National Restaurant Association unveils pilot green program
The National Restaurant Association has launched the pilot of its new initiative and Web site, Greener Restaurants -- a national program to recognize restaurants' environmental sustainability efforts.   "We listened to what our members have told us they wanted: a flexible, effective and affordable program to help them do the right thing for the planet and for their business, and worked closely with them to develop the program," said Dawn Sweeney, NRA president and CEO. "As we perfect the final program details in the pilot stage, we are working with our state restaurant association partners to introduce it industry-wide."   The initiative is different from the certification process offered by the Green Restaurant Association, a unique and separate organization designed to help operators build and create environmentally friendly eateries.   "Greener Restaurants is a recognition program, not a certification program, and participating restaurants will work off a check list of sustainability practices with educational resources provided along the way," said NRA spokeswoman Annika Stensson. "We will not be performing audits, but participants will report their progress through their online profiles, which will be displayed on the consumer site."   Greener Restaurants also will show operators how to save money while implementing green operating practices and sharing their successes with guests. Meanwhile, a limited number of restaurants have signed on to participate in the pilot before the NRA opens it to industry-wide participation in the next few months.   "Once we open the program industry-wide, any and all restaurants may participate. Our goal with the program is flexibility and affordability to allow restaurants of all sizes and concepts to 'go greener,'" Stensson said. "We view environmental sustainability as a journey more than a destination, making it a continuing process."   The program also will help restaurants market their efforts to "go greener" to guests both onsite and online. It was developed with the input of restaurant operators and partners of the National Restaurant Association Conserve initiative – the Turner Foundation, Kendall College, Food Service Technology Center and EPA ENERGY STAR.
 
The program comprises a checklist of action items from which participants select areas of focus and build a profile on an interactive Web site (www.GreenerRestaurants.com). The checklist contains both small steps, such as using low-energy light bulbs, and large moves, including equipment and remodeling. The checklist will be accompanied by resources and instructional videos to help the operator implement each practice and report its progress.
 
The online profiles will become part of a consumer-oriented Web site with a nationwide search engine that will be part of the public launch of the program later this year. Participating restaurants also will receive a door decal and other marketing materials to highlight their commitment to sustainable practices to customers.
 
Association research shows that four out of 10 consumers say they are likely to make a restaurant choice based on its conservation practices. And restaurants are responding: 40 percent of fullservice restaurants and 31 percent of quick-service restaurants plan to devote more resources to green initiatives in 2010.

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