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Generation Green

By Michael Oshman, The Green Restaurant Association

Twenty years ago, it was difficult for restaurants to even recycle because the service was not widely available on the commercial level. Now, not only is commercial recycling available to businesses all over the U.S., but commercial composting programs exist in several major cities, as well. Green is no longer just a color.

What Going Green Looks Like

Despite the growth of the Green movement, restaurants are still the largest consumers of electricity in the retail sector. There is huge potential for change and improvement in terms of operating restaurants in a more efficient, cost-effective, and environmentally sustainable way.

Many restaurant employees are between the ages of 20 and 30. These employees are part of Generation Green: champions for sustainable initiatives and green practices.

Many restaurant employees are between the ages of 20 and 30. These employees are part of Generation Green: the young demographic that are champions for sustainable initiatives and green practices. These educated young people are buying organic and local foods, and they’re re-using coffee mugs and grocery bags. They’re concerned with issues like global warming, and they grew up recycling their soda cans. They avoid using plastic bags and bottles, and are eagerly putting their names on the Prius waiting list. If you’re a restaurant owner, these young people are many of your employees and customers.

Generation Green employees are bothered by the waste they see each day as they work the back of the house. They’re concerned about the chemicals they soak their hands in while washing dishes and they’re frustrated about scraping half-eaten food into the garbage.

Forward Thinking Sustainable Solutions

So what’s the answer? Be a leader. Many things like recycling, Styrofoam elimination, and energy efficient equipment are already mandated in various counties across the U.S. Implementing sustainable solutions now, before you have to, shows your customers and staff that you’re a forward thinker.

Savvy business people know that Green is Gold. In May 2009, the New York State Restaurant Association officially announced its endorsement of the GRA. This endorsement will significantly help the GRA bring relevant information, guidance and solutions to thousands of restaurants that are eager to not be left behind as the Green Restaurant® movement quickly thrives.

Education

Education is a guarantee for success. Do your research. Make sure the green initiatives you choose to execute are truly green. Work with a trusted, objective resource to help you make your green purchasing decisions. The Certifier you choose should meet the following criteria:

Start with changes that will make a big impact, but that won’t change the way you run your restaurant on a daily basis. Going Green is not supposed to be difficult.
  • Standards are clear, transparent and available to the public
  • Non-profit organization that is mission driven, rather than profit-driven
  • Has a track record of success, expertise and experience in the industry
  • Endorsed by leading environmental groups
  • Trusted by industry professionals and consumers

Where to Start

Start with changes that will make a big impact, but that won’t change the way you run your restaurant on a daily basis. Going Green is not supposed to be difficult.

Recycling: sorting cardboard, glass, plastic, and aluminum is easy to set up and can cut your trash hauling bill by 20% or more. Styrofoam: Styrofoam, or Polystyrene foam, a petroleum based plastic, is harmful to the health of the workers who produce it, and also to the environment. Styrofoam replacements are abundant, making eliminating Styrofoam from your restaurant simple and cost-effective.

Other quick tips include:

  • Installing low-flow spray valves that conserve water
  • Defrost meat in the refrigerator, not under running water
  • Serve water upon request
  • Install motion sensors in bathrooms and closets that don’t require constant light
  • Install energy-efficient hand dryers in restrooms to save energy and eliminate the use paper towels
  • Set thermostats to turn off overnight

Weather you seek certification from the GRA, or start out making a few changes on your own, it’s important to remember that environmental sustainability is a direction not a destination™. Every step counts.

About Michael Oshman

Michael Oshman

Michael Oshman works with the Green Restaurant Association. The GRA was founded in 1990. Since the beginning, the GRA has worked to provide convenient and cost-effective tools to help the restaurant industry reduce its harmful impact on the environment. The GRA founded the green restaurant movement and is one of the pioneering founders of the green business movement as well.

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