For a growing number of restaurants in the U.S., the
certification that they are "green" does not necessarily mean a
vegetarian menu. They are adopting
environmentally-friendly practices. And
that means more than simply using locally grown or organic foods but also an
array of actions including energy efficiency, recycling and the use of
biodegradeable products. As VOA's June
Soh reports, the restaurant owners find the green movement not only can help
the environment but also help their business. Melinda Smith narrates.
Customers in this Massachussetts
restaurant might not notice that the cup they are using is made of corn and is
biodegradable. But this is one of the
steps the casual food restaurant chain, Boloco, has taken to be labeled
Harder is president and chief operating officer of the chain.
of all, we had to eliminate the Styrofoam as one of our options,” Harder said.
“We actually replaced the Styrofoam with a corn-based polylactide PLA
sign on the window reads, "Certified green restaurant."
It provides a hint that the owner has
embraced a number of ecologically minded practices.
certification is issued by The Green
Restaurant Association or GRA, a Boston based organization founded in
Michael Oshman, the founder, says
the words "green" and "business" was rarely seen on the
same page back then, but the green restaurant movement is finally flourishing.
currently have about 260 restaurants across the country, and also a little bit
in Canada, that are certified green restaurants and restaurants that are on the
way to certification,” Oshman said. “We are currently growing at an incredible
pace. Last year we tripled in size, the amount of restaurants on board.
And this coming year, we will likely to do
To meet the
GRA's environmental guidelines, Boloco's Harder says the chain has implemented
a recycling program, outfitted employees with organic cotton t-shirts, and
introduced naturally raised meats and chicken.
are allowed to roam freely, and are free of antibiotics and additional growth
He says his restaurant is
taking four additional steps this year, including replacing the plastic
containers with the ones made from compostable plant fibers.
Mahoney is a regular customer. "I think it is important to support places
that are environmentally friendly,” he said. “So, it will definitely reinforce
my habit of coming here."
to increased customer loyalty, restaurants find other benefits from
environmentally conscious practices.
Jose Duarte is the chef and owner of Italian restaurant Taranta in
He says he has
completed GRA's 20 environmental steps.
"[For] each single item that we actually put in the restaurant and we changed,
we have seen the result,” Duarte said. “The tankless water heaters were one of
the nicest things that I can put in there because we are saving about $150 to
$200 a month in our normal gas bill."
switching to environmentally friendly systems, such as energy efficient
lighting, water-conserving spray heads, and delivery vehicles fueled by cooking
oil often costs money.
But he says
that long-term savings cover those expenses and result in lower operating
He says recycling
and food waste composting programs help him cut the garbage bill by 40 percent
and now very little trash actually goes to the landfill.
know that it doesn't change the world. It changes our part of the world. And it is the things that our customers are asking for, so it is
relevant to our customers. It is the
things that we are trying to do for ourselves as well. We live in our communities,” Harder said.
and government figures show that food service buildings are the most energy intensive
of all commercial buildings.
Restaurant Association's Oshman says, with restaurants accounting for 10
percent of the nation's economy, the push for sustainable practices in the
industry has great potential to help the planet.