According to EcoAmerica, 80% of Americans are concerned about the environment. Couple that with the fact that we spend half our food dollars eating out and there is great potential to affect change in the places we frequent at least five times a week: restaurants.

This week, Sustainable Pittsburgh just made it easier for us to support restaurants that align with our values. The nonprofit has launched the Sustainable Pittsburgh Restaurant Program, a program that recognizes restaurants that aim for a “triple bottom line” in Southwestern PA. A triple bottom line demands focus not only on profits but also on people and the planet.

To get a Sustainable Pittsburgh Restaurant designation, restaurants complete a self-assessment that evaluates multiple factors including water, waste, energy, food sourcing, people, community engagement and nutrition. Based on current practices, a restaurant earns one of five levels of recognition: Starter, Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum.

“Consumer trends show a demand for green and sustainable restaurants,” says Rebecca Bykoski, program manager. “However, while the trend of restaurant sustainability is rising nationwide and globally, there are only a handful of cities that have launched similar initiatives—and very few that consider the ‘people’ aspect.”

Court Gould, Sustainable Pittsburgh executive director, sees this as another opportunity for Pittsburgh to lead. “With the culture and business of food coming on strong here and by inviting the foodie movement to advance the policies and practices of sustainable development, our region will be the leader for an industry whose growing prosperity is based on mutual wins for people, business and the environment.”

To design the evaluation, Sustainable Pittsburgh formed an advisory committee comprised of chefs, restaurant owners, educators, media and local farmers.

The program website includes a tool that restaurants can use to help them improve sustainable practices and, Bykoski adds, “as an organization, we are also a resource to help them achieve the next level of sustainability.”

For consumers, the website will also include a restaurant finder that shows restaurants participating in the program. “Studies show that 65% of consumers would pay more to eat at a sustainable restaurant,” Bykoski shares.

There is no cost for restaurants to participate this year. In 2016, there will be a $75 fee. Bykoski hopes to have over 100 restaurants on board by next year.

Leah Lizarondo

Leah Lizarondo is a food advocate, writer and speaker. She is also the co-founder of 412 Food Rescue, an organization that seeks to eliminate food waste to make an impact on hunger and the environment....