By Dawna Matthews:
You may have noticed a word around town, in places you shop, on the internet, and in restaurants and cafes. The word is “sustainable.” What does sustainable mean? It means to use methods or techniques that do not completely use all resources and allow for future use.
Many people today are concerned with sustainable agriculture, energy and business. One sector of the
business and service industry with sustainability concerns is the restaurant. Restaurants provide a great service to people but at a high cost. They use and waste a lot of food, water and other resources such as energy. A study conducted in 2005 by the University of Arizona estimated the total amount of food wasted per day in United States full-service restaurants is close to 50,000 pounds. Diners have begun to take interest in the amount of waste driven by the restaurant industry. In response to eco-conscious consumers, many restaurants have adopted sustainable practices.
What does a sustainable restaurant look like? It looks like any other restaurant, but its practices are what set it apart from the mainstream. According to the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA), “Sustainability is about restaurants managing the social and environmental impact of their operations,” such as animal welfare, food waste reduction and climate change. Restaurants that are members of the SRA must focus on three key components to sustainability: sourcing, environment and society.
Sourcing encompasses provenance of animals, environmentally positive farming, and fair trade work conditions. Environment focuses on energy efficiency, waste management and water conservation. The society element is made up of transparency, community involvement and healthy eating. These components are important to diners: they help patrons to be knowledgable about the food they eat, as well as the restaurant’s effect on their community. Restaurants can be more green and sustainable in a myriad of ways such as those listed below:
- Buy local and seasonal
- Use as many organic ingredients as possible
- Compost and recycle
- For decor, reuse materials such as furniture, counters and flooring
- Water filtration systems
- Treat team members, suppliers and customers fairly
- Ethically source meat, dairy and fish
Consumers are interested in where their food is coming from, and restaurants are responding in big ways. Patrons can do their part in sustainability and personal food waste by ordering smaller portions, recycling, bringing their own reusable container for leftovers, and choosing green restaurants.
An increasing number of restaurants are discovering how easy it is to think green and sustainable, and to reform to a more environmentally conscious venue. Consumers want to feel good about the cafe, bar and restaurant where they spend their time and money. Being sustainable is good for the environment, the community and the entire dining experience. By insisting we want environmentally conscious restaurants, we are improving the world we live in and making it a greener place.
For more information on the University of Arizona study:
Where to find an eco-conscious restaurant: