How To Green a Restaurant

by guest blogger Alberto Gonzalez, founder and CEO of GustOrganics

Restaurants are, without a doubt, big contributors to environmental degradation. And big-city restaurants are sometimes the worst offenders because they’re dealing with so many people and so much food.

Here are just a few ways that restaurants impact our environment, according to the Green Restaurant Association:

  1. The restaurant industry is the number one consumer of electricity in the retail sector.
  2. Each restaurant uses an average of 300,000 gallons of water per year.
  3. Each restaurant produces more than 100,000 pounds of garbage per year.
  4. 1,500 miles is the average distance between farm and table.

However, things are changing in a very positive way. Back in 1990, Michael Oshman was not happy when he found out that much of the packaging used in restaurants would still be around in 1,000 years, and that restaurant packaging was the second largest polluter of our nation’s beaches. The more he researched, the more he became aware of the huge gap between the environmental movement and the business community. So, at the age of 19, with a plan to “make it easy and business-positive for restaurants to go green,” he started the Green Restaurant Association (GRA), a 501C3 nonprofit—and he now serves as its CEO.

In the process of his extensive research, Michael discovered that there was more to it than simply reducing packaging. Improvement opportunities also existed in areas of energy and water use, waste diversion, chemical applications, food sourcing, and even building material choices. And since 1990, the GRA has been proactively helping restaurants become more sustainable in each of these areas.

Restaurateurs don’t have to be experts in sustainable practices. The GRA walks each restaurant, step by step, through the process of finding the best green steps it can take to become more sustainable and environmentally friendly. And the changes don’t have to be extreme. Simply switching to reusable mugs, getting rid of bottled water, not having paper towels in the bathroom, or having more vegetarian options on the menu earns you points in the GRA program.

The group certified its first “Green Restaurant” in 1993; the number grew to 80 restaurants in 2000, and this year GRA will be working with more than 850 restaurants.

I think nowadays it’s a must for all restaurateurs to start up sustainability metrics. And to those skeptical single-bottom-line–focused establishments, I say, please take a look at these surprising responses from diners who took part in the Consumer’s Green Dining Habits survey.

As more people become aware of how our everyday actions affect the planet, the demand for sustainability is rapidly growing, and now the question is not “Should we go green?” but rather, “How should we go green?” And that’s where places like the GRA can help.

Is there a Green Restaurant in your city?


Alberto Gonzalez is the founder and CEO of GustOrganics, the world’s first certified-organic restaurant using 100 percent organic ingredients, and one of the greenest and most progressive restaurants on the planet,


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