Going Green

February 8, 2009 at 11:23 pm Leave a comment

In wake of the current economic crisis, the eco-conscious trend of using everything from recyclable products to energy-efficient light bulbs to save money has overflowed from individual homes to  large businesses. The food industry has also hopped on the bandwagon in an effort to create products and establishments that can entice customers with the promise of “green.”

Restaurants now have the option of becoming Certified Green through a number of options, including the Green Restaurant Association, which issues certificates to restaurants that follow certain service and building guidelines. I think becoming officially certified is another way in which a restaurant attracts customers. Going green is trendy, and restaurant-goers like to feel that if they’re going to drop cash on eating out, they can feel good about their choices.

As far as good goes, many restaurants have started offering locally grown products, a lot of them organic. Although buying organic can often be more expensive than purchasing mass-produced ingredients, I think there’s the idea that it will attract more customers and up a restaurant’s status, making up for the cost, if eateries can advertise their ingredients are locally grown. In Gainesville, there are dozens of restaurants that try to offer organic products from nearby businesses and farmes. The New Deal Cafe uses products from farms that practice sustainable agriculture, and Luca’s Pasta, a new pasta carry-out place in downtown Gainesville, offers biodegradable take-out containers. Additionally, the Book Lover’s Cafe offers a variety of menu items (all vegetarian, many vegan) uses locally grown food to support the area’s economy and encourage healthier eating.

Then there are the food establishments that take it to a new level. The Birdbath Bakery in New York City not only uses wind power to generate electricity, but their shelves and displays are made out of 100 percent recycled paper, their floor is made of reclaimed wood, the cups are made out of corn, and the take-out bags contain no wax lining.  This, and all of their ingredients come from within the state and are organically grown. Indeed, Birdbath Bakery makes their extremely eco-friendly attitude their trademark. Recently, a popular restaurant in Texas turned relaunched itself as a green restaurant. The newly named Ruggles Green recycles fryer oil and all of its glass and cardboard waste. The meat is all natural, meaning no added hormones. This Feb. 5 article describes how the restaurant opened only a couple months ago and is already planning on adding new tables because they’re always busy.

Many grocery stores have also started to do their part in the green trend. Publix offers reusable canvas grocery bags for 99 cents and their Greenwise Publix food section, which offers organic food products ranging from potato chips to soy milk, has expanded in the past few years. With the widespread notion of evolving into an eco-friendly nation, it’s easy to see why and how people can do their own part to help out the environment. I use Publix’s canvas bags and purchase fruits and vegetables from the Haile Plantation Farmers Market on a weekly basis. And while I don’t frequent just those restaurants that have sustainable ingredients, I do appreciate the change restaurants are trying to make.

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