Green Eats: How to Find Sustainable Restaurants
You’re hungry. You want to visit your local favorite restaurant, but you’ve heard rumors that it’s awful for your carbon footprint to eat anyplace other than home. Which is true depending on where you dine. According to a USA Today article, the average restaurant annually uses 500,000 kWh of electricity, 20,000 therms of natural gas, and 800,000 gallons of water. That's a lot of energy and water!
However, fear not! Restaurant owners worldwide are improving the sustainability of their cuisine and the establishments where their cuisine is served, so that we can enjoy some good, and green, eats. But how can you know? Many restaurants boast of their local ingredients, but there are multiple factors that contribute to a restaurant’s being “green.” In addition to ingredients and how dishes are prepared, there’s water efficiency, waste management, cleaning methods, interior design and heating, just to name a few. Thankfully, several organizations have undertaken the task of helping consumers identify eco friendly restaurants with green restaurant certifications or guidelines to helping consumers eat green, no matter where they are. Championing the cause in the US is the Green Restaurant Association.
Green Restaurant Association (GRA)
The GRA, founded in 1990, is a, “national non-profit organization that provides a convenient and cost-effective way for restaurants, manufacturers, distributors, and consumers to become more environmentally responsible.” The association provides environmental assessments, consulting, and a certification program to improve restaurants’ sustainability. The certification program takes into account water efficiency, waste reduction, recycling, furnishings, food, energy, disposables, and chemical reduction. Restaurants receive a score that determines how many stars they earn, with four stars being the greatest. To maintain their certification, restaurants must also improve their score each year. The website also includes a useful green dining guide that let’s you search by state or city to find green restaurants near you. For instance, if you are a Bostonian and love Boloco, you will be glad to know that Boloco is a two star certified restaurant. They could do better though, as four stars is the highest rating! You can look through their rating below.
Another certification to look for when choosing restaurants is the Green Seal. A “non-profit organization that uses science-based programs to empower consumers, purchasers and companies to create a more sustainable world,” Green Seal certifies restaurants based on similar factors that comprise the GRA certification, such as food sourcing, energy efficiency and conservation measures and wastewater restrictions. Green Seal found that, just by reaching their lowest certification level (their levels are bronze, silver and gold), the average total impact of a restaurant was reduced by 75%. Learn more about the environmental and financial savings for being Green Seal certified here.
Ecovian is an, “online green city guide created by a community of passionate members dedicated to living a sustainable lifestyle.” While they don't have an official restaurant certification, the guide includes a “restaurant greenness” calculation that takes into account “the amount of organic food, local food, and sustainable seafood on their menu, their use of recycled and recyclable/biodegradable disposables where relevant, and certifications encompassing a wide range of environmental practices where applicable.” Similar to the GRA's green guide, users can search for green restaurants within certain distances from a location or in a certain city.
Looking for ways to green your restaurant experience, regardless of where you eat? Want to learn how you can green your restaurant? Here are some links that might help:
- 7 ways to green your dining experience: The Green Restaurant Association provides tips and tricks for eating green anywhere.
- Seafood choices: Like seafood? The Blue Ocean Institute has a great resource to determine whether the fish on a restaurant's menu is sustainably fished or farmed.
- Going greener: Restaurant owners, check out this guide from the Environmental Law & Policy Center about all the different ways you can green your restaurant. Be sure to browse the links at the end for more great resources as well.