One Restaurant's Tale of Sustainable Success

by Colleen Oteri
Green Restaurant Association

Most restaurant employees are between the ages of 20 and 30. These employees are part of Generation Green — the young demographic that are champions for sustainable initiatives and green practices. These educated young people are buying some organic and local foods, and they are re-using coffee mugs and grocery bags. They grew up recycling their soda cans and they’re concerned with issues like global warming. They often avoid using plastic bags and bottles, and are eagerly putting their names on the Prius waiting list.

If you are the owner or manager of a restaurant, these young people are your employees.
Today’s Generation Green employees are bothered by the waste they see each day as they work the back-of-the-house. They’re concerned about the chemicals they soak their hands in while washing dishes, and they get frustrated by scraping half-eaten food into the garbage bins.
Appealing to Generation Green secures not only a positive outcome for the environment, but benefits your workplace with decreased staff turnover rates and increased employee morale and loyalty.

According to research conducted by Kenexa Research Institute (KRI), employees working at companies with clear corporate responsibility programs, including environmental and social programs, are most satisfied. Employees at these companies also stay at their jobs longer and are more content with senior management then their peers at companies with lackluster programs.”

Your Green Customers

Your customers are being bombarded with the same Green information, news, terms, and phrases that you are. They’re quickly learning what’s legitimate, what’s not, and which businesses they want to support. They’re picky and they can’t be fooled. Consumers, by nature, like to be “in the know.” They want to believe that they’re making purchasing decisions on purpose, even when they may be actually making them based on things like persuasive marketing.

Make it easy for them. As more and more consumers seek Green dining options, set your restaurant apart and make it clear to your customers that you are committed to affecting real, solid change in your restaurant because you understand their need for Green options.

Statistically Speaking

It’s clear that the overall interest in all things Green has increased in the past 18 months. We see that even the working world is developing based on the availability and demand for Green Collar jobs. We see that consumers are buying more organic foods and non-toxic cleaning products. In addition to that, many students are even basing their college choices on the environmental merits of universities. Gone are the days of selecting higher education based solely on status, legacy, reputation, popularity, athletic departments, Greek life, and co-ed ratios. A 2009 Princeton Review Study showed: “68% of students chose colleges and universities this year based on the environmental scorecard of the school.”

Sustainability curriculums are being intermingled with the classics like math, geography, English, politics, and sciences. Universities don’t often design entire new curriculums around trends. Corporate America doesn’t often coin phrases that define new sectors of the workforce based on trends. It has become evident that Green is here to stay.

Seeing Green

So how does all of this affect you? The question really should be “How doesn’t this affect you?”

Start doing. Be a leader. Many things like recycling, eliminating Styrofoam, and purchasing energy-efficient equipment are already mandated in various counties across the U.S. Implementing sustainable solutions now, before it becomes mandatory, shows your customers and staff that you are a forward thinker.

There are literally hundreds of things you can do to improve the environmental impact of your restaurant while saving money, water, energy, and other resources.

Taking action doesn’t mean you have to be an advocate for the Green movement. It doesn’t mean that you have to make Green your cause. Taking action means staying ahead of the curve and implementing changes because you know they will benefit you, your customers and employees — now and for decades to come.

The Green Restaurant Association (GRA) has been making it simple for restaurants to “go green” for nearly 20 years. For more information on the language and steps to take, visit



Visit the GRA website

Recipe of the Month

Click photo for this and more great recipes

Osso Bucco

Sponsored by Manitowoc


Wisconsin website design by BrownBoots Interactive, Inc.