Food Service & Agriculture, Higher Education, and Sustainability

Kent Career Tech Center culinary program earns green-restaurant certification

December 10, 2012
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Kent Career Tech Center culinary program green-restaurant certification
Courtesy Kent Career Tech Center

The Kent Career Tech Center can now boast that it has the only Green Restaurant Association green certified culinary program in Michigan.

The school’s restaurant, bakery and cafeteria all underwent a rigorous transformation and inspection to earn the GRA’s three-star certification, including documenting sustainable practices in energy conservation, disposable goods and water use, as well as adopting composting and recycling practices.

Hundreds of restaurants across the country apply for GRA certification, but only two other restaurants in Michigan have received the green certification and both at the two-star level.

Sarah Waller, instructor at KCTC, said there were more than 60 steps involved in the process, including counting and sorting light bulbs and understanding how much water is used when the toilets are flushed in the facility, as well as what the toilet paper is made from.

“We had to look at every aspect of the kitchen and the business end,” Waller said.

The GRA offers two star, three star and four star certification levels. To receive GRA three-star certification, restaurants must accumulate a total of 175 points and meet the minimum point requirement in each of the seven categories. The restaurant also has to have a full-scale recycling program, eliminate all Styrofoam use and provide yearly education on its practices.

The culinary program chose to undergo the certification process as part of its move to become more sustainable, as well as to help enhance students’ resumes.

“It’s pretty good bragging rights that they were trained at the only green certified culinary program in the state of Michigan. Everything we do is for the students. What is going to look good on paper for them? What kind of certificates can we put in their portfolio?”

Students were involved in every step of the application, with some even doing work on their own time to help move the process forward.

It took eight months to fill out the application, and Waller said there were challenges along the way.

“The fact that we had to count every light bulb in the place was quite the chore,” she said. “And then sort them all out and then go back and take pictures of them. There were odd, little quirky things like that. I never thought that I would spend two hours with our plumber talking to him about toilets and how much water they used.”

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