The Environmental Defense Fund and Restaurant Associates announced the launch of Green Dining Best Practices today, a list of comprehensive recommendations for sustainable food service born of a commitment to convert all 111 of RA's clients to green dining establishments by 2011.
Restaurant Associates, based in New York City, provides food and catering services to large corporations, museums, performing arts centers and schools. Their size and scope makes the EDF partnership particularly meaningful; Restaurant Associates is the largest company to date to make such a large commitment to sustainability. Because of its success in the food industry, RA is also in the unique position to prove that sustainability is not synonymous with financial death. At a celebratory luncheon today, President Ed Sirhal greeted the audience of journalists, educators and environmentalists with the clear message that Green Dining Best Practices is "at the intersection of profit and planet."
Some of the new practices implemented in pilot programs at RA clients Hearst and Random House include using local, in-season produce, buying sustainable seafood, saving water, lowering greenhouse gas emissions through lower electricity use, and installing bottle-less water dispensers.
Gwen Ruta, Vice President of EDF's Corporate Partnerships program, explained the creation process of Green Dining Best Practices. After studying the energy uses of commercial kitchens, she found that small changes can make big differences --coffee urns, for instance, were found to be the biggest energy-sappers in commercial kitchens. Chefs tend to turn them on in the morning and keep them simmering all day. Something as simple as turning off the urns a few times a day, according to Ruta, translates to big energy savings. Another eye-opener for Ruta was that packaging labeled "Biodegradable" or "Compostable" is not always the greenest choice. It turns out waste management in the United States does not have separate collection for compostable items, so they fester in landfills with the rest of the garbage. The best choice is to use old-fashioned, reusable dishware.
So far, with just two pilot programs, RA has calculated over $85,000 in savings. They are also proud to announce that in the past year alone, they removed 5,000 pounds of carbon-intensive meat from their menus and cut 275-tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
EDF's ultimate hope is that Restaurant Associates will continue to show the rest of the food industry that green practices save money. As for consumers, eating out just became a little more palatable!