Going green isn’t just a food trend anymore — it’s a movement that’s here to stay. More and more restaurants are focusing on water efficiency; waste reduction and recycling; sustainable furnishings and building materials; sustainable food, energy, and disposables; and chemical and pollution reduction. For the fifth year in a row, we’re celebrating these restaurants in honor of Earth Day. From a vegetarian café in New York to a tap house in Spokane, it’s true that restaurants are getting greener by the day.
The Green Restaurant Association (GRA), which works with restaurants on environmental assessment and consulting, certification, and public relations and marketing, has created a rating system for restaurants (with four stars being the highest score) that takes all of the above factors into account. Its ranks are steadily growing.
“The biggest trend is that there are more restaurants [being certified] than last year, and there are more famous chefs doing this now,” Michael Oshman, CEO and founder of the GRA, told us. What’s critical, he added, is that the food industry as a whole doesn’t wait for new green technologies to be developed to make improvements to their businesses. “The most important thing is not waiting for the new technology, it’s utilizing the technology that we have today,” he said.
The GRA has an entire database that lists certified restaurants along with their ratings. In addition to restaurants across the country, such as Blackbird in Chicago and Carnevino in Las Vegas, the GRA has also certified campus eateries at universities, showcasing the schools’ commitment to promoting green dining.
But it’s not just restaurants and universities that are getting in on the action; even sports venues, like MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, are going green. The minimum requirements for being “Certified Green” include going Styrofoam-free, having a full recycling program, earning at least 10 "GreenPoints" each in energy, water, waste, chemicals, food, and packaging, reaching 100 GreenPoints total. Many colleges, including Boston University and Loyola Marymount, have on-campus eateries that have recieved four stars from the GRE — the highest rating. Corporate eateries, like On Twelve, located in the AllianceBernstein Building in New York, and the Restaurant at the Royal Bank of Scotland in Stamford, Connecticut, are also leading the charge with their green initiatives.
The GRA's list of the greenest restaurants was formulated using their star ranking system, but to compile our list we dug a little deeper to find the best restaurants across the country with standout cuisine that boast top green certification, too. The Daily Meal’s list is comprised of three- and four-starred GRA restaurants throughout the United States that feature superb cuisine in addition to unique approaches to bettering the growing green restaurant community.
#20 Slapfish, Huntington Beach, Calif.
Casual seafood eatery Slapfish is serious about its environmental efforts and has a three-star rating from the GRA to show for it. It takes sustainability to a whole new level by working closely with multiple organizations to utilize the current data on overfishing, harmful fishing practices, and responsible fish farming. It has partnered with the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach and Seafood for the Future to source the highest quality, healthiest seafood it can find. Menu favorites include the Baja mahi sandwich and the bacon-wrapped lobster dog.
#19 Luella's Bar-B-Que, Asheville, N.C.
This casual barbeque dining concept is dedicated to sustainability and good cooking, and many of its ingredients come from its own garden. All of the chicken used at the restaurant is hormone- and antibiotic-free, and it fries its food with non-hydrogenated soybean oil. All of the restaurant’s oils are recycled by Blue Ridge Biofuels. The menu boasts a variety of barbeque favorites, such as chile-rubbed beef brisket, local BBQ tempeh, and chopped pork BBQ.
Additional reporting by Kristen Oliveri.