Would you seek out a restaurant for its sustainable practices?

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As you wait for more Japanese Cooking 101 lessons, here's something a bit different to ponder: How important is sustainability to you, especially when eating out?

There's a UK based non-profit organization called the Sustainable Restaurant Organization (SRA) ; that is interested in making restaurants more well, sustainable. Their mission is to help restaurans "to source more responsibly, minimise their impact on the environment and engage with their communities", as well as help diners find restaurants that fit their criteria. Their president is Raymond Blanc, a famous UK based chef/restauranteur. This is their mission statement:

We help restaurants source food more sustainably, manage resources more efficiently and work more closely with their community. And we help diners identify those restaurants doing the right thing. So, whether a diner’s sustainability concerns are about Sourcing, the Environment or Society, the SRA and its members are committed to a change for the better.

Up until now they have been primarily focused on the UK market but now they are branching out. Yesterday (April 29th) they launched their Global Rating System for sustainable restaurants, and also announced the winners of the international Sustainable Restaurant Awards. The prize winner was Narisawa, a Michelin 2-star French restaurant in Aoyama, Tokyo; runners up where the famed Noma restaurant in Copenhagen and 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo BOMBANA, an Italian restaurant with locations in Hong Kong and Shanghai. You can check out their ratings for various restaurants (mostly UK ones at this point) here

Over in the U.S., there's another non-profit organization that seems to have similar goals called the Green Restaurant Organization. The approaches of the organizations are quite different though. While the SRA has a much slicker looking website, and seems to be aiming straight at the high end of the restaurant business, the Green Restaurant Organization seems to be more low-key. A quick look through their restaurant database reveals a lot of casual eateries and restaurants with crunchy names like Organic something - the usual type that you'd expect to be environmentally-aware.

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In either case though the restaurants and suppliers have to submit their establishments for review. This is opposite to the regular restaurant review system, although it might be necessary since I don't know how you can judge the sustainable practices of a place from the outside.

'Sustainable' is different from 'organic' by the way, although the two get confused and there's quite a bit of overlap. Sustainable eating means to avoid eating species that are in danger of going extinct such as various kinds of fish, as well as avoiding produce that is grown with the use of potentially harmful chemicals, conserving water usage, and a whole lot more. This article where the SRA is interviewed has a checklist of criteria. I guess you could call it a more altruistic take on the whole 'eat organic whole foods' movement as well as one with a higher level of needed commitment.

Anyway, the question is: Would you go to a restaurant, especially a high-end "special occasion" one, based whether it's 'certified' as making sustainability a priority? And do you care about that kind of thing for everyday eating out? Should your local pizza place or Chinese takeout be 'sustainable' too?

The idea of sustainable cooking is quite fascinating to me, so I may come back to address it again down the line, especially for home cooks.

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