Going Green with the Green Chicago Restaurant Coalition

by Robert Green for SUST 240

The Green Chicago Restaurant Coalition (GCRC) is an organization that aims to reduce the environmental footprint of the foodservice industry in Chicago. GCRC provides educational assistance and support to restaurants and other foodservice operations throughout the area in efforts to increase their environmental sustainability and to help them acquire “Guaranteed Green” certification.

So what does it take to get “Guaranteed Green” certification? In order to receive certification a restaurant must go through the Green Restaurant Association or Green Seal. Both independent organizations have established environmental standards for restaurants and both have been providing certification services for over two decades.

Rooftop Organic Farm Hosted by Uncommon Ground, Certified Green Restaurant in Chicago, Illinois (photo: Zoran Orlic of Zero Studio Photography / Uncommon Ground)

Rooftop Organic Farm Hosted by Uncommon Ground, Certified Green Restaurant in Chicago, Illinois (photo: Zoran Orlic of Zero Studio Photography / Uncommon Ground)

The Green Restaurant Association grades restaurants on seven different categories including water efficiency, waste reduction and recycling, sustainable furnishing and building materials, sustainable food, energy, chemical and pollution reduction, and disposables. The certification process is very detailed. Green Seal, in comparison, has 31 standards that cover 375 product and service categories. Food service standards include a review of the restaurants purchasing decisions. To decrease their environmental impact, restaurants are encouraged to purchase environmentally responsible food, beverages and supplies. Restaurants must purchase a specific amount of food from sustainable sources and purchase environmentally preferable products and services.

Waste reduction is another focus of the evaluation process. Certifiers look to see if restaurants recycle their used cooking oil and if they are composting their food waste. Restaurants are also encouraged to donate left over food, if possible, and avoid the use of non-essential disposable products. They also look at policies and procedures for cleaning, site operations and general maintenance. There are many other criteria that are used to evaluate restaurants for the certification process. This is why GCRC is an invaluable resource for different restaurants and food service operations in Chicago that are looking to acquire this type of certification. They will assign an individual to assist an operation seeking certification for three months. The assistance is free of charge.

There are huge benefits to joining GCRC and becoming a “Guaranteed Green Restaurant”. Aside from doing a huge service to the community, restaurants receive the benefits of promo across different print media and access to additional resources for healthier products and services. They also get the opportunity to use the “Guaranteed Green” emblem which says a lot about an establishment and its dedication to protecting the environment. While the certification process may be challenging, food service operators are sure to reap benefits that make the process a worthwhile investment for their establishments, customer base, and the community as a whole.

Each week during the Fall 2014 / Spring 2015 semesters, students in Prof. Mike Bryson’s SUST 240 Waste classes at Roosevelt University contribute blog posts on urban and suburban sustainability issues to the Schaumburg’s Sustainable Future website.

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About Suburban Sustainability

Founder and editor of the Schaumburg's Sustainability Future social media project (est. Earth Day, 2011)
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