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Business Mon May 06 2013
Last month, Big Delicious Planet Catering and Canteen became the first caterer in the country to be awarded four star Certified Green Restaurant status by the Green Restaurant Association, and only the third restaurant in Chicago to achieve a four-star rating.
"We've been in business 19 years, and in 2011 we moved into a building with geothermal heating and cooling," explained Big Delicious Planet founder Heidi Moorman Coudal. "There is so much waste in the food industry, so when I learned about Green Restaurant certification, I looked at the requirements and started making changes." Those changes included such things as switching to a green pest control company, installing appliances with Energy Star ratings, and composting.
The Green Restaurant certification system awards points for meeting standards in energy efficiency, sustainable food, water efficiency, waste reduction and recycling, use of recycled and bio-based disposables, chemicals and pollution reduction, and furnishings and building materials.
"We've contracted with a composting company to compost every scrap of food in our building, including proteins. And we have a biodiesel service that picks up our used cooking oil," Coudal said.
In all, Big Delicious Planet was graded on 97 categories and given a point rating on each, in an evaluation process that can take eight to 10 weeks. Restaurants must score at least 300 points to receive a four-star rating; Big Delicious Planet scored a point total of 378.71. Only two Uncommon Ground restaurants have scored better in Chicago, earning 399.75 at the Devon location and 445.51 at the Wrigleyville location.
2-, 3- & 4-Star Certified Green Restaurants in Chicago
"I was actually pretty shocked that we got four stars," Coudal said. "My goal was to reach three stars, and then continue making changes to reach four."
She was surprised by the weight placed on some of the categories. "You can get seven to 10 points for having an Energy Star steamer. There are a lot of appliances on there," she said. Meanwhile, "On-site food production only counts as one point, which is kind of surprising. We grew 70 varieties of herbs and veggies last year."
In 2012 Big Delicious Planet built an urban garden in the lot next to its West Town kitchen and canteen, and is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to transform the lot into a new urban garden that will open to nearby schools, Girl Scout troops and other kids' groups who are interested in learning what it's like to work in a garden and grow food from seed to harvest. Among the rewards for backing the project are tickets to Big Delicious Planet's annual Summer Solstice Eve party June 20 and tickets to a four-course farm dinner in the middle of the existing garden. The campaign, which seeks $15,000, ends May 26.
Going green has not been a cheap process for Coudal. "In order to be green, you're paying more for disposable goods, like take-out containers and compostable dinnerware." But despite the cost, she plans to continue making Big Delicious Planet even greener. "In the long run, having a hand dryer in the bathroom will cut down on our paper waste."