SHARON, MASS.—The Green Restaurant Assn.(GRA), a national nonprofit organization now 250 restaurants strong, is helping restaurant operators around the United States take a big bite out of energy and other costs through its Certified Green Restaurant program. The Sharon, Mass.-based nonprofit provides consulting services to restaurateurs interested in helping the environment while cutting costs at the same time.
GRA was first established in 1990. In addition to consulting services, it provides education and public relations support. The core of its operations is its Certified Green Restaurant program. To become certified, participants join GRA and then undergo an assessment to determine four areas where there is the greatest potential for environmental and financial savings.
“We want to help make the largest amount of change in the least amount of time,” says Michael Oshman, executive director. “We look at many different areas in our assessment, including lighting, cleaning, recycling and water conservation.”
Oshman says that once the four areas are determined, his staff works with the restaurant to implement the changes. GRA has built a large database of manufacturer and distributor names from which it can recommend products.
“If a restaurant’s distributor does not have a product, we will work with them to help them carry the product,” Oshman says.
Four Changes Required Each Year
After a restaurant makes the four recommended changes, it is certified. Restaurants can join GRA for just one year or multiple years. As long as a restaurant is part of the association, it has to make at least four environmental changes a year.
Oshman says GRA has done some cost analysis of the initiatives implemented by member restaurants. By and large, the results have been very positive, especially in the areas of energy, water and waste reduction. Members often get back the money they pay for GRA membership—and even more—in less than a year.
GRA members also benefit from positive media coverage and can display the GRA logo on their Web sites and in their restaurants.
“One-third of the media generated for one of our clients was due to the fact that it had become a green restaurant,” Oshman says.
The executive director of GRA says a lot has changed in the last 16 years to make his program more acceptable. Both consumers and business owners are more aware of organic food items and also of the need to save energy. No longer is there a business versus the environment attitude.
“Restaurateurs realize consumers care about these issues,” Oshman says. “They also care themselves.”
Signal Mountain Lodge Goes Green
Three restaurants at the Signal Mountain Lodge in Moran, Wyo., have been members of the Green Restaurant Assn. since 2002. Staff members at the lodge have been proponents of recycling and other environmental programs since the 1980s so taking additional steps was easy for them.
As part of the required minimum of four changes a year, Signal Mountain Lodge has implemented educational programs, selected new vendors for items such as paper cups and non-plastic dinnerware, and even done something as simple as changing its mint giveaway program. Because guests were littering the property with mint wrappers, mints are now dispensed without wrappers from a gumball machine. At the lodge’s Peaks restaurant, 90 percent of the menu items are organic, including the wild game.
“We promote the fact that we are a member of GRA,” says Kieran Gallagher, assistant general manager and food and beverage manager. “We have educational postings around the restaurant. We also use the GRA logo on all of our menus and in press releases.”
GRA also has an endorsement program for manufacturers that produce the best green products in their category. At the National Restaurant Show in May, a number of companies participated with GRA in a Green Restaurant Products Pavilion. Some of the companies included; Waterless Co., a waterless urinal manufacturer; Sloan Valve Co., a maker of water-efficient toilets, faucets and other items; and Excel Dryer, the maker of energy-efficient hand dryers.
For more information on the Green Restaurant Assn., contact Michael Oshman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Glenn Hasek can be reached at email@example.com.