The GDA’s comprehensive, 3rd party certification process differentiates restaurants that have demonstrated a commitment to the environment, through practices and policies that shape the way they do business. GDA Membership is verification that a restaurant is truly green.
What exactly do we mean by “green?”
We call a restaurant “green” based on solid practices and policies. Here are the overall considerations we take into account:
What’s coming into the restaurant? Are they:
- leaving behind a low-impact trail of trash and pollution?
- Ex: Polystyrene (#6 plastic – think ‘Styro-foam’ or disposable utensils) production and recycling are hard on the Earth, its air, and the people living and working near the plants – and since plastic is not an organic material, it is unable to break down into the environment in a healthy way.
- buying ingredients and products that are local, organic and/or compostable?
What’s happening inside the restaurant? Are they:
- conserving water, energy, and other natural resources?
- considering social sustainability?
- Ex: buying Fair Trade coffee or tea, or participating in a community give-back program
And what’s happening when all of those resources leave the restaurant? Are they:
- diverting re-usable Missouri resources from landfills?
- Ex: Aluminum cans can be recycled and back on the shelf in just 30 days, and the entire process happens here in the Gateway region!
- Ex. Did you know that when organics – any foods, plants, or paper products – get dumped in landfills, they produce 17% of our nation’s methane emissions? But, when organics are recycled via composting, the carbon and nutrients break down properly and are fed back into the soil, completing the “cycle of life” loop and keeping methane out of our atmosphere.
To sum it all up, we call an establishment, product, or practice “green” when the environmental impact of everyday actions are carefully considered, and lifestyles and systems reflect these considerations.
Not all of St. Louis’ restaurants are green in the same ways, and some decisions can have a stronger impact than others. Be wary of “greenwashing,” friends. Whether you own a restaurant or you’re going out to eat, we’ll help you discern the difference. (Read more here)
The Certification Process
All GDA Member Restaurants have gone through a rigorous certification process and have proven that they’re actively working to to reduce their environmental impact.
For Restaurants, becoming Certified takes a few simple steps:
1. Restaurant signs our online Commitment Form and pays their Membership fee, becoming a Pending Member.
2. Restaurant and Green Dining Alliance schedule an audit, and conduct the audit together on-site at the establishment.
3. Within one month, the GDA delivers the restaurant’s Report and score – now the restaurant is a Certified Member.
While we see many different ways that St. Louis’ restaurants may work toward sustainability, all GDA restaurants must commit to our Core Concepts*: (these will be outlined in the Commitment Form)
- Ban: indoor smoking, Styrofoam, and #6 plastic (polystyrene)
- Single Stream Recycling
- Phase in CFL’s and/or LED’s, and efficient ballasts (as appropriate)
- Set waste reduction and diversion goals, and share waste data with us so that we can assess the GDA’s and St. Louis’ restaurant industry’s environmental impact. (information kept private)
- Share baseline utility data so that the GDA can aggregate data for the region’s environmental impact (information kept private)
- Participate in GDA-approved workshops tailored specifically for restaurant managers and staff
*What are these? The basics. We’ve established this baseline for green restaurants in St. Louis – one that is within reach for the small and large businesses in our region. This core ‘green backbone’ also lets the dining population know that while every restaurant is unique and has their own take on greening and sustainability, the GDA logo is verification that these crucial actions are always in place.
Our GDA Certification Audit
Once a restaurant signs our Commitment Form, restaurants undergo the GDA’s Certification Audit, wherein the GDA serves as a 3rd party-certifying agent and conducts a thorough, on-site investigation.
A restaurant that commits to our Core Concepts and successfully completes our audit becomes a Certified Member. Because sustainability is an ongoing journey, we meet business owners where they are if they’re just starting out – and we also recognize leaders for their outstanding achievements.
Audit scores are reflected in a Member’s star rating:
Shades of Green
As of 2014*, there are 4 levels at which restaurants can achieve certification for their management and operations:
5 Star GDA Restaurant: Exemplary performance for enhanced sustainable practices
4 Star GDA Restaurant: Embraces enhanced sustainable practices
3 Star GDA Restaurant: Exceeds fundamental environmental responsibility
2 Star GDA Restaurant: Meets fundamental environmental responsibility
*If you were certified before 2014, you were rated on our previous 3-level system in which 4 stars represented the highest score. Your annual Re-certification will reflect our new star system.