Sustainability is a slippery thing. We all agree it’s important, but how many of us could actually define it? The word, which is awfully abstract to begin with, continues to get diluted as corporations plaster it all over decidedly unsustainable products and campaigns. It’s a lot to sort out.

The Sustainable Pittsburgh Restaurant Program is attempting to clear up some of that confusion. The new initiative, which we wrote about last month, just awarded their first Gold Plate designation to East Liberty’s Dinette. To earn that label, chef and owner Sonja Finn answered an array of questions about everything from energy use to ingredient sourcing to community engagement. Finn’s affirmative answers are available to view on the Sustainable Pittsburgh Restaurant website along with validation statements that demonstrate how Dinette is fulfilling each criterion.

“It’s nice to get some recognition for what you’re doing,” says Finn, who has been committed to responsible business practices since opening Dinette seven years ago. Those practices sometimes mean small changes, like retrofitting toilets with dual flush kits or printing smaller-format menus. Dinette also buys a considerable portion of their produce from local farmers and grows tomatoes and herbs on their own roof. And Finn has long advocated for a sustainable workforce, paying well above industry standards and ensuring employees always get a two-day weekend.

But beyond providing a chance to show off a bit, the new program lays out a framework for restaurateurs looking to make a change. Though the quest for greater sustainability is never-ending, the Sustainable Pittsburgh Restaurant Program provides a solid starting block. The application contains a list of quantifiable and achievable goals, and Sustainable Pittsburgh offers assistance to help restaurants earn and improve their ranking.

Finn expects the program to spark a bit of friendly competition among Pittsburgh’s chefs and owners. “We’re putting out that positive peer pressure,” she explains. She hopes Dinette’s new Gold Plate designation will inspire other restaurants to join, eventually bettering the entire Pittsburgh restaurant community. “Restaurants are really good at coming together,” says Finn. “And we all want more people eating better food.”

In other news…

This Tuesday marks the premier of two new specials from popular producer Rick Sebak. “A Few Good Pie Places” and “A Few Great Bakeries” will air at 8 p.m. on WQED and PBS stations nationwide. Check out Rick’s plans for the week in our current NEXT Up feature.

This Saturday, Rivertowne Brewing will host Rhythm and Brews, a festival featuring local bands (including Rusted Root) and guest breweries, at Monroeville’s Tall Trees Ampitheatre. Get tickets here.

On Sunday, from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m., Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens will host the 11th annual Red, Ripe and Roasted tomato and garlic festival. The free event features cooking demos, a tomato contest and more.

Drew Cranisky is a writer, bartender and recent graduate of Chatham University's Food Studies program. He enjoys cats, pinball and fancy burgers.