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by Elizabeth Bird

Last week, an article caught our eyes in the Washington Post about the recent trend of restaurants who are seeking “Green Certification.” These “green certified” restaurants are looking beyond the food they serve and whether it’s organic, or even locally grown. They are seeking to be green businesses, creating efficiencies where there were inefficiencies, cutting waste, even striving to achieve “zero waste” through composting and using renewable energy sources or biodegradable products.

According to the Green Restaurant Association, a Boston-based non-profit, the restaurant industry accounts for a third of all energy used by retail businesses. Their research of the restaurant industry shows that the average restaurant meal served produces a pound and a half of trash, half of which is compostable food waste.

So what does it take to become green certified? The GRA, whose mission is to “create an ecologically sustainable restaurant industry,” functions as a consultant to restaurant owners to help make the certification process more convenient and efficient. Covering everything from energy and water efficiency and conservation to using sustainable food products, composting methods, and incorporating green building design, the GRA’s 12-step environmental guidelines give a systematic approach to redefining a restaurant as “green.” The GRA will also do a cost-benefit analysis for the restaurant to help determine which areas of improvement will be most beneficial in the long-run for that restaurant, as well as linking member restaurants to manufacturers, distributors, waste collection companies and government agencies who also provide environmentally suitable products and services.

And the benefits? The Washington Post article quotes a report by the GRA that a quarter of restaurants surveyed plan to spend more on going green this year. Why? “Besides the environmental benefits, restaurant owners hope that such efforts can in the long run help them deal with increased energy and waste-management costs.” Another tip sheet that might be helpful comes from the City of Irvine website on their Zero Waste initiative for the food service industry.

What do you think? Are you a “Certified Green” restaurant? Any inclination to go green in the future? We’d love to hear your thoughts.