While studying environmental science and public policy, Steve Mertz became intrigued by the connection between food and the environment. He realized the impact agriculture has on air, water and soil – and that it’s important to pay attention to how our food is produced. 

He learned that consumers have both the responsibility and the ability to influence food production. “How can we provide a less energy-intensive product that still is affordable?”

His restaurant, Tacovore, is Steve’s answer. The popular restaurant features both vegetarian and meat dishes ranging from black bean chili to butternut squash tacos to Korean style short ribs, plus beer and exotic tequila drinks. The Eugene taqueria seats 85 people inside and an additional 50 during warm weather.

Steve understands that meat production has the biggest environmental footprint, so he takes particular care in sourcing his beef supplies. Tacovore has developed relationships with local cattle growers using sustainable practices. “The more grass-fed the better; the fewer miles the product travels, the better.”

As a Smart Energy Circle member, Steve said, “The Smart Energy program is totally consistent with our values. By mitigating our carbon footprint, we can be part of the solution and not part of the problem.” Smart Energy funds projects that convert methane from cow waste into biofuel – directly supporting Steve’s goal of reducing agricultural-related greenhouse gases.Tortillas

Steve calls Tacovore a “full service fast-casual restaurant.” By that, he means customers are made to feel comfortable and taken care of. But Tacovore is also full-service in that it satisfies both Steve’s business goals and his sense of environmental stewardship.