Sustainable Pittsburgh Restaurant program open for business
The possibility that the Pittsburgh region could become a national forerunner in the still-emerging restaurant sustainability movement became a reality July 16.
The announcement of the launch of the voluntary Sustainable Pittsburgh Restaurant program, open to all restaurants, focuses on ways in which establishments “value people and the planet, in addition to profits,” says Rebecca Bykoski, program manager for the nonprofit Sustainable Pittsburgh.
Since the restaurant industry is the second-largest private-sector employer in the United States, and a significant engine of economic growth, the consideration of its environmental, economic and social impacts of operations is crucial, she says.
The new program, a year-and-a-half in the planning stages, is designed to help restaurants build their businesses by incorporating sustainable principles into their existing processes.
“There’s potential for a lot of positive impact because the industry is so large and everyone goes out to eat,” says Bykoski. “There’s a significant opportunity to make people more aware of the various aspects of our food system and work together to improve it.”
Stephen Musciano, general manager of sports and entertainment for Aramark at PNC Park, was an early proponent of the program.
“Going green and being more sustainable is a moral obligation that we have to our guests, our children and our environment,” he says in a statement. “Our guests are becoming much more aware of the need to go green. This is not a fad, but becoming a way of life — a better way to live.”
The few programs that exist nationally are primarily environmental and do not have a large social component, says Bykoski.
“Ours distinguishes itself as much for its social focus as environmentally, looking at ways for people to gain access to food, helping the farming economy, improving working conditions and education and awareness for consumers. A lot of community impact can be had,” she says.
Bykoski believes it will draw more attention to the benefits of local sourcing for food and provide a positive economic impact for the local farming community and others “and it will encourage more restaurants to be involved.”
Sustainability takes into consideration how restaurant decisions and operations affect people, the planet and profits, she says, being both environmentally aware and socially responsible.
The Sustainable Pittsburgh Restaurant program will provide recognition for participating restaurants. That involves a restaurant completing an online self-assessment that evaluates its current state of operations. Topics include water, waste, energy, food sourcing, people, community engagements and nutrition.
Restaurants will receive “starter,” “bronze,” “silver,” “gold” and “platinum” designations, based on the self-assessment.
The Sustainable Pittsburgh Restaurant website features a restaurant finder for diners.
“Restaurants will be able to have cost-savings, an increased number of guests, increased revenues and stand out as a leader in their community,” Bykoski says. “They will be seen as part of a vibrant restaurant community that is working to make the region better.”
Details: 412-258-6647 or sustainablepghrestaurants.org
Rex Rutkoski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4664 or [email protected]