Asheville’s reputation across the nation as an environmentally conscious city solidified itself a bit more on Wednesday, Nov. 14, with a big announcement.
Prior to the Taste of Asheville event produced by Asheville Independent Restaurants (AIR), the organization’s incoming vice president, Peter Pollay of Posana, announced to the crowd assembled at The Venue that Asheville is now America’s first Green Dining Destination. The designation comes from the Green Restaurant Association, a national nonprofit organization that provides the only Certified Green Restaurants mark in the country.
Peter, who is chair of the AIR’s Green Team, made the announcement to rousing applause from AIR members and friends gathered at The Venue downtown on Market Street. “Even before Posana was a member of AIR and the Green Team, this was a goal,” Peter says. “Once I joined AIR, I was immediately whisked onto the Green Team and we began work on this. We had 18 restaurants to sign on saying they wanted to be recognized as a Certified Green Restaurant. Now, just a short time later, we are the first Green Dining Destination in the country.”
Peter went on to describe the accomplishment. “It’s a wonderful thing,” Peter says. “The restaurants worked together and that’s a bizarre thing. We’re competitors. The Green Restaurant Association (GRA) said they’d never seen this. But we do care about the environment. We worked together. We had a big boost from the Blue Ridge Sustainability Institute (which secured a grant for green initiatives). We now have 16 restaurants certified and we’re not stopping there. We want to keep separating Asheville from other cities.”
All of Asheville’s Certified Green Restaurants have met the GRA’s certification standards in the categories of food, water, waste, energy, chemicals, and disposables. Each restaurant also has eliminated use of polystyrene foam and has implemented a full recycling program.
“This recognition of being the first Green Dining Destination in America was a long process in the making, says Christine Sykes Lowe, executive director of AIR. “Over the past three years independent restaurants came together with this goal in mind and helped and mentored each other along the way. It has taken a lot of personal time, money and dedication to achieve this status, and AIR hopes this is just the beginning of the greening process for years to come.”
“The Asheville area prides itself on a food culture that embraces fresh, innovative cuisine that integrates product from local growers and artisan food producers,” says Stephanie Brown, executive director of the Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau. “The prestigious designation of Green Dining Destination is an accomplishment that adds to Asheville’s reputation as a distinctive culinary destination.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy. “I am both proud and honored that the Green Restaurant Association has designated Asheville as America’s first Green Dining Destination,” she says. “When you visit Asheville you will have an amazing selection of extraordinary green restaurants.”
The current list of Certified Green Restaurants includes Bouchon, Cedric’s Tavern on the Biltmore Estate, The Corner Kitchen, French Broad Chocolate Lounge, The Green Sage, Homegrown, Laughing Seed Cafe, Luella’s Bar-B-Que, Neo Cantina, Plant Restaurant, Posana Cafe, Strada Italiano, Tupelo Honey Cafe, and Tupelo Honey Cafe South.
One of the leaders of Asheville’s green restaurant industry has been Randy Tally from The Green Sage. He worked heavily with the Blue Ridge Sustainability Institute (BRSI) to help secure and utilize the grant that gave momentum to accomplishing this green goal. “We are thrilled to be one of the Certified Green Restaurants that has helped Asheville become the nation’s first Green Dining Destination,” Randy says, adding that he was honored to be part of a team effort.
Michael Oshman, CEO and founder of the GRA, says that a vast majority of Americans prefer to dine at Certified Green Restaurants. “We are proud of Asheville’s Certified Green Restaurants and we are proud to have worked with AIR and BRSI to help Asheville achieve this historic accomplishment. Conventions, tourists, and locals can now know that Asheville is truly a Green Dining Destination.”
To locate a green restaurant in the city now or in the future, you can download the Asheville Certified Green Restaurant Finder mobile app, which is available for download at DineGreenAsheville.com and will soon be available in the Apple and Android app stores.
Prior to the well-attended Taste of Asheville event, AIR named its officers for 2012-2013, which included its first female president, Sherrye Coggiola of Neo Cantina. Peter Pollay of Posana is vice president, Anthony Cerrato of Strada is treasurer, and Kris Kraft of Avenue M is secretary.
Also before releasing the audience to enjoy Taste of Asheville—the annual celebration and fundraiser for AIR where attendees enjoy small-plate tasting along with wine and beer samples from more than 40 independently owned restaurants—a check was given by AIR to the A-B Tech Culinary Technology program as part of AIR’s Chefs of Tomorrow scholarships. Mark Rosenstein of GO Kitchen-Ready also gave a positive update on the pilot program funded by AIR that is a culinary training program preparing its graduates for employment in food service. The first classes began in the spring of 2012 at William Randolph School.