Magnolia Café and Bistro is looking to be the first Burlington-area restaurant to receive an eco-friendly certification by the Green Restaurant Association. The nonprofit has been around since 1990 with a goal to help restaurants be more environmentally sound - from the napkins on their tables to the hand dryers in their rest rooms.
Restaurants pay a fee for membership. Then the GRA works intensively with owners or managers to earn certification. It involves achieving "four-steps" toward sustainability as a show of good faith. Required changes might include instituting a composting program, giving employees information about sustainability or eradicating all Styrofoam products from the premises. To remain certified, the restaurant must complete four additional steps each year.
Right now, Magnolia co-owners Shannon Reilly and July Sanders are working on their steps. These include replacing their toilets with ones that use less water, and switching from conventional light bulbs to compact fluorescents, Reilly says.
But Magnolia was striving to be eco-friendly even before they'd heard of the GRA. "We wanted to take how we live at home and see if we could make it work at a restaurant," Sanders explains. Currently, they're using biodegradable toothpicks, refillable pens made from recycled tires and cloth napkins, which Reilly says is "almost unheard of" for a breakfast and lunch joint. According to Sanders, the people at the GRA were pretty impressed with the efforts they'd made thus far. "They said we're one of the greenest restaurants they have," he claims.
For now, there aren't that many GRA-certified restaurants in the country - and, surprisingly, no others in Vermont. A number of links in the national Pain Quotidien bakery chain are certified. Ditto a few fancy California restaurants. George's at the Cove, an outstanding eatery in La Jolla, is among them. Also Croce's in San Diego, owned by the wife of the late Jim Croce.
But a place called The Trapper Grill in Wyoming seems to be the current leader in making "green" changes. They've completed 45 steps, not the least of which is incorporating wind power as an energy source.