Aspen Grille earns 3-Star Green Restaurant certification – Source

Tuesday, April 2
By Jill Jones
Aspen Grille SustainabilityAspen Grille was recently recognized for its daily sustainability practices as a 3-Star Certified Green Restaurant by the Green Restaurant Association (GRA). Recent upgrades to the space, equipment and operational procedures – plus the addition of more accessible food choices – lifted the restaurant from its previous 2022 Level 1 certification.
The Green Restaurant Association (GRA) is a nonprofit organization in the United States and Canada that offers green certification to restaurants as they implement sustainable environmental practices. Founded in 1990, the GRA has accumulated more than 30 years of collaborative research that supports its continuing efforts to upgrade GRA standards and environmental goals for the restaurant industry.
Certification by the GRA, repeated every few years, provides patrons with science-based verification of the restaurant’s sustainability claims.
“To work more closely with the GRA, Aspen Grille purchased energy-efficient refrigeration during the remodel, increased vegan and vegetarian options on the menu, and continues to focus on composting food scraps,” LSC Catering Manager Benjamin Rosing said. Student employees and staff also receive extensive training to prevent food contamination.  
To become a Certified Green Restaurant, applicants must earn “GreenPoints” awarded within eight environmental categories. Certification is then awarded in one of four ascending levels (Level 1 and 2-Star, 3-Star, and 4-Star levels), depending on verification of the restaurant’s ongoing sustainability practices.
In addition to accumulating enough points across categories to be certified, Certified Green Restaurants must have full-scale recycling and composting programs, be free of polystyrene packaging (Styrofoam), and fulfill annual education requirements.
According to the GRA website, the purpose of the GRA standards is to “provide a transparent way to measure each restaurant’s environmental accomplishments, while providing a pathway for the next steps it can take to increase its environmental sustainability.”
“This certification helps avoid ‘greenwashing,’” said Erin Turnbull, a marketing associate for the GRA. “Our science-based, third-party review allows for transparency and honesty.”
According to the GRA’s 2024 sustainability report, Aspen Grille decreases its waste every year through composting food waste and recycling plastic, glass, aluminum, cardboard, paper and grease. By offering bulk condiments for dine-in customers for all of milks and creamers and 80% of in-house condiments, the restaurant avoids wasteful single-use packets.
Walk-in coolers also have been fitted with strip curtains, so each saves enough electricity to power a residential home for an entire year, the report states. Forty percent of main dishes are vegan, and an additional 17% are vegetarian, requiring significantly less energy and water to produce than meat-based dishes.
As a result of the environmental initiatives taken, Aspen Grille is saving 51,200 kWh of electricity annually, the equivalent of 7.6 passenger vehicles off the road for one year. In addition, the restaurant saves 84,500 gallons of water annually, enough to fill 7.7 backyard swimming pools. Waste-reduction steps also prevent 75,000 pounds of waste from ending up in the landfill every year, the report states.
Rated categories include Energy, Water, Waste, Reusables & Disposables, Chemicals and Pollution, Food, Buildings & Furnishings, and Education & Transparency. Within each category, there are several subcategories considered. For example, within the Energy category, subcategories include heating, cooling and ventilation, with GreenPoints awarded for use of Energy Star-rated appliances.
Certified Green Restaurants can also earn one or more of six badges that recognize enhanced environmental practices: Near Zero Waste, Clean Chemicals, Vegan, Vegetarian, Sustainable Seafood and SustainaBuild.
Restaurants are re-certified every three years. The process includes a virtual walkthrough that checks for evidence of recycling, use of compostable materials and the implementation of other sustainable practices. The GRA even reviews invoices to ensure sustainable products and services are being used.
The GRA also helps restaurants interested in learning about additional steps to make a substantial impact on ecological sustainability and offers strategies and solutions specific to their operation. Acting as a liaison for services and equipment, the GRA helps restaurants enhance their operational commitment to worldwide green initiatives.
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