Celebrate the start of the weekend and warmer temperatures by visiting one of St. Louis’s many local, sustainable restaurants!
The Green Dining Alliance (GDA) is a program of the non-profit organization St. Louis Earth Day. The GDA helps area restaurants assess and determine a path for meeting sustainability needs and goals. All GDA restaurants participate in a certification and audit process, and once certified, they can advertise their GDA rating and sustainable practices. In addition to supporting restaurant owners, the program gives community members the power to choose local, environmentally preferable dining options.
To gain certification, restaurants must commit to the GDA’s Core Concepts, which include actions such as banning Styrofoam, phasing in energy efficient lighting (LEDs and efficient ballasts), and recycling. Certified restaurants must also earn a star rating of two or above in the audit process, which addresses seven main sustainability categories: waste, sourcing and procurement, water, energy, chemical use, awareness and education, and innovation. Within a month of completing an audit, GDA staff deliver the restaurant’s report and score.
Jenn DeRose is the GDA’s program manager. Here are her thoughts on the program:
Q: What is your role at the Green Dining Alliance?
A: I am the program manager. I perform audits, provide certification reports, research products and incentive programs, manage outreach and recruitment efforts, write grant reports, and manage social media and blog content. I also give lectures, attend events, and try to learn as much as I can about the food system of St. Louis and about sustainability efforts in our region.
Q: Can it be difficult to convince restaurants to make their operations more sustainable? If so, how do you overcome these difficulties?
A: There is a price barrier, especially with Styrofoam alternatives (Styrofoam is always cheaper than other to-go cup and box options), but most of that can be made up through savings from energy efficient bulbs and equipment, water-saving techniques, and better portion control – all things we address in our audits and reports. Restaurant owners want to do the right thing, but they are concerned with price points. However, becoming more sustainable attracts customers, and again, sustainability can and should save money, at least most of the time.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of your day-to-day work, and/or the broader reach of your work?
A: I love connecting colleagues with each other, and I love learning about our food system. I’ve met a lot of wonderful people in both the sustainability community and the food industry, and I really enjoy nurturing the relationships I’ve developed with all of them. It’s a wonderful feeling, realizing you can work together on a common goal.
Q: What is your favorite vegetarian food or meal?
A: This is tough, but I’m a pizza-loving gal, so I’m going to go with Pizzeoli in Soulard. The house-made vegan cheese on that perfect crust is killer. I love all of the vegetarian and vegan restaurants in the GDA, as well. Reducing meat consumption dramatically reduces your carbon footprint, so I recommend eating a vegetarian meal at every single one of our member restaurants.
Whether you are in the mood for pizza or Thai, you can find a St. Louis business that is committed to great food and environmental stewardship!