By Toby Zeeger, Restaurant Associates, and Eric Hollinger, Anthropologist/Co-chair, NMNH Greening Task Force3-Star Certification as a Green Restaurant from the Green Restaurant Association (GRA). The NMNH is the first Smithsonian restaurant to achieve Green Restaurant Association certification.
Restaurant Associates and Smithsonian Enterprises have been working with the NMNH Greening Task Force to green the restaurant's operations and facilities with a major goal of receiving certification as a Green Restaurant. The GRA is an independent auditing agency that evaluates the environmental practices of restaurants and their audit process is very rigorous. Documentation in the form of photographs, months of invoices, menu records, and vendor corroboration was required by the GRA as evidence of environmental efforts and policies. This was a challenging process as even the wattage of every light bulb had to be documented. Points were awarded by the GRA for accomplishments in areas of energy, waste, water, sustainable food, sustainable furnishings and building materials, disposables, and pollution & chemical reduction. For instance, recycling the grease into biodiesel is worth 2.5 points and compostable cutlery is worth 0.75 points. Through 66 such steps the cafes accumulated a total of 181.88 points out of a 175 required for a 3-Star rating.
To maintain certification with the GRA, Restaurant Associates will have to provide copies of invoices each year to verify they are continuing to make sustainable purchases and will be required to conduct training of their staff and educational outreach to customers.
Other Smithsonian museums are beginning the GRA audit process and will strive for 3-Star ratings as well. We are proud that the NMNH is leading the way for Smithsonian sustainable restaurants and we hope you will continue to support sustainability efforts wherever you can.