With the craziness that comes with the holiday season, you might find that you are short of time and are not able to make the kinds of meals you normally make due to shopping, holiday events, and even out-of-town guests. You might worry that eating out is really not in line with your sustainable food values.
Never fear, as I wrote about for Valentine’s Day, you can have dinner at a Certified Green Restaurant in your city knowing that you are still supporting sustainable food.
The Green Restaurant Association (GRA) certifies restaurants as “green” based on a number of categories and using category specific criteria.
The GRA’s mission is to “create an ecologically sustainable restaurant industry. With this mission in mind, we believe that knowledge is power. For the past two decades, we’ve provided solutions, tools, guidance, and education, proving that change is possible.”
When you dine at a certified green restaurant, sustainable food is one of the certification standards. Other categories include water efficiency, waste reduction and recycling, energy, disposables, and sustainable furnishings and materials.
In order to be green certified an establishment must meet minimum standards/points in each of these categories, accumulate a total of 100 points, have a full-scale recycling program, and be free of polystyrene foam (aka Styrofoam). Points are awarded for each category and it lists a restaurant’s ranking for these criteria.
For sustainable food, points are given for things like percentage of organic food and beverage, whether it features sustainable seafood, whether it’s dairy products come from vegetarian feed and whether the meat is grass-fed, free of hormones or antibiotics, and are free range. It also looks at the restaurant’s total vegetarian rating, including whether 30 percent of main dishes are vegetarian, and the percentage of vegan food it carries.
They are also given points for using local food and there are two categories of local: “regional” which is 300 miles, and “local” which is 100 miles. The local category pertains to whole, non-processed foods like meats, produce and cheeses.
As the GRA points out, its important to support local and organic foods to prevent soil erosion, protect water quality, save energy, keep chemicals off of your plate, protect farm workers’ health, support family farmers, and promote agricultural biodiversity. Perhaps the best reason is that it simply tastes better because it is fresher.
When searching the site, not only can you search by city and state, but also by type of cuisine and even by the number of stars a restaurant has received indicating how “green” it is. The higher the number the better.
If you have searched the site and still can’t find a Green Certified Restaurant in your area, you can also check Local Harvest to at least find a restaurant that serves locally grown and/or organic cuisine for your holiday celebrations.
If you don’t have time to search the GRA site and are out looking for a place to eat, as the GRA says on it’s web site, when ordering seafood and meat, ask if it’s sustainable, hormone-free, naturally raised, etc. They also suggest carrying pocket-size guides to sustainable seafood, like the ones from Blue Ocean Institute to help you make smart seafood choices at the fish counter, or your local sushi restaurant.