The National Restaurant Association (NRA) has launched the pilot of Greener Restaurants--a new, national program to recognize restaurants' environmental sustainability efforts. A limited number of restaurants have signed on to participate in the pilot before opening it to industry-wide participation in the next few months. Greener Restaurants will show operators how to save money while "going greener" and share their successes with guests.

The goal of the Greener Restaurants program is to help restaurant operators save money and manage costs while incorporating sustainability practices throughout the restaurant. In addition, the program will help restaurants market their efforts to "go greener" to guests both on-site and online. It was developed with the input of restaurant operators and partners of the National Restaurant Association Conserve initiative--the Turner Foundation, Kendall College, Food Service Technology Center and EPA ENERGY STAR.

The program comprises a checklist of action items from which participants select areas of focus and build a profile on an interactive Web site ( The checklist contains both smaller steps, such as using low-energy light bulbs, and larger moves, including equipment and remodeling. The checklist will be accompanied by resources and instructional videos to help the operator implement each practice and report progress.

The online profiles will become part of a consumer-oriented Web site with a nationwide search engine that will be part of the public launch of the program later this year. Participating restaurants will also receive a door decal and other marketing materials to highlight their commitment to sustainable practices to customers.

Association research shows that environmentally sustainable practices are important to today's consumers. Four out of 10 say they are likely to make a restaurant choice based on a restaurant's conservation practices. And restaurants are responding: 40 percent of full-service restaurants and 31 percent of quick-service restaurants plan to devote more resources to green initiatives in 2010.