Down to Earth

A Boston nonprofit helps restaurants go easier on the environment.

For Jim Solomon, owner of Brookline’s the Fireplace, going green began with a realization: “In all the restaurants I’ve worked in, I never saw them recycle anything.” And yet in one week, a restaurant can generate two dumpsters’ worth of cardboard, a 50-gallon barrel of glass, and four 50-gallon barrels of plastic, aluminum, and tin.

Solomon started recycling, but it didn’t seem like enough. So he called the Green Restaurant Association. For 17 years, the local nonprofit has been helping restaurants—nearly 300 so far—become eco-friendly. The association connects chefs with vendors selling green products for the kitchen (energy-saving appliances, water flow restrictors); dining room (fluorescent lights); and restrooms (recycled-paper towels). Restaurants that complete four such steps can be certified as green, with four additional steps required each year to maintain certification.

Now, some restaurateurs are even building eco-consciousness right into their business model. When the Aquitaine Group opens the South End café Green Light later this month, it plans to offer utensils crafted of cornstarch and a mostly organic menu. “Green costs a bit more,” says Matthew Burns, an Aquitaine partner, “but it pays for itself.”