At this month’s Green Drinks in Chicago, extroverted and engaging restauranteur Dan Rosenthal inspired the crowd with tales of his limitless efforts to green the city. When he realized that he could not afford for his restaurants to go green, Rosenthal partnered with fellow renowned restaurant owner and “Breakfast Queen” Ina Pinkney to launch the Green Chicago Restaurant Co-op in 2007. This was a significant step for the restaurant industry, but Rosenthal’s newest venture could bring even bigger changes to the windy city – he has revealed plans to open the largest food waste composting plant in the nation by the end of this year!
This month’s Green Drinks event asked each presenter to speak about their history and their sustainable efforts in 2009, so Rosenthal began by telling us how he has helped to green Chicago restaurants through the co-op. Most Chicagoans would know Rosenthal as the restaurateur behind some of the city’s famous haunts including Harry Caray’s, Trattoria NO.10, Poag Mahone’s and the chain of gourmet Sopraffina Marketcaffes.
The theory behind the Green Chicago Restaurnt Co-op is simple: businesses that join have the opportunity to buy green products like cups and bags in bulk, therefore cutting down costs. But things are more difficult than they sound, when you consider that the group has to identify suppliers and distributors that carry compostable or recycled content products. This also means that restaurant might have to break ties with their current suppliers. Lastly, even though buying in bulk saves money, buying green is still more costly that the “bad stuff.”
Since there is no fee to join, and no requirement to buy green, the 300+ co-op members have set up an effective alternative to the mainstream system. To allow more restaurants that go this extra mile, the Co-op has kicked off a Guaranteed Green program. If an establishment meets rigorous criteria for their food, cleaning products, food serviceware and furnishings, as well as management of energy, water, waste and air quality, then they receive the seal, and are added to the directory. If you are looking to eat green in Chicago, we suggest you visit one of the certified restaurants on their list or look for the logo throughout the city.