From: , Triple Pundit, More from this Affiliate
Published January 22, 2008 08:49 AM

Maximum impact restaurant greening

Are you eating? Here's a few statistics to chew on: In the US, restaurants are the top electricity consumer among retail businesses. 33% of it. Each restaurant produces an average of 50,000 pounds of waste. Eat up, unless you want to add to that last figure. That is, unless you happen to be dining at a restaurant certified by the Green Restaurant Association, which aids member restaurants in achieving a near zero waste status.

There are several local green restaurant certification programs out there these days, with varying levels of requirements. But for the most impact on your bottom line, the one that rises to the top is the Green Restaurant Association. Why? It comes down to their reach, resources, and impact. They are national, take a hands on, multi stakeholder approach, and have several ways to generate awareness of your restaurant, online, in person, and in the community you live in.

This non-profit claims to have the world's largest database of environmental solutions for the restaurant industry, and couples that with consultants personally involved with helping restaurants become green, or in the case of Ike's Quarter Cafe, greener. Ike's, in business for 7 years as of this month, has long been a green minded restaurant, from their choice of produce to their focus on local resources. Why get certified? Ike's is in the small, charming town of Nevada City, California (home to the recent Wild and Scenic Film Festival) While it's well loved by locals and visitors who happen to find it, having a national presence, an easy conduit for those seeking out restaurants whose practices match their values, is a clear reason to want to be a part of an association such as GRA.

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So your restaurant is put up on a few websites, what else do they do for you?

Beyond the obvious, Green Restaurant door stickers, they offer an "Environmental Achievement" sign, detailing exactly the changes in electricity use, amount of garbage, trees saved, and air pollution. And, to make it clear your restaurant is not resting on it's laurels, they have a 4-Step Sign, that spells out the 4 new steps you're taking in the current year (a requirement of membership to the GRA)

In watching their introductory video, it's Interesting to note that the benefits are framed in such a way that is almost entirely restaurant facing, versus the positive environmental impacts. They are wise though, they know that those that are already green minded will have already sold themselves on that aspect, and that the decision point lies in how it will directly benefit the business itself. This probably works well for both those motivated by altruism as well as the more opportunism focused.

A step that I see as crucial is that the GRA can come and train your staff, making it clear the positive environmental impact. If only the owner/manager is interested and motivated about the greening of a restaurant, it could prove much more time consuming and slow to truly implement changes. When the benefit is clear to those doing the changes, including detoxifying the cleaning fluids, playing your part in reducing CO2 emissions, and more, that would seem to lead to greater pride in working there, and gratitude that the owners are looking out for their welfare.

To learn more about the Green Restaurant Association, see www.dinegreen.com

Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio School of Management in San Francisco. His overarching talent is “bottom lining” complex ideas, in a way that is understandable and accessible to a variety of audiences, internal and external to a company.

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