America’s Greenest Restaurants slash energy use while serving up sublime sustenance

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Last month, The Daily Meal announced its annual selection of America’s Greenest Restaurants. The top 20 restaurants are chosen for their dedication to green and sustainable operation, while at the same time, serving “standout cuisine.”

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Restaurants selected for the list must demonstrate their commitment to sustainability by earning a 3- or 4-star Green Restaurant Association (GRA) rating, a national certification for restaurants similar to LEED Certification for buildings.

In order to receive a rating, restaurants earn points in each of seven environmental categories, including water efficiency, waste reduction and recycling, sustainable furnishings and building materials, sustainable food, energy, disposables, and chemical and pollution reduction.

In the energy category, the GRA awards points for “using more energy-efficient equipment, offsetting energy usage, and generating on-site renewable clean sources of energy.”

Restaurants must accumulate 100 or more points, with a minimum in each category (including 10 points in energy), and demonstrate continual environmental upgrades year over year.

Among those named to the 2015 Greenest Restaurants list is French Broad Chocolates in Asheville, N.C., known for its decadent desserts and drinks served in a “chocolate lounge.” The restaurant conserves energy with a five-panel solar hot water system, a 97 percent-efficient hot water heater, occupancy sensors, and Energy Star-certified appliances.

Another winner, Big Delicious Planet, in Chicago, Illinois, serves organic produce grown on its own urban farm, and conditions air with a built-in energy efficient geothermal heating and cooling system.

Filling the number one spot again is last year’s winner, The Grey Plume, in Omaha, Nebraska. This restaurant serves seasonal, locally grown produce and livestock, and boasts extensive LED lighting, Energy Star refrigerators, ice machines, and office equipment, and “the most energy-efficient dishwasher available on the market.”

In addition to restaurant certification, the GRA endorses individual products that restaurants can use to help move towards sustainability.

At restaurant chains, SiteSage provides central control and analysis of energy, water and equipment performance to deliver actionable intelligence to restaurant managers who want to reduce energy costs, minimize environmental effects, and save water, while protecting food safety.

Michael Oshman, CEO and founder of The GRA, told The Daily Meal that more restaurants are being GRA certified than ever before and the key is “utilizing the technology that we have today.”

By benchmarking their facilities, restaurant owners can determine the easiest and least costly fixes to make existing equipment more energy efficient, and then begin to monitor and manage their assets for increased efficiency and sustainability in the future.

Interested in learning more about restaurant energy management?