Omnivore - In the business of going green

"If restaurants were automobiles, they would be Hummers." So says Richard Young, an electrical engineer with the food service technology center in an article from the Boston Globe. "They use five times more energy than any other commercial building."

The article is about the national Green Restaurant Association, a nonprofit organization founded in 1990 by Michael Oshman. Started as a response to the taxing effect the restaurant industry has on the environment — restaurants make up 10 percent of the American economy and are the top energy consumer in the retail sector — Oshman said in a New York Times article that in recent years, "People are finally ready."

Through a comprehensive model including research, marketing, consulting, and education, the GRA offers restaurants a path to becoming a Certified Green Restaurant as part of an effort to create a more ecologically sustainable industry.

Interestingly enough, on the page of its website that gives restaurant owners seven reasons to join the GRA, creating a healthier environment is No. 7.

That's because the GRA is trying to appeal to business owners, about whom Oshman says, "At the end of the day, they need to have it justified financially." Which explains why his organization puts the following financially attractive reasons first: publicity, cut costs, improved staff productivity and morale, customer loyalty, and new customers.

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