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  • Michael Oshman

Deciphering Green Labels & Certifications

The Green Restaurant Association certification program includes hundreds of environmental standards in the categories of energy, water, waste, food, chemicals, disposables, and building. Many of those standards rely on the great work of various environmental organizations that have established their own standards for items such as sustainable seafood, compostable products, and energy efficiency. The topic of sustainability has become so popular that it is important that you rely on legitimate certifications. The Green Restaurant Association has created this guide to help you distinguish verified certifications, so you can offer accurate and transparent information to the customers at your restaurant. Below are some of the certifications and green labels for which the Green Restaurant Association awards GreenPoints™.

Food & Drink

Humanely raised and handled certifications:

The GRA recognizes:

Your restaurant can earn up to 9 GreenPoints™ for purchasing Certified humanely raised meats, dairy products, and eggs.

​​​USDA Certified Organic: USDA Certified Organic products need to show that they are protecting natural resources, conserving biodiversity, and using only approved substances. Your restaurant could earn up to 105 GreenPoints™ for purchasing USDA Certified Organic produce, dry goods, prepared foods, eggs, dairy products, meats, and beverages.

Certified Naturally Grown: Certified Naturally Grown is very similar to

USDA Certified Organic, but according to their website, “the main difference between CNG and organic is our certification model, which relies on peer inspections, transparency, and direct relationships.” Your restaurant can earn up to 60 GreenPoints™ for having Certified Naturally Grown produce, dry goods, prepared foods, and dairy products.

Certified Bird Friendly: According to the Smithsonian, three-quarters of the world’s coffee farms destroy habitats to grow coffee in the sun. Certified Bird Friendly coffee is grown in shade that preserves habitat for birds and other wildlife. Your restaurant can earn up to 5.5 GreenPoints™ for purchasing Certified Bird Friendly coffee.

Sustainable Seafood: Sustainable seafood is either caught or farmed in a way that ensures the long-term viability of a certain species and doesn’t negatively affect the ocean. The GRA recognizes sustainable seafood that is favorably listed by:

Your restaurant can earn up to 18 GreenPoints™ for purchasing sustainable seafood.


ENERGY STAR: ENERGY STAR appliances must meet energy efficiency standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency or the Department of Energy. For example, ENERGY STAR refrigerators are 15% more efficient than the minimum federal efficiency standard. Your restaurant can earn over 112 GreenPoints™ by purchasing ENERGY STAR equipment.

Green-e Certified Renewable Energy Credits: Green-e certifies RECs to ensure that RECs come from a qualifying source of renewable energy (wind, solar, etc) that was built or significantly upgraded in the last 15 years. The energy must have been generated recently (look into this).Your restaurant can earn up to 20 GreenPoints™ for purchasing Green-e Certified RECs.

Green Cleaning Chemicals

Green cleaning chemicals are certified by a third-party that uses rigorous testing to ensure the chemicals are more environmentally sustainable and healthier for human use. The GRA recognizes:

Your restaurant can earn up to 23.75 GreenPoints™ for using green cleaning chemicals.


BPI Certified: BPI Certified helps distinguish if a product is truly completely biodegradable and will leave no persistent synthetic residues. Your restaurant can earn up to 1.25 GreenPoints™ for each product you use that is BPI Certified.

Pest Control

Sustainable pest control companies apply non-chemical strategies before using pesticides. The GRA recognizes:

Your restaurant can earn up to 8.25 GreenPoints™ for using a green pest control company.

Linen Service

TRSA Clean Green: TRSA Clean Green Certificationensures that a linen or uniform company is operating in a way that reduces energy and water consumption and adopts best management practices. For example, they may capture drained water for reuse. Your restaurant can earn up to 2 GreenPoints™ for using a TRSA Clean Green certified linen service.

Building Materials

Cradle to Cradle: Cradle to Cradle Certification assigns an achievement level to a product by looking at five categories – material health, material reutilization, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness. Your restaurant can earn up 8 GreenPoints™ for using a product that is Cradle to Cradle certified.

FSC Certified: FSC Certified ensures that lumber products come from responsibly managed forests. Your restaurant can earn up to 2 GreenPoints™ for using a product that is FSC Certified.

Low VOCs: Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) can damage the environment and human health. They can be found in building materials such as carpets, paints, and adhesives. The GRA recognizes:

Your restaurant can earn up to 8 GreenPoints™ for using these products.


OEKO-TEX: OEKO-TEX certifies raw, semi-finished, and finished textiles products, making sure they meet legal regulations and don’t use potentially harmful chemicals. Your restaurant can earn up to 1.5 GreenPoints™ for using OEKO-TEX certified products.

GOTS: GOTS stands for Global Organic Textile Standard and certifies that a textile is organic.Your restaurant can earn up to 1.5 GreenPoints™ for using GOTS certified products.


Veriflora Sustainably Grown: Veriflora Sustainably Grown ensures that cut flowers and potted plants have been produced in an environmentally and socially responsible way.Your restaurant can earn up to 3 GreenPoints™ for using Veriflora certified plants and flowers.

Certified Green Products

The GRA also has a list of Certified Green Products, which includes anything from chafing fuels to water heaters, that meet the highest environmental standards.

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