Going green. It’s an admirable endeavor—though sometimes easier said than done. Particularly if you’re the proprietor of a busy restaurant, tasked with serving hundreds of patrons each and every day. But eco-consciousness is more than just a PR ploy for many restaurateurs. Just in time for Earth Day, we spoke with the eco-conscious masterminds behind 10 Green Restaurants That Care About Our Earth to get to the bottom of their commendable commitment to the planet. —by Jennifer M. Wood
Location: Omaha, NE Website: The Grey Plume Less than two weeks after opening its doors in December of 2010, The Grey Plume—a seasonally-driven, contemporary American restaurant in Omaha, Nebraska—earned the Green Restaurant Association’s annual title of “The Greenest Restaurant in America.” It’s also the country’s first three-star SustainaBuild Certified Green Restaurant, a certification given to newly built establishments that feature full-scale recycling programs and utilize sustainable building materials and furnishings. Among the restaurant’s eco-friendly features are LED lighting, reclaimed wood furniture and flooring and compostable packaging. Let’s all raise a (sustainable) glass of wine to that!
Location: Beverly Hills, CA Website: The Bazaar by José Andrés It’s Earth Day every day at the signature restaurant of Los Angeles’ ultra-chic SLS Hotel, where chef de cuisine Josh Whigham and his staff are constantly searching out new ways to improve the environment, from sourcing local ingredients to eliminating single-use plastics in the kitchen. They’re also producing more menu items totally in-house, from cheese to yogurt, and preserving and fermenting a variety of fruits and vegetables. “The importance of a green restaurant is that as chefs, we are stewards of food on our earth,” says Whigham. “The decisions we make affect many facets of the food supply chain—this is why the more local we buy, the better. This doesn’t mean organic, it just means knowing where your food comes from and how it was raised or grown.” At-Home Tip: “How any chef can reduce their carbon footprint is by having a small garden in their backyard, terrace, balcony or window seal. Have more containers with lids instead of using single-use plastic wrap. Save the containers you get from the grocery store and use them until they wear out. Drink tap water as often as you can, not water from a plastic bottle.”
Location: Philadelphia, PA Website: Talula's Garden Local ingredients rule at Talula’s Garden, a farm-to-table American restaurant in Philadelphia’s Market Square. In addition to focusing its menu on simple, seasonal ingredients from local suppliers, the restaurant is giving back to its community, ecologically-speaking. From Monday through Thursday, the restaurant partners with California-based winery Trinity Oaks to offer $6 glasses of vino, with the growers planting a tree for every bottle of wine consumed. That’s what we call drinking with a purpose! “As a restaurateur, I feel responsible for my guests,” says owner Aimee Olexy. “So it’s my obligation to provide local, seasonal, farm-produced food… In the smaller sense, you are helping local producers [and] helping your guests eat well. In the greater sense, you can help the world.” At-Home Tip: “My advice would be to shop for food at your nearest farmer’s market,” says Olexy. “I always find it’s worth your while to get closer to the source... you’ll pay less, eat in season and get more vitamins. By supporting a farmer’s market, you’re doing yourself a great service.”
Location: Brooklyn, NY Website: Brooklyn Bowl To call Brooklyn Bowl simply a “restaurant” would totally ignore the fact that there are 16 bowling lanes, two full bars and a main stage that has welcomed the likes of Kanye West, N.E.R.D. and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. (Rolling Stone called it “One of the most incredible places on earth.”) But there’s also food, courtesy of New York City’s award-winning Blue Ribbon family of restaurants , including an extensive menu of casual eats such as fried chicken, jumbo sandwiches, burgers, milkshakes and desserts. And it’s all served up in the world’s first LEED-certified bowling alley, formerly the home to Hecla Iron Works (the building was constructed in 1882), which boasts 100 percent wind-powered electricity, energy-efficient appliances, reclaimed wood fixtures and a disdain for bottles and cans (beer—which is all brewed in Brooklyn—is served on tap only).
Location: Yountville, CA Website: Lucy's Restaurant and Bar Located within Napa Valley’s Bardessono, one of the world’s few LEED Platinum-certified boutique hotels, Lucy Restaurant & Bar executive chef Victor Scargle carries that same eco spirit over into the kitchen. In an effort to conserve energy, half of the property runs on a 200-kilowatt solar energy system, and many of the ingredients that comprise Scargle’s menu are available just a few steps from the kitchen door, in the restaurant’s vast on-site garden. “It's important to be a green restaurant because it dramatically affects the food we eat,” says Scargle of his food philosophy. “From the vegetable farm to the ranch and ocean, they are all impacted if we are not conscious of our actions.” At-Home Tip: “One step people at home can make is to start their own home garden,” says Scargle. “They can even take this a step further by looking into their local seed saver programs, a nationwide initiative that preserves heirloom plant varieties through regeneration and distribution of seeds from farms all over the country.”
