Shenandoah County named Va. Green destination

Crissy Willis, co-owner and co-founder of Cristina’s Café, said her Strasburg restaurant has been certified “Virginia Green” since 2009. Kevin Green/Daily

Shenandoah County is an area known for scenic landscapes, agriculture and outdoor tourism. The county now has the distinction of being a “Virginia Green Destination.”

Virginia Green is an initiative essentially promoting the use of energy-efficient and environmentally safe practices such as waste reduction for local businesses.

One of the benefits of this is that tourists interested in going on a “green vacation” can locate specific businesses and companies under the designation, noted Jenna French, director of tourism and marketing for Shenandoah County.

French said that this makes Shenandoah County one of three entities in the county to receive this designation.

The other two Virginia Green Destinations are Cristina’s Café in Strasburg and the Comfort Inn Hotel in Woodstock.

“I think what a lot of people don’t realize is that local businesses are already doing things like this,” French said.

Crissy Willis, co-owner and co-founder of Cristina’s Café, noted that the restaurant has been certified “Virginia Green” since 2009, the year after it opened.

In fact, according to Willis, Cristina’s was the first business in the county to receive this designation.

Willis said the restaurant employs many environmentally safe practices that are as simple as separating waste between recycling and trash.

“We compost and we also have a farm, so our kitchen scraps go the pigs at the farm,” Willis said.

Willis stated that they try as much as possible to make their operations local and environmentally friendly.

French said she believes that these practices are important for improving tourism as well as preserving the landscapes of the county.

“It just seemed like such a natural fit to go after this designation so that we can preserve these areas for residents and tourists,” French explained.

French also added that, in Shenandoah County, “one of [its] greatest resources is the outdoors and local farms.”

On top of helping the environment, Willis said, “I think [this approach] actually attracts business.”

Willis said that she has noticed a few customers who have commented on the restaurant’s Virginia Green designation as well as its local mindset.

“I think it’s sort of a little niche market and something people are starting to appreciate with everything that is going on globally and locally,” Willis added.

At the same time, Willis noted some portions of employing these practices are not cheap. “Not everyone can spend the extra $50 on to-go cups because they are biodegradable.”

“That has always been tough for us, but you make certain sacrifices to do it,” Willis said.

However, Willis said she believes local practices are a “a great educational tool for people in the community.”

Willis also asserted that purchasing food from local farms “reduces your carbon footprint” – which means lower emission of greenhouse gases, according to timeforchange.org.

French said that the tourism office’s role is “is to work with other organizations to get them to support the same principles.

For French and her staff, this means reaching out to get more businesses on board with Virginia Green practices and especially informing them of the practices.

“It is not that [some] businesses are not practicing them, it’s that they don’t know about them,” she said.

French also explained, “Part of our role that we sign up for is that we will continue to work with local businesses to implement these strategies.”

This will include, according to French, working with local agencies such as the Woodstock Enhancement Committee in order to reach out to businesses.

At the same time, French noted that these practices are not mandatory.

“It is completely elective and we are not telling anyone that they need to change their practices,” French said.

French stressed that preserving Shenandoah County for future tourists “takes all of us doing our part and bit-by-bit, it adds up.”

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com