Alberto Gonzales set out to do what most restaurateurs would consider the extreme: serve 100% organic food in the nation’s foodie capital, New York City. After he figured out that it was possible to run a restaurant where everything down to the sugar and flour was 100% USDA Certified Organic, he went further and earned Certified Green Restaurant® status.
Alberto signed on with the GRA and began the certification process while the restaurant was still being built. The success of GustOrganics is what we call a start-up success story. Although it’s hard for Alberto to calculate his savings because he’s been “green” from day one, he can proudly say that he runs a 100% organic and Certified Green Restaurant® in one of the most expensive cities in the country. Alberto reports that he’s seen no loss in terms of finances, only gains. His customers value the legitimacy behind the GRA and the USDA and take comfort in the fact that he took the time to obtain these certifications.
Since beginning a partnership with the GRA, GustOrganics has proudly completed 25 green initiatives, including installing energy efficient refrigeration, oven and freezer, recycling and composting, and using recycled and biodegradable to-go containers, cups and utensils. The GRA consultants worked hand in hand with Alberto to find all the products and equipment he needed, allowing him to focus is efforts on training staff, developing the menu, and opening his restaurant 100% organic and GRA Certified.
As America’s first organic restaurant (they’re not the first organic rest), and with the Certified Green Restaurant® status to boot, GustOrganics has received a remarkable amount of press. To date, they’ve been featured on The Today Show, Telemundo, CNN, The New York Times, Financial Times, and more. Alberto says that the GRA certification is invaluable to his concept and that he’s thrilled to have reached his goal; opening a unique restaurant with high standards and a clear mission to New York City.
Upon opening his Peruvian-Italian restaurant in Boston’s historic North End in 2000, Chef/Owner, Jose Duarte, had been hearing buzz of businesses going green. He knew that if other companies could improve their environmental impact, than surely his restaurant could also move more toward the green side of things. So, he rolled up his sleeves, called the GRA, and together with his environmental consultant, he’s turned his operation into a thriving, money saving, energy efficient and waste reducing machine.
Jose’s original motivation to “go green” was driven by the desire to do something new. After learning about how much of an impact most restaurants have on the environment, and how simple it is to cut back on waste and save quite a bit of money, Jose has become one of Boston’s biggest advocates for the green restaurant movement.
The first steps that the 70-seat restaurant took to become certified are as follows:
Duarte knew these changes would lessen his environmental impact, but the savings was unexpected. The restaurant saved $1,300 a year by switching over to a hand dryer, and each $19 light bulb saved $25 per year in energy costs. Duarte also noted “by composting and recycling, we cut our garbage collection bill to almost 50%.”
In working with the Green Restaurant Association, Jose learned that a low-flow pre-rinse spray valve is one of the easiest and most cost-effective, energy-saving devices available for restaurants. Replacing a typical spray valve that flows up to three gallons of water per minute with a low-flow unit can save 60 gallons of water per hour.
“In addition to minimizing water consumption, water heating energy and sewer charges are also reduced. It’s amazing how much water you save, and gas. Plus, our dishwashers love the product because it is easier for them to rinse dishes before running them through the dish machine. They get more water pressure in less time, but still use less water,” Duarte explains.
Since partnering with the GRA in 2007, Jose has taken on several green initiatives including sourcing local foods, converting his delivery truck to run on leftover grease, and even participating in a dark-out event where he turned off all the electricity in his restaurant for two hours in honor of Earth Day. Duarte is committed to the mission of creating a sustainable restaurant industry, but has also learned that small steps can create huge change. This is the message he helps the GRA spread.