Green Restaurant Certification

Green Restaurant Certified LogoGreen Restaurant Certification offered by the Green Restaurant Association recognizes restaurants and food service companies for implementing green practices.

While dining at a Souplantation restaurant during a visit with my parents, I was idly flipping through the ringed table tent and spotted the words Green Restaurant Certified. I made note of the website address so I could check it out later.

Green Restaurant Association

The Green Restaurant Association (GRA) is a non-profit organization founded in 1990 in the San Diego area. Their mission is succinct: “Create an Environmentally Sustainable Restaurant Industry”. GRA provides assessment, consulting, and Green Restaurant Certification programs to four restaurant constituents.

Restaurants and other Food Service Facilities

Certification is available for existing and new restaurants as well as the food service portion of events.

As ante to certification, all restaurants must fulfill certain base requirements:

  • Accumulate a total of 100 Points
  • Meet Minimum Points in each Category
  • Have a Full-scale Recycling Program
  • Be Free of Polystyrene Foam (no Styrofoam)
  • Yearly Education
  • Communication

Examples of the points available in the 7 environmental categories are listed below.

  1. ENERGY STAR LogoWater Efficiency: low flow fixtures, TRSA Clean Green Certified linen service, ENERGY STAR equipment
  2. Waste Reduction and Recycling: compost kitchen waste, food, and packaging; recycle plastic, glass, paper, metal; reusable mug program
  3. Sustainable Furnishings and Building Materials: reused or salvaged building materials, furnishings with recycled material content
  4. Energy: ENERGY STAR equipment, tankless water heating, high-efficiency lighting, on-site renewable energy
  5. Organic VegetablesSustainable Food: organic food and beverage, sustainable seafood, local food
  6. Disposables: reusable napkins, utensils, dishes; recycled materials for take-out containers and disposable items
  7. Chemical and Pollution Reduction: electric car charging station, mitigate stormwater runoff, cleaning products meet EPA standards

Restaurants earn 2, 3, or 4 stars depending on point totals.

The certification program contains a continuing point accumulation requirement to address changing market conditions and ensure continuous improvement.


Manufacturers that serve the restaurant industry can obtain product endorsements from GRA by meeting requirements in 10 environmental categories including energy, water, disposables, chemical, and pollution prevention.


GRA offers assessment and consulting services to distributors to assist them with greening their own operations and carrying green products to enhance their business.


On the GRA website, diners may search for Green Certified Restaurants via the type of cuisine, location, and green rating (number of stars).

Other Green Restaurant and Food Service Organizations

Figuring there must be more restaurant related organizations with a green focus, I went back to the Internet. Below are a few examples.

  • Chefs Collaborative is a nonprofit network of chefs focused on sustainable food. They offer education, events, and opportunities to connect with other chefs.
  • Kendall College School of Culinary Arts began building sustainability into their curriculum in 2005. Kendall and GRA collaborated on an educational video with tips about going green in the foodservice industry.
  • The National Restaurant Association created the ConServe sustainability education program to help restaurants implement environmentally friendly practices and reduce operating costs.
  • The Culinary Institute of America launched its Green Campus Initiative in 2010. Key areas include sustainable agriculture, resource management, eco-friendly campus design, and conserving energy.

Green Diners

The National Restaurant Association forecasts restaurant industry sales will reach $632 billion in 2012. That is a lot of people eating out.

We can make a positive impact through our choice of restaurants and our own behavior when dining out.

  • Fine Dining RestaurantIt doesn’t matter if one is dashing into a fast-casual restaurant for a quick bite or enjoying a 5-course meal at a fine dining restaurant; we can all vote with our wallets by patronizing restaurants with environmental and people friendly practices.
  • Walk, bicycle, or take public transportation to the restaurant.
  • Decline the automatic glass of water unless you plan to drink it.
  • Select menu items that use fresh, seasonal ingredients from local farmers and providers.
  • Skip the beef and try vegetarian.
  • Don’t automatically grab a handful of napkins, a straw, or packets of ketchup. Take what you actually need and will use.
  • Taking leftovers home may seem cost effective and responsible. However, if leftovers involve a Styrofoam container, plastic utensils, paper napkin, and a plastic bag it might not be worth it.
  • Ask the owner of your favorite restaurant to implement green practices.

Happy green dining out.

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Author: Linda Poppenheimer

Linda researches and writes about environmental topics to share information and to spark conversation. Her mission is to live more lightly on Earth and to persuade everyone else to do the same.

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