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Michael OshmanMichael Oshman is the Founder and CEO of the Green Restaurant Association (GRA), a national nonprofit organization created to shift the restaurant industry toward ecological sustainability. He has been featured in Time Magazine, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and hundreds of other local and national media outlets. Through the GRA’s notable press coverage, Michael has been a keynote speaker and guest lecturer at conferences in the U.S., Mexico, Canada, and Asia.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • What is the Green Restaurant Association’s mission?
  • Michael Oshman explains how to become a certified green restaurant
  • The benefits of environmental sustainability in the restaurant industry
  • Green Restaurant Association’s certification system
  • Michael’s inspiration for founding the Green Restaurant Association

In this episode…

In today’s episode of the SpotOn Series, Chad Franzen talks with Michael Oshman, Founder and CEO of Green Restaurant Association, about how eateries can implement ecological practices. Michael shares the Green Restaurant Association’s mission, how to become a certified green restaurant, and the benefits of sustainability in the food service industry. Stay tuned!

Resources mentioned in this episode:

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Episode Transcript

Intro  0:04  

Welcome to the Top Business Leaders Show. Powered by Rise25 Media. We featured top founders, executives and business leaders from all over the world

Chad Franzen  0:20  

Chad Franzen here co host for this show where we feature top restaurant tours, investors and business leaders. This is part of our SpotOn Series. SpotOn has the best in class payment platform for retail and they have a flagship solution called SpotOn Restaurant, where they combine marketing software and payments all in one. They’ve served everyone from larger chains like Dairy Queen and subway to small mom and pop restaurants. To learn more, go to This episode is brought to you by Rise25. We help b2b businesses to get ROI clients referrals and strategic partnerships through done for you podcast. If you have a b2b business and want to build great relationships with clients, referral partners and thought leaders in your space, there’s no better way to do it than through podcasts and content marketing. To learn more, go to or email us at support@rise25 Michael Osman is the founder and CEO of the Green Restaurant Association, a national nonprofit organization formed in 1990 to create environmental sustainability in the restaurant industry. for over 30 years he has been the most vocal person on the planet regarding shifting the restaurant industry towards environmental sustainability. Michael has been featured in hundreds of media stories, including Time Magazine, NBC Nightly News, NPR, CNN, Fox News, ABC, The New York Times, and many others. Michael, thank you so much for joining me today. How are you? My pleasure? I’m doing well. Thank God and you. Good. Great. Thank you so much. Hey, so tell me a little bit more about the Green Restaurant Industry has been around for 30 years? What is its primary purpose? And how did it come about?

Michael Oshman  1:49  

The Green Restaurant Association was founded in 1990. So it’s actually probably 31 years now. And I found it when I was college students second year of college many years ago. And the mission was exactly what it is today, which is to shift the restaurant industry towards more environmental sustainability. And seven categories of energy water waste, disposables, chemicals, food and building, we have a whole certification program, where restaurants can become a level one and two Star Three Star Four Star certified green restaurant, and we help them make the actual changes. So they don’t have to become experts in sustainable seafood, or sustainable food vegan, vegetarian, this cleaning chemical energy efficiency, we bring it all to the tables and nonprofit of what is best for your restaurant, not the restaurant next door, not your restaurant two years ago, now your restaurants we get a baseline of what they’re doing. We then make a strategy of what they can be doing based on how high they want to go. And then we’ll work with their recyclers, their landlords, their cleaning chemicals, their disposables, vendors, and then once they had that higher level, we get the verification to demonstrate they’re actually made those changes. And then they become certified. And they can communicate it to the 79% of consumers who prefer dining and sort of vegan restaurants or the 78% of employees who prefer working in a place that matches their values.

Chad Franzen  3:19  

We’ll get into more a little bit, a little bit more on that in just a minute. But you’ve met with the President’s Council on Environmental Quality under President Clinton and met with the EPA director under President Obama, how did those meetings go? And what were those about?

