he said, "which is great because in this economy there's a lot of empty buildings."

Tomlinson said that two new Green Day Cafe locations are in the works. One by the University of Central Florida and one by Doctor Phillips.

These cafes, Tomlinson said, are transitional restaurants — not the healthiest, but not unhealthy; and not the cheapest, but not expensive either.

"You can actually come here and get a meal for under $10 that includes a drink and be green while you're doing it," he said. "You can actually reduce your carbon footprint by eating here."

An average meal at the Green Day Cafe is about 600 calories. "We try to bring in fresh products, locally grown products and we also try to bring in products that are preservative free," he said.

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Some of the restaurant's most popular dishes include the buffalo chicken wrap, turkey cranberry wrap, holy guacamole and the mushroom brie soup.

Tomlinson said that the cafe was the first privately owned "green certified commercial kitchen" in Florida. In order to acquire this status, the cafe was ranked on a scale of 100 based on everything from it's water waste, power consumption and man power.

Some of the restaurant's most popular dishes include the buffalo chicken wrap, turkey cranberry wrap, holy guacamole and the mushroom brie soup.

"We have the same stuff and the same taste that you're used to, but we've figured out how to make it in a healthy way," he said.

Besides the food, the environmentally friendly aspect of cafe often brings customers in. "I think it's great that it's eco-friendly. I think that's one of the things that draws me to it," frequent customer Julie Mittiga said.

That draw, Tomlinson said, is paying off.

"We've been very fortunate," he said. "Where most businesses are closing and most businesses aren't doing well, we've done exceptional in this economy. To be open for two years and to be such a different type of concept in a bad economy, I think we've done extraordinarily well, and I think we have a really bright future."

Along with the successful business aspect, long-time employee Mairim Luquiz said working at the Green Day Cafe gives her life lessons she will always carry with her.

"It's like a good working experience about how to learn to learn to do things more green and more healthy too. It's really good to have something to learn by," she said.

"I always take my work home."

Green Day Cafe

Green Day Cafe is located at 1515 Lee Road in Orlando. Check them out online at www.greendaycafe.com to see the menu, learn more about its "green" business model and what you can do to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle.