by Nancy Stiles
The city of Maplewood has teamed up with the Green Dining Alliance to become the first-ever Green Dining District. That means at least 25 percent of all independently-owned businesses are Green Dining Alliance-certified. Basically, the GDA helps businesses with sustainability and green business practices while also helping them save money. So far, there are eight restaurants in downtown Maplewood that are GDA-certified.
Rachelle L'Ecuyer, manager of Maplewood's Special Business District (a.k.a. downtown), got involved with GDA and became a member of its steering committee. "I thought we [Maplewood] were an ideal location," she tells us. "It's almost a no-brainer."
L'Ecuyer says after the economic crisis of 2008, Maplewood focused on bringing in independently-owned businesses with owners on-site and generally contribute to the community. Schlafly was one of the first to sign on with the Green Dining Alliance; L'Ecuyer calls it their "flagship." Kakao was another early adopter.
"We've worked really hard to develop that type of business envrionment in our downtown and keep our downtown vibrant," L'Ecuyer says. "As part of that, noticed that a lot of businesses are interested in what GDA is doing."
Green Dining Alliance's Olivia Engel says she had the idea to involve the organization in a grassroots fashion and began looking for community organizers and met L'Ecuyer and found a partner in Maplewood.
"It's something that makes sense for businesses and communities as well," she says. "It's sort of a win-win." The city is also encouraging the program by subsidizing businesses' Green Dining Alliance membership fees, which makes it much easier to join. Right now the certified businesses are Schlafly, Kakao, The Post, The Wood, Great Harvest, Pie Oh My, Water Street, and Foundation Grounds.
You can learn more about the Green Dining Alliance and Maplewood's certification here.
Gut Check is always hungry for tips and feedback. E-mail the author at Nancy.Stiles@RiverfrontTimes.com.
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