If you’re interested in maintaining a low-impact lifestyle, watch where you eat. The restaurant business is extraordinarily wasteful — of food, water, packaging and most particularly energy. In fact, among commercial businesses, restaurants squander more energy per square foot than any other.
Restaurants that have been certified green by the Green Restaurant Association are a different story. They have made a concerted effort to clean up their act in six key areas of operations — energy, water, disposables, recycling, pollution and food. It’s not a one-time effort either. Each year, they must continue to make improvements to keep their certification.
In addition, they can’t use polystyrene (aka Styrofoam) and must have a full-scale recycling program.
Interestingly, not every certified green restaurant has an obviously sustainable menu. Some could be meeting their minimum sustainable food requirement by purchasing sufficient quantities of organic ingredients (30% of the total) and nothing more. Meanwhile, they could be models of water and energy efficiency in the kitchen. That said, many certified green restaurants are exemplars of fine local, seasonal cooking.