Chef Jim Solomon thinks every day should be Earth Day. In 2007, his Washington Square restaurant, The Fireplace, become Boston’s first green certified restaurant by the nonprofit Green Restaurant Association (GRA), which was founded in 1990 to guide an industry with a huge negative environmental impact toward better practices. For Solomon, however, getting his GCR badge was a continuation of the way he’d operated his Brookline restaurant since opening in 2001.
“What I wanted to do was support New England farms and fishermen,” he says. “I had great pride in this area, growing up in Cambridge. It was about cooking with blueberries in the summer; choosing ripe fresh corn. I believed in buying local. I didn’t realize we were operating with a smaller carbon footprint, but we were.”
In 2007, he received a letter — by snail mail, he notes — asking if he’d like to get green certified. “I thought, ‘Sure, I believe in socially and ecologically responsible business,’” Solomon says. He found the organization’s assessment and list of changes in water and energy efficiency, waste reduction and recycling, and cutting chemical pollutants very helpful.
“For any new restaurant, just getting your doors open every day is a challenge,” admits Solomon. “The GRA helped show us how to operate green. We concentrated on the low-hanging fruit and affordable options, building to more expensive alterations like tinting the windows to reduce energy in summer and insulate in winter.”
Solomon thinks having the certification gives customers assurance. “The certification validates that we are taking real steps, not just claiming to be green. Customers feel better knowing that we are making responsible decisions.
“It’s not really about the certification for me,” he adds. “It’s about following through on how I believe we should live in an ecologically responsible way.”
Where to find Green Restaurant Association-certified eats in Boston
Other restaurants that have achieved GRA certification include Brasserie JO at the Colonnade Boston Hotel, Grendel’s Den in Harvard Square, Miel and RumBa in the InterContinental Hotel, Taranta in the North End, TAMO in the Seaport Hotel, and the Boloco chain. There are also plenty of environmentally friendly businesses without GRA certification. But if a restaurant is using Styrofoam, plastic cutlery and heavy plastic to-go boxes, which are easily replaced by cardboard containers and sugar-based compostable tableware, who knows what’s happening behind the scenes.
For more info, visit Dinegreen.com.