ASHEVILLE, NC – The Blue Ridge Sustainability Institute (BRSI) has received a $258,000 grant from the North Carolina Board of Science and Technology’s Green Business Fund through a unique partnership with the Asheville Independent Restaurant (AIR) Association. The grant will improve the environmental sustainability and economic success of 17 AIR member restaurants.
The BRSI/AIR partnership, a major component of BRSI’s Regional Energy Upfit Campaign, will provide the foundation for Asheville as a Green Dining Destination™ city, attracting tourism and promoting job creation and economic development in the region. The funding will enhance the restaurants’ efforts to increase use of renewable energy, improve energy efficiency and promote energy conservation in support of achieving Green Certified Restaurant® status through the national Green Restaurant Association.
“We are working to establish Asheville as the greenest dining destination in the country,” said Randy Talley, owner of The Green Sage Restaurant and AIR board member. “This means we aim to have the most Certified Green Restaurants® per capita of any city in the U.S. Not only will it benefit our restaurants but it will have a positive impact on our community and region, including local farms, local breweries and local businesses.”
During the last year AIR—an organization of 65 independently owned restaurants—has nearly doubled its membership, provided GREAT Kitchens certification through the National Foundation for Celiac Disease Awareness, and contributed $5000 of a 2011 $10,000 commitment to the Chefs of Tomorrow Scholarship Fund at A-B Technical Community College. Through a recent AIR membership survey, the organization’s economic impact on the Asheville community was estimated to include $58 million in revenues and $19 million in payroll in 2010.
AIR members included in the grant and working towards GRA certification are Bouchon, Burgermeister’s, The French Broad Chocolate Lounge, The Corner Kitchen, The Green Sage, Fiores downtown, Fiores south location, Frankie Bones, Homegrown, Laughing Seed Café, Jack of the Wood, Luella’s BBQ, Tupelo Honey Café downtown, Tupelo Honey Café south location, Neo Cantina, and Rosetta’s Kitchen. AIR member Posana Café in downtown Asheville, also participating in the grant, is one of only two existing GRA certified restaurants in North Carolina. Other AIR member restaurants pursuing GRA certification include Bouchon Street Food and The Green Sage south location.
The Green Business Fund grant will enable restaurants to implement a variety of energy efficiency and energy-saving measures including solar hot water installations, HVAC and refrigeration improvements, lighting upgrades and training in energy conservation practices. These improvements are expected to save nearly 3.4 billion BTUs of energy each year, roughly equivalent of unplugging 110,000 televisions. Grant funds are provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and will also create the equivalent of two full-time local jobs.
BRSI Energy Upfit Campaign Manager Tim Ballard commented that “The partnership between BRSI and AIR provides a unique opportunity to create jobs and strengthen the local economy while reducing regional energy consumption and the associated environmental impacts. We hope this project’s effect on Asheville’s national reputation as hub of environmental initiatives will inspire other businesses to tackle the challenge of sustainability within their own sectors.”
While the initial phase of the project funded by the Green Business Fund will be completed by the end of 2011, BRSI and AIR are seeking additional member participation and funding sources to expand the benefits to other restaurants. Tim Ballard of BRSI is the Project Manager for the Green Restaurant Initiative grant. He can be reached at [email protected] or 828-708-7022.
The Asheville Independent Restaurant Association is committed to the local economy, local businesses, and local philanthropies. For more information about becoming a member, associate member or sponsor of the Asheville Independent Restaurants, contact Amy Garcia at 338-9839 or [email protected]. The website for the organization is www.airasheville.org.
About the Green Restaurant Association
The Green Restaurant Association is a national non-profit organization that provides the only official Certified Green Restaurants® mark in the country. For two decades, the GRA has pioneered the Green Restaurant® movement and has been the leading voice within the industry encouraging restaurants to listen to consumer demand and green their operations using transparent, science-based certification standards. The GRA is endorsed by scores of national environmental organizations such as NRDC and Environmental Defense, and esteemed trade organizations including the New York State Restaurant Association, Orange County Restaurant Association, and America Public Garden Association. The GRA is also an Energy Star partner. The GRA has been featured on CNN, NBC Nightly News, NPR, and in The New York Times, and The Washington Post. For more information visit www.dinegreen.com.
About the Blue Ridge Sustainability Institute
The Blue Ridge Sustainability Institute is a Western North Carolina non-profit applying hard science and advanced economic thinking, encouraging fresh ideas in government and industry, and providing practical tools for policymakers, educators, community activists, and entrepreneurs in Western North Carolina. Embracing a mission of ‘Knowledge into Action’, BRSI focuses on education, advocacy and action in support of regional, national, and international sustainability imperatives. BRSI’s current Energy Action Council project, as well as the BRSI/AIR collaboration, is in direct support of this effort. As an outgrowth of the Asheville HUB, Western North Carolina’s landmark economic and community development partnership, BRSI enjoys unique access to and support from the highest and most committed leadership levels of the region. Its diverse funding and client base includes local and national foundations; higher education; corporate and private sector support; and components of regional, state and federal government.
For more information about BRSI, please contact Paul Dezendorf at 828-301-3860 or [email protected]. The organization’s website is www.blueridgesustainability.org.