Restaurant biz hops onto the green bandwagon

Green ain’t just the color of the broccoli anymore in the restaurant biz. And a good thing too: the average restaurant generates 50,000 pounds of waste (half of it food) and uses 300,000 gallons of water every year. Enter the Green Restaurant Association, which provides environmental assessments and “certifies” restaurants for using eco-friendly measures like efficient light bulbs, unbleached napkins, and Styrofoam alternatives. But only a tiny percentage of the nation’s 1 million restaurants have gone the GRA way; sustainability in the $500 billion U.S. restaurant industry — which is larger than many countries’ economies — is “in its very early stages,” says Todd Mann of the National Restaurant Association. Owners have sometimes been frustrated with corn-based plastic spoons that melt in hot soup, or cleaners that are nontoxic, phosphate-free, petroleum-free, biodegradable, and VOC-free, but don’t clean very well. But that means there’s nowhere to go but up, right? We’ll drink to that.