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With the sun beating down and cicadas humming in the distance, Lisa Gray (Sam Gray’s wife) gets to work planting a new batch of tomatoes, cosmos, and basil for the season. Continuing with the family traditions that Catered by Design is built on, Lisa is the primary caretaker of the herb garden, which she started back in June 2023. Sam jested, “If you plant this garden, you’ll grow on me,” with a wide grin on his face and a scoff from his wife.

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Leaving behind a healthy Earth for the following generations is a driving goal for Sam Gray, Owner and President of Chicago catering service, Catered by Design. He thinks of the legacy he wishes to leave for his children and grandchildren when considering ways to make his company more sustainable and eco-friendly. 

At Catered by Design, we’re known for our delectable food, impeccable presentation, and exceptional service. Now, we want our past, present, and future clientele to know that we are equally dedicated to being good stewards of the environment.

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What It Means To Be a Chicagoland Sustainable Catering Service

As a catering company serving the vibrant city of Chicago, we understand the positive impact our sustainability efforts can make in our community. Chicago, with its rich culinary scene and progressive outlook, is the perfect place to champion a sustainable catering service. Our clients appreciate not only the quality of our food but also our commitment to the environment. 

We, at Catered by Design, are always finding ways to improve our sustainability practices, be it through reducing our carbon footprint, educating our staff, or making the tastiest food responsibly. By integrating sustainable practices into our daily operations, we aim to contribute positively to the community and inspire others to do the same.

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Our Sustainable Practices

Investing in our sustainability journey involves trying out different types of disposables, replacing old equipment with energy-efficient models, and finding ways to reduce our waste and carbon footprint.

Eco-friendly Disposables

We are proud to announce that all our disposables are now completely 100% compostable and/or recyclable. We have phased out any use of polystyrene foam products that do not decompose. Our palm leaf plates and bowls and our balsa wood platters are completely non-toxic, chemical-free, and made from 100% renewable resources. The containers for our hot boxed meals are recyclable, and our plant fiber containers are 100% biodegradable and made from natural plant material.

Herb Garden

In June 2023, we started a company herb garden to symbolize freshness for our storefront with the bonus of being able to use the quite literal fruit of our labor in a variety of ways. In the past, we have planted basil, rosemary, and organic flowers and planted different items each summer. We use organic flowers, such as white cosmos, to put on dishes as garnish/presentation, and we often use basil and rosemary in tasting dishes for clients. Flowers also foster a healthy bee population which is essential for pollination.

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Equipment Upgrades

Sustainability extends to our office practices as well. Whenever office equipment needs to be replaced, such as HVAC systems or refrigerators, we opt for eco-friendly and energy-efficient models. We’ve invested in ENERGY STAR equipment in the past, ensuring that our operations are as green as our ingredients.

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Seasonal and Local Sourcing

We design our menus to include seasonal items that are sourced locally whenever possible. Currently, 30% of our menu items are vegetarian or vegan, we serve free-range poultry, and 75% of our seafood items are sustainable.


Our Green Partnerships

Expanding our knowledge and relationships through our green partnerships is another cornerstone of our sustainability initiatives and helps us keep environmental accountability top-of-mind in every decision we make for our sustainable catering service.

Catered by Design has been a proud member of the Green Wedding Alliance since 2022, a collective of vendors that are dedicated to providing sustainable wedding and event services. By being a part of the GWA, we commit ourselves to environmentally responsible business practices and wedding catering. We also have the opportunity to share ideas with like-minded vendors. The GWA consistently holds a variety of green events such as their recent wedding show from this past March, “Committed.” 

Additionally, we are proud to be a 3-Star Certified Green Caterer® under the Green Restaurant Association’s rigorous standards since March 2024. We achieved our first two stars at the beginning of 2021 with our first inspection of our commissary in Morton Grove, and we are working our way towards achieving our fourth star, the highest rating the GRA can award.

These relationships help keep us accountable for our eco-driven actions and ensure that we remain at the forefront of sustainable catering.

Striving Toward a Greener Future Through Our Sustainable Catering Service

At Catered by Design, we’re committed to creating a greener, more sustainable future for Chicago and beyond. Our current goal is finding and developing techniques that can one day be implemented to handle organic waste. 

Whether you’re planning a wedding, corporate event, or any special occasion, you can trust our Chicago catering service to deliver not only exceptional food and service but also a commitment to environmental stewardship.

We believe that every small step towards sustainability can make a big difference. By integrating these practices into our daily operations, we hope to make a positive impact on our community and inspire others to join us in our journey toward a greener future.

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