How This NYC Neighborhood Is Working to Become One of America's Greenest Dining Destinations

Restaurants in the Nomad/Flatiron area are increasingly getting on board with more sustainable dining through a certification program.

Madison Square Park in May 2020

Noam Galai / Getty Contributor

Although restaurants — especially those in New York City — may not be the most eco-friendly entity, Manhattan neighborhood Nomad is championing ways to serve sustainably and is encouraging others to join.

“The restaurant industry is a major contributor to air, water, and land pollution. It’s in the best interest of the industry and our community that we come together to improve our environmental impact and set a model for other restaurants and communities to follow,” John Meadow, whose LDV Hospitality operates some of New York’s finest restaurants like Scarpetta, near the neighborhood's Madison Square Park, shared with Travel + Leisure

Though always sustainably conscious, it wasn’t until Meadow caught wind of the efforts of the Green Restaurant Association, an organization with the singular mission of helping the restaurant industry become environmentally sustainable, that he decided to spring into action in his own backyard. 

“The NoMad/Flatiron neighborhood comprises some of the city’s most recognized restaurants and renowned chefs,” Meadow said. “As leaders in the industry, they are well positioned to make a commitment and encourage others to do the same.” 

Plated food from Scarpetta

Briana Balducci for LDV Hospitality

In 2019, Michael Oshman, the CEO and founder of the Green Restaurant Association, was working to find the next great Green Dining Destination. After helping Asheville, N.C., become the first and currently only Green Dining Destination in the U.S., he knew it was time for something bigger. So, he set his sights on the Flatiron/NoMad area, a high-profile neighborhood, surrounding the iconic Flatiron Building, with frequent foot traffic and a wide variety of restaurants. (AKA, the perfect place to show that any restaurant can become more sustainable.)

But, like most things attempting to kick off at the turn of the decade, this mission was marred by the pandemic. However, in 2021, Meadow heard about Oshman's efforts via the Madison Square Park Conservancy, where he is a board member, and made it his duty to support the cause, giving it a booming voice in the hospitality industry. 

To make as large an impact on the industry as possible, the Green Restaurant Association is now working with the Madison Square Park Conservancy, the Flatiron/Nomad Partnership, and Meadow himself via LDV Hospitality to spread the word and show the entire hospitality industry that any business — from the smallest food truck to the largest global enterprise — can make meaningful changes to reduce their carbon footprint. 

Being a Green Dining Destination isn’t just speaking in platitudes. Rather, it’s a rigorous process, but one that’s not impossible to attain, according to Oshman. 

As he explained to T+L, the Green Restaurant Association’s role is to help the restaurants make the necessary environmental changes, verify those changes, and then to certify the restaurants as official Green Restaurants via its eight standards of certification, which it has honed over the last three decades. Once a restaurant is a level one, two, three, or four-star Certified Green Restaurant, it can communicate that on its website, menu, storefront, staff uniforms, and more. 

“Almost all restaurants can reach level one Certified Green Restaurant; and what we find is that with some additional small changes, we are able to help level one Certified Green Restaurants move up toward three-star Certified Green Restaurants over time,” Oshman said.

 With the Flatiron/NoMad project, the team is attempting to bring in 20 locations to become certified Green Restaurants. Already, several properties including Scarpetta along with Barcade, Honeybrains, Blackbarn, Rezdora Osteria Emiliana, and Hawksmoor are enrolled, The groups are hoping to hit their goal by the end of fall to officially declare the Flatiron/NoMad neighborhood a Green Dining Destination, second to only Asheville.

On their way to certification are American Cut, Bombay Sandwich Co and Tarallucci e Vino.

Interior of Scarpetta

Briana Balducci

“Becoming a green-certified restaurant required us to make a few relatively simple changes such as adding more vegan and vegetarian menu options, local food purchasing, eco-friendly to-go containers, and establishing standard operating procedures for compost and recycling,” Meadow said about Scarpetta’s certification journey. “Not only has this helped us cut down on waste and lessen our carbon footprint, but it allows our guests to have a more sustainable experience.”

Oshman noted that while the industry has improved quite a bit over the decades with increasing reliable food certifications, making it easier to find sustainable fish, meat, and produce, there is still a ways to go for other sustainable efforts in energy and water use and restaurant waste.

“It is important that we address all of these categories to make this industry environmentally sustainable,” Oshman said. “The main thing that is missing is a strong sense of urgency of how important it is to address these issues now. The exciting news is that we don’t need to wait for some future technology. We are helping restaurants now.” 

As for Meadow, it’s all about making the message of sustainability in the restaurant industry, well, bite-sized, so everyone can get a taste for it. 

“I think the biggest challenge is the lack of awareness around the issue and commitment among restaurants to take action,” he said. “Many people believe that sustainability and environmental issues are too big for them, personally, to make an impact, so they do nothing. What we hope to educate the industry on is that taking small steps does help, and the more restaurants taking small steps is what we need to create big change.” 

See more about NoMad’s Green Dining Destination efforts, and follow along to see if it hits its 20-restaurant goal here

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