Every year, your restaurant’s green credentials on the street gets more important. According to the National Restaurant Association (NRA), it’s one of the hottest trends this year. Companies across the board, in and out of the food service industry, have scrambled in recent years to label their brands as green, with varying degrees of success.
Some companies have taken advantage of the green mood consumers are in by “greenwashing” their business – trumping up a bunch of nominally “green” practices and selling it to customers as a genuine commitment to sustainability. The problem with greenwashing is that as consumers place more importance on sustainability, they’re also becoming more savvy about how effective the strategies companies tell them about really are.
This has led to a growing effort by companies that are genuine about their sustainability commitment to seek official credentials to back up their claims. In the food service industry, national chains like Chipotle have built flagship locations to showcase their efforts and build green cred.
One of the most respected programs out there is run by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) and is a well recognized name among consumers: LEED. The Leadership in Energy Efficient Design (LEED) certification process can be long and arduous, but it also carries an official respect that will completely wipe out any lingering customer suspicions about the true purpose of your intentions.
What is LEED and how do you become a LEED certified restaurant? Good question. The name of the game is to earn points when you build or remodel. Out of a possible 110 points, there are 5 categories and 2 bonus categories in which you can earn points for sustainable building and design practices:
Sustainable sites. If you’re building a new location, you can earn points by selecting a site based upon sensitivity to several environmental factors including plants, wildlife, water, and air quality. (21 points)
Water efficiency. Technology and strategies that cut your restaurant’s water use by 20% over the baseline amount earn you points. Earn even more points for cutting water use even further. (11 points)
Energy and atmosphere. Maximizing your restaurant’s energy efficiency, managing ozone-depleting CFCs (usually found in refrigerants), and utilizing renewable energy are the three main areas that will earn you points in this category. (37 points)
Materials and resources. Selecting sustainable resources for your building or remodel project (i.e. no redwood countertops) and developing an effective waste management strategy earn you points in this category. (14 points)
Indoor environmental quality. Using sensors and controls to manage indoor temperature, humidity, and ventilation earn you points in this category. (17 points)
Bonus points. These can be earned if you’re building or remodeling in a region that has been deemed a priority by the GBCI, or if your project shows exceptional innovation and leadership in design. (10 points)
40 points are required for LEED certification; there are also three levels beyond a basic certification: Silver (50+), Gold (60+), and Platinum (80+).
Obviously, LEED certification isn’t for everyone. That’s why it’s called a Leadership program. But for those brave enough to try for certification, the payoff can be incalculable.
If you’re not quite ready to take the plunge into a LEED program, check out these going green tips.