Green Dining Alliance Brings Sustainability to St. Louis Restaurant Scene

Membership Grows To More Than 100

The Green Dining Alliance, a program of St. Louis Earth Day, certifies restaurants in sustainable practices, connecting them with resources to help lighten their carbon footprint, and encourages diners to eat at GDA certified locations. GDA restaurants recycle, they phase in energy efficient lighting, they manage water use responsibly, they try to source some local items, and they don’t use Styrofoam. Some go above and beyond this baseline, with solar panels, urban farms, impressive composting operations, and other efforts that dramatically reduce their environmental impact.

The Green Dining Alliance began in 2012, with just four members as a response to the Earth Day Festival.

The festival was attracting increasing numbers of food vendors, which was great – but their waste habits were becoming difficult to manage with the limited staff of St. Louis Earth Day. St. Louis Earth Day had general rules for participation; no Styrofoam was allowed – food vendors were to use compostable and recyclable products only. However, finding proper compostables and recyclables can be confusing, which resulted in a contaminated waste-stream for the green-themed event. St. Louis Earth Day realized that restaurants needed to have their own advocacy group to educate the hospitality industry in environmental practices. Additionally, the restaurants who were already doing their part for the environment deserved to have their efforts promoted. Thus, the GDA was born.

The GDA grew from 4 restaurants in 2012 to 9 in 2013, ended 2014 with 39, and jumped to 64 in early 2016. We are now at over 100 restaurants. Additionally, we’ve added a second Green Dining District to our program in the University City Loop, (our first was in Maplewood), where 25% of the independent restaurants have undergone GDA certification.

GDA certification scores are based on LEED certification standards for green buildings. The auditor visits potential member restaurants and administers the tool, guiding the owner, front of the house manager, or back of the house manager, through a series of questions regarding all areas of their operations: waste management practices, sourcing, energy consumption, water use, education, and innovative practices. The auditor then crafts a detailed report with resources based on the results, suggesting practical ways to reduce the environmental impact of their operations. Many of these recommendations save restaurants money, but others, like replacing Styrofoam with a responsible to-go material, are always more expensive. Whenever you get take-out in a box that isn’t Styrofoam, know that that restaurant has made a conscious decision to spend more money to reduce their waste footprint – all alternatives to Styrofoam are dozens of times more expensive than the cheap, toxic alternative.

Show your support for the restaurants who worked hard to create a more sustainable dining scene in St. Louis!

Visit www.greendiningalliance.org for a complete list of participating restaurants.