NYSRA, GRA form partnership to promote eco-friendly practices

 The New York State Restaurant Association and the Green Restaurant Association have teamed up to help operators throughout the state make their eateries more eco-friendly.

 The partnership, the first of its kind between the GRA and a restaurant association, was announced May 17 by Michael Oshman, executive director of the GRA, and Andrew Rigie, director of operations for NYSRA. The partnership resulted from a request made last year by New York Gov. David Paterson to find a way to educate restaurant and hotel operators in New York on how to become more environmentally conscious in their businesses, Rigie said.

"We were asked about a year ago to find a statewide agency that would provide green certification for the food and hospitality industries statewide," Rigie said. "After a lot of research, we came full circle and approached the GRA. New York is the restaurant capital of the world, and we'd like it to become the green-restaurant capital of the world."

 Through the partnership, New York operators have an opportunity to join the GRA and win green certification by making their operations more environmentally friendly in accordance with the GRA's rules and guidelines.

 Oshman said the restaurant association ultimately chose the GRA to conduct the greening of its members' restaurants because they wanted it done in the easiest, best, most efficient way. Based in Boston, the GRA has 300 members.

 "They didn't want to reinvent the wheel," he said. "They were smart. They said, 'OK, we don't want to spend a lot of money figuring this out, so let's partner with an organization that already does this.' They're getting exactly what they want: lots of green restaurants in their state, which is great for tourism, and we're getting to do the work. It's a really exciting thing."

 As part of the agreement between NYSRA and the GRA, NYSRA members will receive a 10-percent discount on the cost of becoming certified in the GRA's new Green Restaurant 4.0 Standards, and the GRA will provide educational material to be posted on NYSRA's website and newsletters for members to access easily. The NYSRA represents about 8,000 member units.

"In terms of what members will be getting, we're going to come in and do environmental assessments of their restaurants and see where each one is at," Oshman said. "We're going to look at everything from the napkins to the landlords to the vendors. We'll look at the invoices and say, 'Here is what you need to do to get to the next step.'"

 Oshman added that although the partnership is in its beginning stages, the feedback he's already received from NYSRA members is extremely positive.

"We've gotten response from the general community, and they're very, very jazzed," he said. "It's really a cutting-edge thing. What it also provides is an example of leadership for state organizations around the country to follow about how to green their restaurants and get the best results."

 Oshman said he doesn't know how many restaurants will be green-certified within the next year, but is hopeful a large number of operators will participate in the program.

 "Our ultimate goal is to green as many restaurants as possible," he said.

 Contact Elissa Elan at [email protected] [2].