What It Takes for Restaurants to Go Green

Businesses across the nation are going green. They are recycling, setting up energy efficient lights, and advocating better environmental habits, such as encouraging employees to take public transportation by offering company-paid bus passes. Restaurants looking to go green may do all of this and much more. After all, when you run a business based on food, there is a lot more to consider when it comes to making your eatery environmentally friendly.

The most well-known certifier of earth-friendly dining establishments is the Green Restaurant Association (GRA). Founded in 1990, the GRA has been the leader in pushing restaurants to go green for more than two decades. Eateries tend to have a big impact on the environment because they use up enormous amounts of energy and produce a too-generous amount of waste every day. They also depend on fresh produce and livestock as raw ingredients, which has the potential of creating a massive carbon footprint. The GRA works with dining establishments to lessen their carbon footprint, providing restaurateurs with a guideline by which they can measure just how eco-friendly they are. The guidelines also inspire these eateries to do more in order to waste and pollute less.

Green certification from the GRA comes in several levels. After all, some restaurants may be doing more to help the environment than others and the GRA’s various certification levels reflect these distinctions. Certification is given on a star-based system. All certified restaurants have a minimum of two stars, and the greenest eateries are rewarded with four stars. The level of a restaurant’s certification is determined by points, which are calculated based on how many green practices the restaurant has adapted. A two-star restaurant has at least 100 points and a four-star restaurant has at least 300 points.

There are numerous things that a restaurateur can do to their establishment to make it more earth-friendly. Using sustainable food is the most obvious change that will instantly reduce a restaurant’s carbon footprint. Conventional farming methods utilize harmful pesticides in order to produce pest-free crops because it is cheaper and more efficient than using organic means of pest control. In addition, some restaurants may choose to import their produce in order to obtain out-of-season vegetables and fruits, further driving up the produce’s carbon footprint. Sustainable food, on the other hand, is more environmentally friendly because it utilizes locally grown and in-season ingredients, some of which is organic as well. Produce from local farms do not have to travel as far, thereby cutting down on the use of fossil fuels for transportation. Even using meats from local livestock raised on a free-range system can help reduce a restaurant’s impact on the planet. The GRA heavily considers an eatery’s use of sustainable food when determining its green certification level.

However, a restaurant’s green certification extends beyond just its food. The GRA will also take into account whether a restaurant recycles, how much waste it produces each day, and the measures taken to make it more water and energy efficient. For example, just as homeowners can make their homes more energy efficient by installing low-flow faucets and compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) light bulbs, restaurateurs can do the same to reduce their environmental impact. Green building is considered as well. This means that restaurant owners who use recycled or otherwise earth-friendly materials in the construction of their buildings will be rewarded with a higher star rating than those who do not. In addition, restaurants that replace old wasteful machines, like dishwashers, with more energy efficient ones will be rewarded.

The GRA’s overall goal is to provide restaurants with a guideline and inspiration to go green. Considering how much energy and waste can come out of a single day’s worth of business, this is a commendable goal indeed.


This guest contribution was submitted by Tara Miller, who regularly writes for psychology degree.  She especially loves hearing back from her readers. Questions or comments can be sent to: miller.tara23@gmail.com.


Image credits: ginnerobot and Gregor Young

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