What does it take to be the “greenest restaurant in America”?

In the case of Uncommon Ground, no less than 116 environmentally friendly practices.

A restaurant with two locations on Chicago’s North Side neighbourhood, Uncommon Ground was named The Greenest Restaurant in America by the Green Restaurant Association (GRA) last week. Both locations have four-star ratings from the GRA, an independent green-certification organization, and are two of only five restaurants in the US with that designation.

So what do you have to do to become America’s greenest restaurant?

  • Install high efficiency (HE) appliances wherever possible. Uncommon Ground installed Energy Star-rated dishwashers and ice machines to achieve their four-star rating. (Interested in investigating HE appliances for your restaurant? Take a look at our energy rebates page.
  • Get your power from a sustainable source. For Canadian businesses, companies like Bullfrog Power provide electricity from renewable sources like wind.
  • Think about installing solar panels. This isn’t viable for some restaurants, but, according to Uncommon Ground, installing solar panels will make a significant difference to their power consumption and energy costs, with a payback period of only 3.5 years. Although the upfront cost is high, rebates are often available.
  • Switch to accelerated hand dryers rather than use paper towels. You’ll save money and reduce your carbon footprint (no more paper towels getting shipped!). If you’re skeptical about the cost savings, see our article about the Dyson Airblade.
  • Be creative (and willing to get a little dirty). One of Uncommon Ground’s locations hosts the USA’s first certified-organic rooftop farm, complete with planter boxes, greenhouses and beehives, which provides a variety of veggies and greens for the restaurant. As well, they’re planning to host an electric car-share charging station. Every little bit helps…

Interested in exploring green certification in Canada? Take a look at our interview with Leaders in Environmentally Accountable Foordservice, and check out LEAF’s website.

What could you do to follow Uncommon Ground’s example? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Image credit: wrestlingentropy