Most of us have heard of a green hotel, but a “green restaurant”? What’s that?
Simple: a dining establishment that, in every way it can, is greening its practices and procedures. Sustainability is standard operating procedure, a way of doing business.
Listen to my Green Divas Eco-Travel podcast to learn more, then read on…
Here’s what to look for in a green restaurant….
Features local, organic food sourcing. What defines local? Some restaurants, like the Mulefoot Gastropub in Imlay City, Michigan, are hyper-local: they strive to get all their produce from within a 30-minute radius, or roughly 30 miles. Others use a 100-mile limit. Whole Foods defines local as within 200 miles.
The point is, the freshest foods make for the tastiest and most nutritious meals. Organic (which must be non-GMO as well) means no chemical pesticides or fertilizer residues and, according to findings published this month in the British Journal of Nutrition, has significantly higher levels of disease-fighting antioxidants.
Practices intensive recycling, including composting. Food waste is huge in the restaurant world. Many green restaurants donate useable leftovers to food banks or meals-on-wheels programs. One that we know, Town in the Kaimuki neighborhood of Honolulu, has a worm farm behind the restaurant that converts kitchen scraps into beautifully rich compost for gardening. Items recycled definitely should include used fry oil that can be converted into biodiesel.
Uses nontoxic cleaners. Do you want poisons where your food is made? Or where you eat it? I didn’t think so. There may be times when extreme measures are necessary in a restaurant kitchen—infestations of insects or other pests, for instance—but even then there are less dangerous and natural solutions that work.
Conserves water and energy wherever possible. Did you know that the average restaurant in the U.S.—we have more about a million in all—uses 300,000 gallons of water per week? And sends 100,000 pounds of waste to landfills each year? Restaurants consume more electricity than any other kind of retail business. Don’t take my word for it—those stats come from celebrity chef Mario Batali, explaining why all the restaurants in his culinary empire are green certified.
That’s right. Just like with green hotels, there are independent certifiers for restaurants. Many are locally based, like the Green Business Certification Program in Berkeley, California. Batali’s joints are all certified eco-friendly by the largest national player, the Boston-based non-profit, the Green Restaurant Association. You can search for member restaurants on its website.
Why is this important?
Well, it’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? By choosing a green restaurant, you’re choosing a healthy meal in a healthy environment—for you, those who work there, the local community and the environment. By supporting the extra steps a green restaurant takes, you’re voting with your dollars in favor of a better world for us all.
And besides, it’s likely to taste great, too.