Dining out

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Urge your favorite restaurant to go green

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Whether you’re a regular or a first-time diner, you can leave your server more than the standard 18 to 20 percent with a tip about becoming a green restaurant. Restaurants have a variety of resources available to them offering advice and support for becoming more environmentally friendly. By providing restaurant owners with the information they’ll need to offer a green dining experience, you’ll help keep food waste, energy-related pollution, and dangerous chemicals out of your community—and keep food dollars within the local economy. And with half of the money Americans spend on food going to restaurant eating, you've got a lot of green purchasing power![1]

How to urge a local food purveyor to become a green restaurant

  • Decide which restaurant to approach. For greatest success, choose a restaurant that you believe will be open to making the changes you suggest. Compassion Over Killing (COK), an organization that works to urge restaurants to include more vegetarian fare on their menu, has found that family-owned and independent restaurants usually have more freedom and ability to implement changes in their menu and practices than national chains.[2]
  • Schedule a face-face meeting with the restaurant owner. When you schedule the appointment, be sure to emphasize that you will be brief so as not to take up too much of their limited time. Then, read up on the facts and prepare a brief presentation explaining why going green will benefit the business and the community, and highlighting some of the simplest steps the restaurant can take to be more eco-friendly. When you meet, dress professionally and come armed with literature you can leave with the owner explaining what they can do to go green. Give them lots of easy-to-implement information and helpful contacts. You can find information to pass on to restaurant owners in the Find it! section below. For more on planning a face-to-face meeting, check out COK’s Guide to Restaurant Outreach
  • Write a letter urging the restaurant—or chain of restaurants—to adopt green practices. United Methodist Women’s website has a sample letter to Yum! Brands Inc., a major paper product supplier to restaurants, urging them to carry chlorine-free products.
  • Become a shareholder activist. Shareholders get a say in the decisions and practices of the companies in which they invest. By becoming a shareholder, you can vote on, request meetings about, and ultimately affect the environmental policies and practices of your favorite restaurant.

Find it! Resources to help you urge local restaurants to go green

Below are links to how-to information and resources for restaurants interested in going green. Refer local owners to these references when urging them to become a green restaurant, or just refer them to this page to check out the links themselves. Some of the resources listed below cross categories, so be sure to read what is included in each to make sure you get the information you're looking for.

Comprehensive guides

Conserving energy and water

Buying local guides

Pollution prevention and waste reduction

Packaging reduction guides

Recycling and composting guides

Urging local eateries to become green restaurants helps you go green because…

  • Since restaurants are the largest electricity consumers in the US retail sector,[3] every restaurant that uses less energy and buys green power significantly reduces the environmental harm associated with electricity generation. In fact, restaurants can reduce pollution emissions by 10 to 30 percent just by replacing standard equipment with energy-efficient alternatives.
  • The average restaurant could reduce water use by 31 percent—or nearly 150,000 gallons per year—just by making minor modifications.[4]
  • Recycling and composting paper, plastic, and food waste diverts that waste from landfills. More than 60 percent of the average restaurants’ trash is compostable or recyclable,[5] yet 20 percent or less of US restaurants currently recycle. [6]
  • Using recycled products requires less environmentally harmful manufacturing and processing than virgin products.
  • Restaurants that serve local fruits, vegetables, meats, and other products lessen their environmental impact by cutting out pollution-ridden transportation from farm to table, and the support to local farms helps preserve rural open space.[7]
  • Serving vegetarian options can reduce carbon emissions: A study by Carnegie Mellon University scientists concluded that eating less meat will reduce carbon emissions even more than purchasing food locally.[8] The study found that buying all local food is like driving 1,000 fewer miles in your car annually, which is what you get cutting dairy and meat one day a week. Go totally veggie and you'll slash a whopping 8,000 miles in vehicle emissions.[9]
  • Serving organic food and beverages keeps dangerous pesticides and insecticides out of the environment, and can combat climate change through carbon sequestration.
  • Serving sustainable seafood ensures that it was raised or caught in an environmentally friendly way.
  • Using nontoxic cleaning and chemical products, as well as paper goods that are not treated with chlorine or other dangerous chemicals, lowers the risk of chemical exposure and contamination that can threaten human and animal health.

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