Curious about what it takes to become the greenest restaurant in the U.S.?
Just ask Michael and Helen Cameron. The pair's Uncommon Ground restaurant on W. Devon Ave. in Chicago just earned the title of most environmentally responsible eatery in the nation. Their second location in the Lakeview district came in at No. 2.
The two restaurants scored points in every category of criteria to earn 4 Star certifications from the Green Restaurant Association. The 20-year-old nonprofit created the three-tiered rating system to cover seven major impacts: energy use, sustainable food, water, waste, disposables, chemicals and green building.
"We are proud to raise the bar and now be the Greenest Restaurants in the country," Helen Cameron said in a statement. "We truly care about operating a Certified Green Restaurant and we challenge restaurants around the U.S. to exceed our record of environmental accomplishments."
It's an impressive list of green features -- 116 steps in all -- that would be hard to top, beginning with the W. Devon Ave. location's building. The couple bought it in 2007 and gave the property a comprehensive rehab, including reinforced foundation and load-bearing walls, a rooftop deck made of recycled plastic and wood composite materials, solar thermal panels, energy efficient lighting, and locally made furniture.
The Camerons believe in seasonal, local food, and it doesn't get any more local than the restaurants' certified organic rooftop farm, which it says is the nation's first. The farm supplies herbs, produce and flowers, in addition to four beehives. All other foods come from nearby farmers and vendors.
The restaurants recycle materials such as glass and metal, and compost their food scraps. Even their used fryer oil gets a second life as biodiesel fuel for Loyola University.
I've spent a bit of time looking at green restaurants lately; to see how one large chain of restaurants landed the Green Restaurants Association certification across its facilities, see my article from last month: "How Souplantation Became a Certified Green Restaurant Chain."
And if you're in Chicago and want to eat at the country's greenest restaurant, be sure to grab your 10-speed -- if you walk or bike to the restaurants, you'll receive offer a 10 percent discount.
Image courtesy of Uncommon Ground.