Boasting the highest concentration of 4 Star Certified Green Restaurants®, and one of the highest concentrations of Certified Green Restaurants® in the entire country, Chicago’s status as a green dining mecca has been firmly established. As 2012 comes to a close, the Green Restaurant Association (GRA) celebrates the ongoing green accomplishments of Certified Green Restaurants® across the country, and looks forward to exciting green dining trends for 2013.
Best of Dining Green in 2012
Over the past year, Certified Green Restaurants® took tremendous leaps to implement sustainable practices – including minimizing waste and conserving energy – all while sharing specific details of their environmental progress with their diners. These achievements in sustainability made 2012 a year for dining green.
Composting Programs: Over the past year, composting has become a more common practice in the food service industry, offering both economical and environmental benefits. While Americans collectively spend $1 billion to discard over 25 million tons of food products each year, Near-Zero Waste™ Restaurants have eliminated their total landfill input by 95% through recycling and composting programs, reducing their waste-hauler costs in the process. Not to mention, the composting process of recycling organic waste back into our food system enriches our soil and minimizes pollution.
For these reasons, composting has been mandated in cities and states across the country, including San Francisco, Vermont and Massachusetts. Further, the GRA requires Certified Green Restaurants® in areas with competitive composting services to implement composting programs, including those in Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Washington DC, New York City, Philadelphia, Portland OR, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and St. Louis.
Energy-Efficient Lighting: Incandescent light bulbs are being banned in the U.S., and many restaurants have been adjusting to this recent legislation by implementing more energy-efficient lighting solutions. For example, the Green Sage in South Asheville, NC has updated 90% of its lighting to LEDs, earning 16.2 GreenPoints™ towards becoming a 4 Star Certified Green Restaurant® in the process.
Recent innovations in the rapidly evolving LED technology have made LEDs even more conducive to restaurant environments, such as the 10 watt Award Winning LED Bulb from Philips Lighting, the recipient of the LPrize® from the U.S. Department of Energy. This innovative 60 watt equivalent LED bulb offers a dimmable lighting quality that lasts for 25,000 hours – all while saving restaurants up to 83% of their lighting-related energy costs. Realizing that efficient lighting means efficient business, restaurants have not only made tremendous progress to replace incandescent bulbs in 2012, but are also certain to continue updating their lighting solutions for years to come.
Alternative Fuel: New technology has made it possible for restaurants to turn their used grease into energy. Given the environmental benefits of this growing market, the GRA has updated its Endorsement Standards to include companies that either convert 100% of the used grease into biodiesel, electricity, or Straight Vegetable Oil (SVO), or haul the grease product to a company that does.
Further, Certified Green Restaurants® in Asheville, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, southern and central Connecticut, Washington DC, Los Angeles, southwest Montana, New York City, Philadelphia, Portland OR, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and Spokane are required to convert their grease to energy, through waste-haulers, or by implementing an on-site pumping station, such as SpringBoard Biodiesel’s BioPro EX device. This safe and easy-to-use appliance automatically converts grease to biodiesel, which burns 78% cleaner than regular diesel, according to the EPA. With devices such as the BioPro EX, it has never been easier for restaurants, schools and hotels to convert their grease in a clean, reliable way.
Transparency Tools: The Green Restaurant Association understands the importance of transparency, and acts as an outside source to verify the environmental accomplishments of Certified Green Restaurants® across the country. After all, 94% of people want any green claims to be vetted by a third-party organization as being true. The GRA’s online tools provide customers with Green Labels that outline the specific steps each restaurant has taken to become more sustainable across their operations.
Green Dining Trends for 2013
As the new year approaches, the Green Restaurant Association anticipates exciting green opportunities for restaurants across the country in coming months. Recent accomplishments from esteemed institutions such as Boston University and InterContinental Hotels indicate that diners are sure to find more Certified Green Restaurants® within schools and hotels in the coming year. All the while, restaurants will continue to adapt to environmental conditions and innovative technologies going forward. These exciting trends offer new ways that restaurants can satisfy sustainable-minded consumers who prefer to dine green.
Water Conservation: As much of the Midwest is suffering a severe drought, water conservation is certain to be a big priority in 2013. Both restaurants and manufacturers will continue to adapt to the repercussions of the drought, and take steps to reduce the 300 billion gallons of water used annually within the country’s restaurant industry. For example, while the least efficient Spray Valve sold today is 1.6 gallons-per-minute, many Certified Green Restaurants® have installed Spray Valves that flow 1.2, 1.0 or even 0.6 gallons-per-minute, which is an incredible step to conserve water. More restaurants will integrate these simple devices to improve water-efficiency in the coming year.
Additionally, restaurants will also be more particular about purchasing water-efficient equipment, such as dishwashers. And while this is not the norm yet, there are even Certified Green Restaurants® that are recycling greywater, which has been previously used in sinks, showers, baths and washer machines, for use in their irrigation and plumbing practices. As water becomes scarcer and more expensive, conservation will evolve from a point of interest to a place of need, and many restaurants understand that this is a trend that will continue.
Electric Car Charging Stations: With the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf evolving the car market, modern highways have never seen so many electric vehicle drivers, and this number is only increasing. Now, diners can charge their batteries while enjoying a meal at Certified Green Restaurants® across the country. From the corporate cafeterias on Microsoft’s Redmond Campus to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Steakhouse in Chicago, there are Certified Green Restaurants® that already provide electric vehicle charging stations for their guests. On the edge of this technology, before charging stations are everywhere or vehicle batteries last longer, restaurants that meet this growing demand for electric car charging stations will attract more business and satisfy more customers.
Schools and Universities: Colleges across the country understand the importance of offering environmentally sustainable dining options on campus. In the past year, Boston University’s Union Court earned the title of ‘The Greenest Food Court in the Country’, while dining services for Northeastern University, Harvard Business School and Bates College have become Certified Green Restaurants® as well. In California, UCLA and San Diego State University are also taking steps to green their dining services.
Research by the Princeton Review shows that 66% of college applicants and parents would find information about a college’s dedication to the environment useful in their college selection process, and as a result, more food courts and school cafeterias are expected to become Certified Green Restaurants® in the next year than ever before.
Hotels and Resorts: Hotels large and small are taking steps to become more sustainable, including greening their dining options. Last fall, the InterContinental Hotel Group committed to certifying all of their restaurants and bars through the Green Restaurant Association, and the renowned hotel chain recently achieved this tremendous accomplishment. Additionally, Doubletree and Wyndham hotels have also made exceptional environmental progress by earning certification for their dining services as well. Within the next year, more boutique hotels and large chains will be offering environmentally sustainable dining options that are vetted by a third party. At that point, their visitors can be confident that they’re dining green.
The Green Restaurant Association (GRA) is the only official certifier of Green Restaurants® in the country. The national non-profit organization was founded in 1990 to shift the restaurant industry toward ecological sustainability. For 20 years, the GRA has pioneered the Green Restaurant® movement and currently works with over 850 restaurants throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Find Certified Green Restaurants® and view their Green Labels.
Find a listing of Certified Green Restaurants in Chicago.