Thursday, August 12, 2010

Surprising sustainable food outlets

When you think of sustainable dining, you probably don't think of fast-food restaurants like Subway and McDonalds. And yet, these fast-food chains are some of the few who have successfully pursued LEED certification.

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is an internationally recognized third-party certification that a building meets high standards for energy savings, water efficiency, emissions reduction and improved environmental quality.

So far, only 38 restaurants have received LEED certification -- 40% of those are chain restaurants. For many of these large chain organizations, LEED certification is a relatively cost-efficient way for not particularly green companies to flex their corporate social responsiblity muscles.

It appears the big chains are taking a small step in the right direction: Subway currently has one LEED certified restaurant in Chapel Hill, NC. "We believe that building stores in an environmentally responsible way is a good business practice," says Subway's public relations specialist Les Winograd.

McDonald's boasts two LEED-certified locations in Chicago, IL, and Cary, NC. "McDonald's is a great example of a company which, like many other organizations in the past few years, has implemented corporate social responsibility, including concern for the environment," says Marie Coleman of the U.S. Green Buildings Council. But two LEED-certified stores doesn't get them off the hook for the wastefulness, environmental pollution and massive deforestation they contribute to in order to develop monoculture plantations.

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