Michael Oshman  3:32  

It was pretty cool. What about him? I was much younger than under President Clinton. It was a while ago, though. Well, one was more recently, I think was 2015. And, and they they contacted us through a mutual group and wanted to meet at a restaurant to kind of demonstrate some programs that we’re doing. So we actually had the meeting at one of our certified green restaurants in Boston. And we hosted the director of the EPA, there along with eight or nine other community leaders as small table people, maybe 10 people. It’s pretty fun. We got them to where we got her to wear our certified green restaurant. Pin. We took her on a tour around the certified Green Restaurant showing her exactly what it means we made specialized signage was wonderful, very human, very approachable. You know, you could tell that she’s somebody who actually cares about this issue wasn’t just a political appointee, but somebody who actually cared and at the time, they were working on some legislation around this. So for me, it was really fun to have the ear of the director of the EPA, and also have a view. You know, environmental change happens in many different ways. It can happen through big sweeping legislation, but I think we all know, you know, this is nothing against legislation, but we all know that The winds of politics changes from left to right to middle. And things get done sometimes need to get done. And the nice thing about when business does it, they’re doing because they chosen to do it every single certified green restaurant by choice. Now, they might feel the consumer pressure, they might feel employee pressure, they might feel the legislative pressure of all these things that are banned. But it’s still choice, nobody’s forcing them to do it. And because they’ve chosen it, it’s therefore a decision they think is good for the business. So the next thing is, regardless of who’s president and Governor mayor, they’re owning this is how they want their business to be going forward. So that’s kind of what we’ve been about is it’s not to say legislation is not important. But we get businesses and consumers wanting to do us seeing this in their best interest, then it’s a much easier game to win than then depending upon what the political winds are.

Chad Franzen  6:05  

So how do you become a certified green restaurant?

Michael Oshman  6:10  

So generally, restaurants will contact us, we’ve got restaurants, anywhere from like JFK International Airport, terminal four to Harvard’s, in northeastern of the world, we’ve done MetLife Stadium, Super Bowls, we Congress. And any restaurant, famous restaurants, small mom and pop franchisees and big brands, they contact us, for some reason, they either care about the issue, they either are realizing it’s really good to attract and retain employees, especially now, I’m sure you know, there’s a pretty big crisis in the industry in terms of getting employees always, it’s never easy. It’s always a big turnover, but especially now. But if you can have a competitive advantage, from an employee perspective, consumers have to do something that’s compelling them to call us now. And they sign up and they commit anywhere from a year to five years. And if all is good, then that gets renewed, we have clients that metaphor for decades. But there’s a contract where they’re actually committing to becoming a certified green restaurant, we promise them a level of service to have our professional sustainable consulting team and our marketing team support them. In making the changes, it’s that 800 Number. Everybody knows recycling is good composting is good. organics better than pesticides. We’re not like giving them a flyer. You know, it’s like, you know, Chad, you want to go on a diet, great, eat less exercise, more, less cholesterol, less this wonderful. I’m a genius that just forget to be healthy. But who doesn’t know that, you know, what stops us from making changes individually, but also as businesses is much more complex than just being told what to do. So we don’t sit there and preach and tell them what to do. We do give them information on what to do. But we also I think part of why we’re here 31 years later, is we know how to get over those hurdles of change. Change is hard. Even psychologically it’s hard. It’s usually not so hard practically. When we look in retrospect like that’s all I needed to do. But there’s we’re complex human beings. And so we take that pain if the pain is I don’t know what to do. I know Styrofoam, biodegradable, oxygen, we know everybody’s telling me things are green, I don’t know who to believe, Oh, we got this nonprofit, the green restaurants decision, they’re not selling us anything. They don’t care if it’s this product or that product. They’re agnostic in that way, what their loyalty is to what’s best. So there’s that trust issue. There’s the knowledge is issue. There’s the question a pain point of how far do I go? Do I have to be a vegan, organic solar powered restaurant before I started marketing myself as a good restaurant and Green Restaurant. If you don’t have any standards, or guidance or certification levels, then it’s hard to know how high you need to go. Or conversely, somebody might think oh, recycling, the greatest restaurant in the world, but they’re not. So by having standards that are objective, the individual standards, but the overall levels, it really makes it easier for them so that when they’re marketing themselves, they’re not tooting their own horn. We are tooting their horn. And if we get a cynical consumer or somebody saying, Well, how can you be green when you’re only doing this we’ll say we’ve got our you know, we have a restaurant in on the West Coast. That is our greenest restaurant. There’s solar powered, they’re vegan, they’re fantastic. They really like pretty close to what everybody should be doing at least academically to lower their environment impact. And they’re still doing about a sixth of what’s possible. So we really communicate to the restaurants, set it up in perfect red take where you are, to what you can actually do, we’re not telling you to knock down your walls, we’re not telling a steakhouse to become, you know, a salad place, we’re going to be taking your concept and making it the greenest that it can be. So we do an environment assessment, where’s your baseline, we work with the vendors for step strategy. We then help you implement it, we then verify it, the restaurant that gets certified the PR and marketing kick in where on, our websites and various other places, including decals, menus, the marketing kicks in them. So recertification education process that continues urine in Europe.

Chad Franzen  10:57  

What do you say to people who think it would be too costly to try and become green certified?