Location: New York, NY Website: GustOrganics As New York’s first and only certified-organic restaurant—and the world’s first and only USDA-certified organic bar—the name says it all: the menu at GustOrganics is (you guessed it) 100 percent organic! Right down to employee uniforms and the flowers that make your table look pretty. But that’s just the beginning: solar lighting, energy-efficient kitchen appliances, water conservation equipment, biodegradable takeout containers, soy-ink based printing on the menus and green cleaning practices are all standard operating procedure at this West Village hotspot. “It is extremely important to be a green restaurant because all businesses must take full responsibility for the impact of their operations in the environment and in people's lives,” says CEO and founder Alberto Gonzalez. “The new economy demands responsibility and we have decided to lead by example.” At-Home Tip: “The greenest way to a better future is to buy and support organic food,” claims Gonzalez. “The whole positive impact of organic agriculture downstream the value chain is simply huge.”
Location: Washington, DC and Potomac, MD Website: Founding Farmers The heartland comes to our nation’s capital by way of Founding Fathers, a dual-location, farm-inspired eatery with outposts in D.C. and nearby Potomac, Maryland. The restaurant’s breakfast, lunch, brunch and dinner menus offer made-from-scratch American classics, sourced from family farms, ranches and fisheries from across the country. “Sustainability and green operations are important to us because they create a better outcome for all parties involved—for the people who eat our food, the farmers who harvest it, the animals that produce it and the land that grows it,” says Dan Simons, Founding Farmers’ partner and concept developer. “Our dedication to green operations is a source of pride, because we are doing more than talking the 'green' talk, we are walking the walk.” At-Home Tip: “Something home cooks can do to reduce their eco footprints is to try ‘Meatless Mondays’ and eat vegetarian for one day a week,” suggests Simons. “Not only does it reduce your meat consumption and carbon footprint, but it will give you a chance to eat more seasonal veggies while experimenting with new meat-free recipes.”
Location: Asheville, NC Website: Green Sage “To me, a green ethic is essential to life,” says Randy Talley, president of Green Sage, a natural food restaurant and coffeehouse with two locations in Asheville, North Carolina. “My vision for Green Sage was inspired by my passion for local, green, organic foods (and a healthy fear of climate change). I want customers to see Green Sage as a supplement to their sustainable lifestyle—a natural extension of their kitchens and pantries.” Among the restaurants’ efforts: a compost and recycling station; 12 thermal solar panels on the roof; six 80-gallon storage tanks in the basement, which can generate up to 480 gallons of solar-heated water each day; compostable to-go containers; potato-based utensils and straws; water—from local producer Blue Moon Water—served in bottles that are both biodegradable and recyclable; and waterless urinals, which can save up to 40,000 gallons of water per year. At-Home Tip: “Cook (and eat) more veggies,” suggests Talley. “You can reduce your impact even further by making more meals with raw veggies and other raw foods, saving energy used by your stovetop and oven.”
Location: Half Moon Bay, CA Website: Sam's Chowder House If the amazing waterfront locale and acclaimed menu of fresh seafood weren’t enough to entice you to Sam’s Chowder House, how about the fact that the restaurant’s owners go out of their way to ensure they’re operating at the highest levels of eco-consciousness? “At Sam’s, we try to meet the needs of our guests today, but not compromise the environment for future generations, so we use rooftop solar electricity, biodegradable and compostable packaging, sustainable seafood practices and we even recycle the rice-based vegetable oil from our fryers (about 300 gallons a week),” says co-owner Julie Shenkman. At-Home Tip: “Here are five simple, doable tips from our Executive Chef and Partner Lewis Rossman on how you can reduce your carbon footprint at home,” offers Shenkman: “Buy organic and local whenever possible—check out your local farmer’s market; buy products with the least amount of packaging possible, and with packaging that is compostable and recyclable; even better—grow your own food! Start with a small, portable herb garden; try and choose wild seafood whenever possible, and use the Monterey Bay Aquarium's watch list to help guide your choices (they also publish a great consumer guide); replace plastic containers with glass.”
Location: Chicago, IL Website: Uncommon Ground What’s the greenest restaurant in America? According to The Green Restaurant Association , a nonprofit organization that helps dining establishments operate in eco-friendly ways, it’s Chicago’s Uncommon Ground. Earlier this year, the organization named the West Devon Avenue location of this Windy City hotspot the “World’s Greenest Restaurant,” an accolade it first earned back in 2011. (Its second location, in the city’s Lakeview neighborhood, earned the number two spot.) Solar panels, energy-efficient appliances, LED lights, reclaimed wood furniture and a rooftop garden are just some of the efforts that helped the American-focused eatery land its second claim on the title. Bravo!
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