By Ian Johnson

With today’s food options, one can quickly become overwhelmed with choices. In addition to what type of food and how trendy it may be, we should also be considering how sustainable one food choice is compared to another.

If you’ve done any research on the subject of food sustainability, you’ll see that vegetarian options are often the preferred choice, as it requires less water and energy to produce plant based meals, thus eat based food options have a much higher carbon footprint. In the past five years, we’ve seen an increase in more sustainable food options. From organic, local, GMO-Free, to an increase in Farmer’s Markets and healthier options. Whatever and wherever you get your food, there are ways to make the best selection from what is available to you. When buying food, at the store you can read the label to better understand the ingredients, ask an employee for information regarding the farm or manufacturer’s sustainability standards and criteria, or even take to your smart phone to do some digging (search online or try an app like GoodGuide, True Food, or Locavore).  

But what about when you are out to eat at a restaurant?

You can’t really ask the wait staff or chef 20 questions about the food you are about to order every time you go out. Perhaps you saw that episode of Portlandia where they end up leaving the restaurant to go to the farm to see how their chicken lived before they decide on what to order?

This is an extreme version of what many of us today want to do as we become more informed about certain criteria worth considering before ordering.

So, since many of you will be eating out quite a bit while in Boston for Greenbuild 2017, the “Greening Greenbuild” team has created some criteria to help you make the most sustainable food choices while in town.

How can you find food options that go beyond industry standards? Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

Does this restaurant have options that are:

  • Locally Sourced?
  • Organic?
  • Non-GMO?
  • Vegetarian? Or Vegan?
  • Sustainably Sourced/Fair Trade?

Does the restaurant:

  • Compost food waste?
  • Have a certification from the Green Restaurant Association?
  • Have they participated in the Real Food Challenge?
  • Use other sustainable practices? (Renewable energy or offsets)

As part of our goal to “green” Greenbuild, our team has performed research on Boston based restaurants to understand what makes one restaurant more sustainable than another. Currently, we’ve compiled a list of restaurants and criteria to make choosing a sustainable option easy for you while in town. We hope that our work can help you to make even just a few more sustainable choices while you are in town and help to support businesses that are pushing for more sustainable food. You’ll not only be able to enjoy a delicious meal, but also feel confident that you made a bigger impact through selecting a meal with a lower carbon footprint.

You’ll be able to check out the full list of the restaurant research during the conference. For now, here are a few of the restaurants that stood out:

-Tam Bistro & Bar
-Sebastian’s Café
-75 on Liberty Wharf
-Sweet Green
-Bon Me


About the Author: Ian Johnson is the Principal at Signature Sustainability, a sustainability consulting services firm located in Cambridge, MA.

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