In St. Louis, Missouri, one organization is changing the restaurant industry’s often wasteful ways. By setting realistic standards, Green Dining Alliance helps businesses recreate themselves as sustainable restaurants that appeal to St. Louis’ increasingly eco-conscious population.

Why Restaurant Sustainability Matters

Sign from a GDA-certified sustainable restaurant.

Image: Green Dining Alliance

According to Jenn DeRose, Green Dining Alliance’s LEED Green Associate, the restaurant industry, by necessity, produces greater-than-average amounts of waste. The average restaurant uses hundreds of gallons of water and throws out tons of food and other materials, such as disposable silverware and takeout containers, every year. And with multiple appliances constantly running, they also use more energy than the average business.

However, as DeRose points out, restaurants are good for community building. By giving us a place to gather, they give us a sense of place. By giving us a reason to keep visiting a particular neighborhood, they’re also good for a community’s economy.

That’s why Green Dining Alliance creates practical strategies to make sustainability achievable for local restaurants no matter where they’re starting on the eco-friendly scale.

The Green Dining Alliance Story

Green Dining Alliance is a program of St. Louis Earth Day. GDA grew out of a concern about the amount of waste produced by food vendors at the annual Earth Day festival. Festival organizers wanted to provide education on restaurant sustainability and celebrate the restaurants making green strides.

With input from industry professionals, the newly formed Green Dining Alliance used the LEED audit, which is used to evaluate a building’s eco-friendliness, as the basis for their green restaurant certification program.

To become certified, interested restaurants must commit to four “Core Concepts”:

  • Ban the use of Styrofoam.
  • Implement recycling.
  • Phase in energy efficient lighting.
  • Set other goals for improving sustainability.

After committing to the Core Concepts, a GDA consultant visits the restaurant to conduct an audit covering topics such as water conservation, chemical use and where the restaurant sources ingredients. The restaurant will use that data to set the goals required by the Core Concepts.

After completing their audit and becoming a formal member of the Green Dining Alliance, restaurants are listed as a certified sustainable restaurant in GDA’s directory, where eco-conscious diners can turn for recommendations.

Quote from GDA.

Sustainability Successes

Since its start in 2012, Green Dining Alliance has seen its membership double every year. Currently, 100 members are increasing sustainability in ways that make sense for their specific restaurants.

DeRose points out that because GDA’s work is primarily educational, it’s difficult to precisely measure its impact on St. Louis’s overall environmental health. However, we do know that GDA members diverted 3,885 tons of waste from landfills last year. And, as evidenced by their rapidly growing membership, their educational efforts are definitely paying off. DeRose has seen an uptick in diners using GDA’s directory and local restaurants are beginning to recognize how sustainability can bring them additional business.

Each member restaurant pursues sustainability in unique ways. One of DeRose’s favorite examples is Bombay Food Junkies, an Indian buffet in St. Ann. To combat food waste, the owner created a brilliant alternative to the typical buffet. Diners are given samples of each dish and can then request additional portions of each they enjoy. This way, food can be prepared in smaller batches and diners don’t heap their plates with items they may not want to finish.

Quote from GDA on greenwashing.

With its simple but powerful approach, we look forward to seeing Green Dining Alliance continue to grow its membership of sustainable restaurants that truly walk the walk.

Budget Dumpster is your community-focused source for a dumpster rental in St. Louis. This article is part of a series spotlighting organizations that are making a difference in the communities we serve.

If you know of another great green organization, let us know in the comments!

Header Image Source: Green Dining Alliance. The image features employees of Pastaria Pasta.