This week, we received word from the Green Restaurant Association that we have been certified green! This culminates a process we began almost six months ago, when we decided to seek green certification for two reasons: to see how an independent and knowledgeable environmental group such as the GRA would grade us, and also to seek knowledge we could use to improve our efforts in the future. It was a success on all counts, and the best part is that we know what we need to do next.
This would not have been possible without the help of Nina Newhouser, who guided me through the process and gathered up all the paperwork and documents efficiently and in the kind of organized fashion I am not myself capable. Andrew Weithe from the Chicago Green Restaurant Coop has been super supportive, helping Nina navigate the process.
As we suspected, we didn’t have to make many changes to get certified, because green was our goal from the beginning. There were, however, a few areas where we did need to re-evaluate and make changes. Our carry-out and doggy bag materials are either post-consumer or recycled, as well as either compostable or easily recyclable in Chicago. We have unbleached, acid-free paper for our menus. Perhaps the cheapest change came by installing flow-regulating aerators on all of our faucets.
I personally noticed the biggest difference when we insulated our hot water heater and pipes. The gas company evidently noticed as well – our gas bill went down because we’re using less gas. And, we get hot water faster at all of our faucets. Even though we previously would wait on average 15-20 seconds (and now it’s almost instant) when you account for our seven faucets plus dish machine, the time difference saves a ton of water. Restaurants use a lot of water.
I’ve said before that the restaurant business is not very green at all. Some restaurants are environmentally destructive in virtually every practice. We work very hard to be a different kind of restaurant.. We are working with the Chicago Green Restaurant Coop and Green Restaurant Association to show a different path which is not only possible, but also where a business can be successful and its guests can enjoy delicious food and hospitality, and our land, air, and water do not suffer for it.
The environmental impact of human beings upon the earth is well established, and restaurants play a growing role in that impact. We decided to seek certification from the Green Restaurant Association to see how green we have been thus far, and learn where we can improve. The best part of the GRA program is that they graded us this year and gave us their endorsement, but we will have to score better next year to keep their endorsement. Onward and upward! We are a long way away from a carbon-neutral restaurant, but the path is in front of us all. Let’s follow it.