News

Green Dining Alliance Restaurants Divert 6,000 tons of Waste

Author: Anna Chott, Sustainability Planner at East-West Gateway Council of Governments

 

According to the EPA, methane emissions from landfilled waste were approximately equivalent to the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from 20.3 million passenger vehicles in 2020. The nonprofit earthday365 claims that its Green Dining Alliance (GDA)-certified restaurants have helped divert over 6,000 tons of waste from landfills in 2022. These restaurants are reducing their waste, reducing litter, and saving money. How exactly are they doing this? And how can your business or your favorite restaurant join the cause? 

To participate in the GDA program, restaurants must stop using Styrofoam (which is very difficult to recycle), implement single-stream recycling, and set waste reduction and diversion goals, among other requirements. In Maplewood, eight GDA-certified restaurants make up the nation’s first Green Dining District. These restaurants have diverted 103 tons of waste from the landfill in 2022 through recycling and composting. 


Living Room Coffee & Kitchen on Sutton Blvd. offers a Coffee Lovers Mug program to reduce the number of disposable cups thrown away. Coffee drinkers can pay a fee at the beginning of the year to receive a durable thermos and refill it for free up to once a day with hot coffee, cold brew, or iced tea. 


Flavor360, located a few blocks from the Green Dining District, uses lids made from 100% post-consumer recycled material for its ready-made meals. The team there uses only recyclable and compostable packaging and utensils, and they offer reusable thermoses for customers. The store minimizes food waste by sourcing local food products and offering seasonal menu items, which have longer shelf lives. They also keep an organized inventory and par list to prevent over-ordering. 


At The Blue Duck, one example of how the bar manager reduces food waste is by “super juicing” lemons and limes to increase the yield of fruit juice by as much as nine times and prolong its shelf life. Reducing food waste decreases the amount spent on  ingredients and also can reduce waste hauling fees, cost savings that can make a big difference for small business owners.

 

Not only does waste contribute to GHG emissions when it goes to the landfill, but it also litters our streets. In what Keep America Beautiful calls “the most comprehensive study of litter in America” in 2020, nine of the top 20 most commonly littered items were food and beverage packaging. Many St. Louis residents are tired of unsightly litter on their streets. Even recyclable and compostable food packaging can become litter, and producing these single-use items requires a significant amount of resources. 


Again, earthday365 has a solution. This year, they launched a Kind Box reusable takeout container program. The Kind Box program allows participants to get takeout orders from The Royale or Crispy Edge in a reusable container for no additional cost. They then return the container to a dropoff location to be washed and reused. Staff at earthday365 hope more GDA restaurants will offer the containers as the program grows. Crispy Edge expects to save approximately $2,000 per year in packaging costs by switching to reusable takeout containers. A similar reusable takeout container program (eco2go) has been in use for nearly 10 years in dining halls at Washington University.


You can start the year off right by making changes to reduce waste at your own business or workplace. If you are not a business owner, you can get your takeout in reusable containers and put your reusable bags and thermos in a place where you will actually remember to use them, like your car. Take a look into your trash can and see if there is any waste you could be recycling, composting, or going without. Let’s make 2023 the year that St. Louisans make progress on our climate goals and reduce the litter on our streets.