America's Greenest Restaurants for 2012

Eco-friendly eateries certified by the Green Restaurant AssociationWith Earth Day approaching (it's April 22), restaurants nationwide are looking to tout their green initiatives. For diners looking to keep their environmental footprint in check while eating out, it can be tough to find the truly eco-friendly spots. The Green Restaurant Association (GRA) is there to help.

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There are a wide array of tips and tactics available to restaurants that are trying to boost their environmental consciousness, and the GRA helps by creating easy and sustainable solutions for eateries. According to Michael Oshman, executive director of the GRA, "What works is creating a system that restaurants can go through and setting up a maintenance system for them to follow after certification."

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Restaurants going through the certification process must be able to meet guidelines across specific environmental categories - including water efficiency, waste reduction and recycling, sustainable food, energy, disposables, and chemical and pollution reduction.

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The GRA has created a star system based on how many points each restaurant scores across various categories. Two-star certified restaurants must have a minimum of 100 points; restaurants need 175 points for three stars, and 300 for four stars. Currently, only six restaurants, including The Grey Plume in Omaha, Neb., and Kona Pub and Brewery in Hawaii, have received the coveted four-star certification. Restaurants from Mario Batali and Rick Bayless, as well as corporations including Hearst and Organic Valley, have received three stars from the GRA.

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Diners can use the GRA site's dining guide to search for green-certified restaurants by cuisine, location, and star rating; the guide even breaks down rating into points awarded for each category.
Click through to see a selection of the restaurants in the country that have earned Green Certification.

John WarnerFearrington House, Pittsboro, N.C.
The Fearrington House Restaurant has kept its AAA Five Diamond rating for 17 years. Executive chef Colin Bedford offers a highly refined blend of classical French and New American cuisine, inspired by his commitment to environmental sustainability.

Green Features: Recycling to Biodiesel or Energy, Composting, Vegan and Vegetarian Purchases

Total Points: 112.32

Ellie KriegerLe Bernardin, New York City
Think Le Bernardin and you think accolades: Michelin, The New York Times, James Beard Foundation. Is it a little stuffy? Sure… But with a super sleek renovation recently completed and a lengthy new lease, this iconic restaurant isn't going anywhere.

Green Features: Sustainable Seafood, Recycled Paper Takeout Containers, and No Bottled Water Served On-Site

Total Points: 129.77

Bob BriskeyThe Publican, Chicago
This self-described beer-focused restaurant in the West Loop by chefs Paul Kahan and Brian Huston is much more than ambiance and even beer. This may look like a European beer hall, but the food is next-level. Yes, there are potted rillettes, aged hams, duck hearts, boudin blanc, and suckling pig, but there are also fresh oysters, hamachi crudo, cured meats, and daily pickles. You sit, you drink, you eavesdrop on the people next to you, and on no occasion do you skip ordering the amazing spicy pork rinds.

Green Features: Local Food Purchases (100 Miles or Less), Sustainable Merchandise, and Recycled Paper Takeout Containers

Total Points: 143.85

Bamboo SushiBamboo Sushi, Portland, Ore.
The first certified sustainable sushi restaurant in the world, Bamboo Sushi in Portland is dedicated to educating diners about the importance of eating sustainably raised seafood.

Green Features: Sustainable Seafood, Local Purchases (100 Miles or Less), and Tankless Water Heater

Total Points: 176.95

Brasserie JOBrasserie JO at the Colonnade Boston Hotel, Boston
Located inside the Colonnade Boston Hotel, Brasserie JO serves up traditional French brasserie-style fare. Specialties of the house include coq au vin, Uncle Hansi's onion tart, and profiteroles.

Green Features: Renewable Energy Credits, Biobased Takeout Containers, and Recycling Grease to Biodiesel or Energy

Total Points: 183.21

Flickr/Bernt RostadMammoth Hotel Dining Room, Yellowstone National Park, Wyo.
In the dining room at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel & Cabins, diners can enjoy a casual meal while taking in views of what was once the parade ground of the original Fort Yellowstone. The restaurant specializes in small-plate dining.

Green Features: Vegan Purchases, Renewable Energy Credits, and Touchless Hydro or Solar Faucets

Total Points: 183.54

Yelp/LuceLuce Restaurant and Bar 888, San Francisco
Chef Daniel Corey uses locally sourced, seasonal ingredients to prepare globally inspired cuisine; the wine and cocktail menus are very progressive as well. In the lobby of the InterContinental San Francisco, Luce's sister venue, Bar 888, serves up a selection of grappas.

Green Features: Sustainable Seafood, Alternative Fuel Refueling Station, and Composting

Total Points: 184.76

Flickr/DiaperHamburger Mary's, Chicago
The burgers at Hamburger Mary's in the Andersonville neighborhood of Chicago strike the difficult-to-achieve balance between indulgent and excessive. Some burger places use fancy toppings to disguise a tasteless, overcooked patty - this is not the case at Mary's, where the patty is both juicy and liberally spiced with salt and pepper. Plus, burgers have a crispy crust - another desirable trait.

Green Features: Natural Meat (No Hormones or Antibiotics), Biobased Cutlery and Dishware, and Recycled Menu Paper

Total Points: 189.47

Facebook/Sugar & OlivesSugar & Olives, Norwalk, Conn.
This casual French bistro has a seasonally changing menu prepared using locally sourced ingredients. The crepes and desserts are the highlighted offerings at Sugar & Olives; there is also an on-site recreational cooking school.

Green Features: Energy Star Appliances, Water Catchment and Reuse, and Vegan Purchases

Total Points: 204.83

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- Molly Aronica, The Daily Meal