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A bird? Nope. A plane? Try again.

Pete Bonahoom opened a pizzeria and runs it his way - environmentally friendly and more than a bit quirky.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published May 9, 2007


MINNEAPOLIS

Captain Awesome is driving Bob tonight. Let's break that down: Dustin Saunders, a delivery guy for Galactic Pizza who dresses for the job in a blue superhero suit complete with red cape and boots, is ferrying pies around south Minneapolis in an electric-powered, three-wheeled vehicle dubbed "Bob." Other members of the fleet are called "Frank" and "Les."

If it all sounds slightly ridiculous, that's Galactic Pizza. This is an establishment that recently sponsored "Richard Simmons Day" ("50 percent off everything if you dress like Richard Simmons") and features a "4:20 Special" in a sly nod to the cannabis devotees who make up a large slice of the delivery pizza market. (The number 420 is a slang reference to marijuana.)

But the irreverent approach masks a seriousness of purpose at Galactic Pizza, where the electric delivery cars are just one part of what its owner calls a "values-led company." Galactic Pizza emphasizes environmental sustainability and protection in its business practices, uses organic and locally grown ingredients when possible, and donates a small portion of its profit to hunger relief and other charities.

"I wanted to do good for people, I wanted to not, at the very least, be a burden on society and try to even contribute to it, " said Pete Bonahoom, Galactic Pizza's 29-year-old owner.

Bonahoom's not alone - more small-business owners are finding ways to achieve social good through business. In Manhattan, Maury Rubin has opened two locations of the Birdbath Bakery. Walls are made from wheat and sunflower seeds, the floors are made of cork, and the staff wears hemp-and-linen jackets.

"As a business owner and a human being at a time when the world seems to be falling to pieces, I want to do my part, " Rubin said.

Even as a college student, Bonahoom said he was spending a lot of time "thinking about how we can transform capitalism into something that can be an engine for good and not just creating waste." After graduation he got a job with a large financial services company, where he analyzed 401(k) plans and quickly grew miserable.

Bonahoom had worked at pizza joints in high school and college, and thought it a good venue for his goals. "With pizza, you need to have a crust and some cheese, and from there you can be as creative as possible, " he said.

Fast Facts:

Galactic Pizza's good work

The Minneapolis restaurant Galactic Pizza operates with a self-described "Vision of the Future" that uses socially conscious business tactics. The restaurant's owner hopes his venture can serve as a model for other small businesses. Steps Galactic Pizza has taken:

- The pizza delivery crew drives all-electric vehicles, weather permitting.

- The restaurant is powered by energy bought through Xcel Energy's Windsource program, which lets customers specify that all the power they buy is generated by wind.

- Its mozzarella cheese comes from cows untreated by growth hormones. The menu features a number of organic items and incorporates produce bought from nearby farms in Minnesota and Wisconsin as it's seasonally available.

- It makes one pizza with seasonal crops from a community-supported agricultural venture, a research project that aims to return more agricultural land to regular production without man-made fertilizer or pesticides. A portion of the sales on another pizza support a food bank, and in general, 5 percent of aftertax profits are donated to charity.

- The restaurant's packaging is made mostly of recyclable or biodegradable material. Its menu is made from hemp paper, and hemp is an ingredient in several pizzas.

- Food waste from the restaurant is recycled at a pig farm.