Nearly 2 years after the idea came to mind, Leaders in Environmentally Accountable Foodservice (LEAF) has hit the ground running. This post is less of a shameless plug, more of a proud mama bragging about her new baby. What's more, I truly believe LEAF fills an gap in the Canadian environmental industry, and is an important step in the "greening" of the country.
LEAF was started in response to a recognized need for a service which helps restaurants reduce their environmental impact, and makes it easy for diners to identify green restaurants. LEAF provides a benchmark to measure the environmental sustainability of foodservice establishments in Canada, and fosters sustainability by working with the local community to support the local economy. LEAF-certified restaurants serve local, organic food, reduce their energy and water use, use supplies made from recycled materials, reduce consumption and waste, and much, much more.
What does LEAF have to do with nutrition?
Most consumers are becoming increasingly aware of and concerned with food additives, pesticides, and food safety because of the tremendous impact they can have on our health. As a result of this, we are shopping smarter, cooking more, eating out less, and generally taking better care of ourselves. So why is it that all that goes out the window when we sit down at a restaurant? For some of us, it doesn't. We look for wild fish as opposed to farmed, we choose restaurants that claim to purchase locally, and we opt for organic when its offered. In fact, more and more of diners are trying to make better choices when eating out. In fact, The 2010 Zagat survey reports that 61 percent of diners are willing to pay more for green products and menu items, up 5 percent from last year despite the recession? Also,
60 percent of consumers say they are more likely to visit a restaurant that offers food that is environmentally responsible.
44 percent of consumers say they are likely to make a restaurant choice based on a restaurant’s efforts to conserve energy and water.
Whether you're doing it because you care about the planet, or just your own health, choosing green restaurants is important. What most people don't realize, or at least don't really think about, is that our health is inextricably linked to the health of the planet. There's no getting around it: We can not be a healthy population on an unhealthy planet.
Dining out and the Environment: the impact
How to know if a restaurant is really "green":
With all the greenwashing these days, it's hard to discern what's really environmentally-friendly, and what's a wolf in sheep's clothing. It's tempting to throw our hands up in frustration, and say "forget it!". But there is an alternative. As consumers are becoming more wary of green-washing and more knowledgeable in environmental matters, they can look for companies that achieve accreditation as environmental leaders by an independent third party. EcoLogo, LEED, and now LEAF, are all examples of these symbols you can look to to know you're making a "green" choice. LEAF certification means that a restaurant has been audited and certified by an independent third-party, and has made a commitment to becoming an environmentally-friendly foodservice establishment. Look for the LEAF logo to know you're making a smart choice.
How is LEAF different?
LEAF is different from other certifications in many ways. For one, LEAF is Canadian, which means we are in touch with the needs and concerns of Canadian restauranteurs, and up-to-date with Canadian Government rebates and environmental policy. Perhaps most importantly, we believe in accountability and do not offer online or independent auditing or self-certification. LEAF certification is only available through accredited LEAF consulting agencies in Canada and is not available for online or independent certification. In addition, LEAF has a thorough and comprehensive evaluation which adequately addresses the environmental issues posed by the foodservice industry.
You can support your local economy and the environment by looking for LEAF-certified restaurants in your area. Just look for the LEAF-certification window sticker.