The chile isn't the only thing that's green at Mi Cocina

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Saul Sierra is no tree-hugger. "I wasn't always green," he says. "My brothers learned about all that stuff in school, but I never went over it." He is now, though, and both of his Mi Cocina restaurants are feeling the effects. 

This fall, Sierra installed a solar patio at the Mi Cocina at 1600 West Belleview Avenue in Littleton, which has been open for over a dozen years. And he's also introduced environmentally-friendly procedures all both restaurants: using more efficient dish-washing procedures and more sustainable foam boxes, expanding recycling efforts. He even brings the cardboard and glass from the eighteen-month-old Mi Cocina at 137 West County Line Road to the Belleview location to consolidate recycling efforts.

 "My biggest carbon footprint is my restaurant," he explains, "and all of this was actually pretty easy for us to do. We're trying to as much as possible. Ten years ago it was too expensive, but now we can actually save money doing it." 

Although Sierra says he's saving about 20 percent in energy costs with the solar patio, his original goal for that project was even loftier. He'd planned on putting a wind turbine in front of the restaurant, but current Littleton code prevented it. But in the first quarter of 2009, when that code should be changing, he plans to put up the turbine, saving up to 40 percent in energy costs.

So next time you stop at Mi Cocina for those delicious, crispy chiles rellenos, remember to ogle the practical patio that could be the wave of the future. For directions, hours and pictures of the solar installation, visit the Mi Cocina website. --Tyler Nemkov

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