Just how far can a restaurant dive into going green practices? Deeper than the owners of The Perennial in San Francisco ever imagined. 

Owners Anthony Myint and Karen Leibowitz have made great strides since opening The Perennial in early 2016. It’s often cited as the premier green restaurant in the country and the model for other operators exploring similar paths. 

“You’ll have your share of trial and error,” Leibowitz says. “Costs and saving may have cancelled each other in the past but the advances in technology and a greater awareness among our customers, especially younger diners, mean it’s easier than ever to be green and make green.” 

Navigating through the plethora of options for a green restaurant can be overwhelming. Here, we offer suggestions based on the practices that Myint and Leibowitz implemented to help you determine the depth of your interest and commitment to going green. 

Adopt green standards

Reducing a restaurant’s carbon footprint can be simple through green standards such as recycling, purchasing energy efficient equipment, composting, eschewing bottled beverages and using post-consumer recycled take-out containers. Buy local food and tailor the menu to include as many seasonal ingredients as possible. 

Look beyond what you see

Look beyond what you see as the usual going green considerations. Use reclaimed materials or recycled resources for tables and countertops but also consider such materials for decorative purposes. The Perennial has a lattice ceiling made from recycled wood shavings. They also purchase napkins that can be fed to worms when they fray at the edges. 

Support regenerative agriculture

The Perennial’s bread features flour milled from Kernza, a type of wheatgrass that grows year to year, resulting in healthier soil. Myint and Leibowitz established a greenhouse offsite where they grow fish to fertilize the plants as part of a closed-loop approach to regenerative agriculture. They also launched the Perennial Farming Initiative, which helps farmers transition to regenerative agriculture and find a market for their crops. 

Call for a carbon footprint analysis

Myint and Leibowitz helped launch ZeroFoodprint, which offers a carbon footprint analysis and works with restaurants to reduce their carbon footprint. Scores of restaurants have signed on, and many are participating in offsetting emissions with carbon credits. Participants receive carbon credits in exchange for donating to projects that help communities reduce their emissions, such as working with families in rural Honduras to build stoves that use less wood.