Eating Out Green
Patronizing green restaurants means supporting businesses that incorporate sustainable business practices in their operations; some green restaurants serve only organic or natural food as well. Restaurants use energy for cooking food and keeping it refrigerated. Dishwashers use a lot of resources, and thermostats are set to keep patrons happy.
Many cities and towns work with small businesses, including restaurants, to help reduce their impact on the environment. For example, in California, the Green Business Program works with environmental agencies and utilities to recognize businesses with green operations.
Restaurants with green operations conserve energy by using Energy Star appliances and low-flow spray nozzles and by reducing, reusing, and recycling materials like cardboard, plastics, and glass; they prevent pollution by making sure that grease traps are cleaned and that bio-degradable soaps are used for cleaning. The Green Restaurant Association certifies restaurants, coffee shops, and college and university cafeterias that operate in sustainable ways.
Besides operating in environmentally friendly ways, more restaurants are offering organic and whole foods on their menus. The Bon Appétit Management Company owns 190 cafés in 26 states that serve organic, local, and sustainable fare. The company policy is to cook local food to avoid unnecessary food miles and environmental impacts. This policy has led to some creative cooking situations, leading chefs to boil seawater for salt and drive country lanes in search of wheat for flour.
Local Harvest is an organization that keeps a directory of restaurants, farmers' markets, cooperatives, and farms that use sustainable practices and organic products. Their database covers the entire United States and includes products ranging from flowers to beef.
Consumers wield power with their wallets. When dining out, ask questions about the food. For example, many of the fish served at restaurants are not recommended for consumption either because of mercury concentrations or overfishing. The server may not likely know the answers to all the questions, but the management does. For larger chain restaurants, consider contacting members of the board with your concerns about the food they serve.