The Green Restaurant Association, a Boston-based nonprofit group, broke news today at the International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York, including the precedent-setting announcement that certified green restaurants will now be identified on several New York-centered online sites.
 
ILoveNy.com, launching on Earth Day; DinegreenNYC.com, launched today; NYC.com and CitySearch.com, all will have the information by the end of the month. Restaurants can be certified green by the GRA via the association's point-based grid that considers energy, food, water efficiency, disposables, waste reduction and recycling, pollution and chemical reduction and furnishings and building materials. Certified green restaurants must meet minimal points in each category and accumulate a total of at least 100 points overall. They also must not use Styrofoam and must engage in a full-scale recycling program.
 
The move is especially significant because New York is known as the green capital of the world, with more than 80 restaurants certified green and many more in the works. That's more than in any other city.
 
"The movement transcends race, ethnicity, economics … across the country, there's an interest and awareness in green," said Michael Oshman, executive director of the GRA.
 
The press conference included several New York State Restaurant Association members and operators of local green restaurants, who vouched for the momentum of going green—especially because of its hidden cost savings.
 
Paul Sale, corporate chef for New York based BR Guest Restaurants, is the first multiunit chain to be certified by the GRA. He said the restaurants' energy-saving culture helped the concept weather the recent economic storm by helping it run more efficiently, saving operators on water, paper and trash costs.  
 
Oshman said the movement is maligned with an unfair reputation as being expensive or impractical. In fact, he says, one local operator was able to grow her business 25 percent the first year she went green. She slashed marketing costs after an influx of free press, gained new customers, and ran more efficiently. Another operator has saved both his restaurant and his patrons money by replacing bottled water with a filtration system and charging around $1 for the water.
 
The little steps count, and are great marketing tools. "Nobody [meets] all the standards," Oshman conceded.

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