As regular readers of this blog, we all share one big and appetizing thing in common — we love our restaurants in this town. From that favorite neighborhood eatery with its tried-and-true comfort food, to the latest hotspot with a daringly delicious menu, to the globe-spanning cuisine that we savor in this increasingly cosmopolitan urban destination, let’s just say this: It’s all good.
But did you know that there are more than 100 dining spots in our fair city that are also committed to doing good things for the environment, for the local economy, and for the social equity of its employees and its neighborhood residents?
They are all proud participants of the Sustainable Pittsburgh Restaurant program. Have you heard of it? We certainly hope so! But if you haven’t, you’re in the right place to learn just a bit more about what it is, how it works, and most importantly, how your patronage of these restaurants will help you leave a positive mark on our shared community.
It’s a nearly three-year old initiative of Sustainable Pittsburgh. Through the program, we work hand in hand with restaurants across the region and happily designate those who back their passion and desire to do the right thing with action.
Here are the Top Five Reasons to patronize a designated Sustainable Pittsburgh Restaurant:
1. Committed and Comprehensive
This first reason is technically 149 reasons. That’s the total number of comprehensive criteria which we use to evaluate restaurants. The categories run the gamut: energy efficiency, water conversation, waste reduction, food sourcing, people, and nutrition. If you want to see the whole checklist, it really shows how these sustainability leaders become leaders — by doing the work. We like to say that designated restaurants are good for people, the planet, the restaurant industry, and our economy.
2. Environmentally Forward
As people who love delicious food, either cooked at home or enjoyed at a restaurant, it’s reasonable to think that a Sustainable Pittsburgh Restaurant would be focused on responsible sourcing, eating seasonally, buying local, and minimizing environmental impact — all of which are components of sustainability. Beyond these admirable traits, these restaurants demonstrate their environmental commitment through a myriad of pathways, which can also include the important areas of waste reduction, energy efficiency, and water conservation.
3. The Ubiquity of Equity
Sustainable Pittsburgh Restaurants share the desire — and action — to improve employee working standards and to benefit their surrounding neighborhood and our larger community. This manifests itself in ways familiar and, perhaps, a bit surprising. As we know from our own experiences, or even from TV shows, the restaurant industry can be physically demanding, emotionally challenging, and hard (yet rewarding) work. On the employee front, these range from guaranteed breaks, minimum time-off between shifts, and training for career enhancement. For neighborhoods, it could be as simple as supporting local charities to providing employment opportunities to donating food to people in need.
4. Economy Harmony
Being green doesn’t mean sacrificing greenbacks. That’s old thinking and an outdated business model that no longer applies. Restaurants that use LED lighting, energy-efficient appliances, and water-conserving technologies save sizeable amounts of money on their utility bills. Simply put, investment in these practices can help to improve the bottom line for restaurants. But it also frees up resources which allow for upgrading facilities, investing in staff training, and engaging in more impactful community outreach. And of course, we all know that buying local supports our friends and neighbors who farm, raise livestock, bake breads, and support all the local supply chains that keep restaurants humming.
5. It’s a Big Table with Seats for Everyone (and all budgets)
Pizza Parlor? Check. Fine dining? Check. Hospital cafeteria? Check.
We know that most so-described “foodies” are highly aware of the value-chain issues related to where our food comes from, how it’s grown or raised, how it’s prepared, and the distance it travels to our plates. And, we’ve no shortage of wonderful chef-driven establishments. But it’s even more wonderful when you look at the incredible diversity of Sustainable Pittsburgh Restaurants. From a white tablecloth hotspot, to where you can grab a good slice to go, the common factor, in fact, is that this diverse bunch of restaurants simply want to do well by their communities and for the planet.
We’re going to be spending the next few months doing our best to spread the word about all of the designated restaurants. Please help us! Share this blog post, visit the website, follow us on social media.
We love that Good Food Pittsburgh’s tagline is “Don’t Just Eat. Eat Well.” We’d add the following: “Do Well.” Please consider visiting a great Sustainable Pittsburgh Restaurant for your next dining experience.
Rebecca Bykoski is the program manager of the Sustainable Pittsburgh Restaurant program.
This post is a sponsored collaboration between Sustainable Pittsburgh and Good Food Pittsburgh’s advertising department.