For Harper’s Restaurant and Brewpub owner Trish O’Brien Riley, giving back to the community and the environment has always been her mission.
When the establishment opened in 1997, Riley said she made it a point to recycle.
“When we took over and bought Dooley’s and started Harper’s, I said, ‘We have to start from the very beginning and just do it,’” Riley said.
Recycling is something she grew up doing. She said she likes doing eco-friendly initiatives in her restaurant because of the significant impact it has on the environment.
“My mom used to make me recycle,” said Riley. “Recycling is just natural for me.”
According to the Harper’s website, the restaurant has achieved its recycling goal of 116,000 glass and plastic bottles as well as 6,000 cardboard boxes in a given year.
Riley said she is always looking for ways to be more environmentally conscious.
“I have tried to perfect it even more, so I’ll have more receptacles ... and more avenues,” Riley said. “There are certain things Granger will not pick up from the restaurant, so I am starting another section in our establishment that we will take by truck ourselves once a week.”
She said not everyone in East Lansing agrees with her eco-friendly ways.
“I used to be the chair of our downtown development in East Lansing for eight years,” Riley said. “I really tried to get everybody to show interest in it, and maybe do a generic area where we can recycle. I even offered my own parking lot at Harper’s to be the recycling center where other places could bring their stuff, but there just wasn’t the interest.”
On top of Riley’s eco-friendly initiatives, she said she has also given back to the community she calls home. She started “giveback nights,” where all the proceeds from the door cover are donated. The restaurant has donated its proceeds to national organizations for many years. Recently, the Rileys have focused their attention on giving locally.
“In 3 1/2 to four years, we have given back over $400,000 for local causes, and that is our customers’ causes,” Riley said. “I just got done writing $20,000 worth of giveback checks just now today.”
Riley said she’s hoping to donate even more to the community soon.
“I am trying desperately to get $500,000 as soon as I can because I really love being able to give back,” she said. “And Harper’s is really the only avenue I have to be able give that kind of money.”