“Before we even put a nail in the wall, the foundation was built to gather, redistribute and harvest rainwater,” Tankel told us. “The cement is mixed in with recycled steel which allowed us to use less cement.”

Inside the restaurant, diners are greeted with natural daylight provided by skylights in the entryway, dining area and upstairs on the second level looking out onto the street. The windows are also equipped with daylight-sensing shades that are automatically lowered to save on air conditioning and lighting costs. Applebee’s also has a  dimmable lighting system and a unique eco-friendly heating and air conditioning system which can run simultaneously, transferring heat from warm areas to cool areas in the restaurant. Green Fact decals explaining the different eco-friendly features of the restaurant to diners dot the walls.

Along with green building upgrades, Applebee’s has decked out the eatery’s interior with eco-friendly decor. A luscious living wall cleans the air of VOCs and toxins, acts as a noise barrier and insulates and cools the building. It’s framed in reclaimed wood from the old New York Dock Company warehouses in Brooklyn. All the wall coverings are PVC-free and are printed on 100% recyclable virgin kraft paper honeycomb material. Upstairs on the second level of the dining area, a reclaimed wood wall display was made from an old church in Shenandoah, PA that was torn down in 2009. In the bar area, the televisions and bar equipment are Energy Star-certified and the bar itself and the countertops are made from bamboo.

Applebee’s will also be composting any throw-away food to turn into fertilizer. “The restaurant industry is the largest creator of garbage of any industry,” Tankel says. “With people eating 2-3 meals a day we’re doing nothing but throwing food in the kitchen. By composting, it’ll change the dynamics of the industry and probably set new bar for everybody in this business,” he says.

To open this Applebee’s, the company hired 200 new employees from the Harlem community, most of them young people. “I hope this is the the first of many institutions that will hire many people and give them good jobs,” Oz said. “They’ll be making the environment safer and help people learn the foods that make us healthier as well.”

When asked if the menu will  be revamped to include local and organic foods, Tankel replied that the menu will continue to have the Weight Watchers-endorsed dishes and Under 500 Calories dishes. “You need to give the consumer choices,” Tankel says. “If you want to eat healthy, come on in. If you want to eat lousy, come on in.”

Though Applebee’s is considered a LEED Gold certified restaurant, it won’t be official until they complete six months of operation to make sure all the “green” features are working properly and efficiently.

+ Applebee’s