Eco-Friendly Eats: 13 of the World’s Greenest Restaurants


How green can a restaurant be? Many eateries around the world have tried to answer this question with hyper-local, seasonal, and vegetarian menus and enough sustainable design details to make your head spin. These 13 restaurants include pop-up shipping container cafes, reclaimed airplanes and treehouses as well as more conventional dining establishments outfitted with solar panels, recycled materials, on-site vegetable gardens and other green features, serving up ethical food with an ultra-light carbon footprint.

The Grey Plume, Omaha, Nebraska


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America’s greenest restaurant isn’t in New York or California as you might expect, but in the seemingly unlikely location of Omaha, Nebraska. The Grey Plume received the top honor from the Green Restaurant Association as it became the nation’s first three-star ‘Sustainabuild Certified Green Restaurant’ (it has since earned a fourth star). Not only does the restaurant feature a menu full of seasonal, locally-grown produce and farm-to-table meats and dairy products; it has also incorporated highly efficient appliances, solar-powered hand sinks, LED lighting, recycling and composting programs, non-toxic cleaning materials and eco friendly to-go products. All wood used to build The Grey Plume is FSC-Certified, and many of the other materials were recycled or sustainably sourced.

Singapore Take-Out Pop-Up Shipping Container Restaurant


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A custom mobile shipping container restaurant has launched a world tour, leaving its home of Singapore to take the country’s cuisine to places like London, Paris, Moscow, New York, Dubai and Sydney. The 20-foot used shipping container opens to display a mouth-watering assortment of Singaporean foods, and will also be used as a demonstration kitchen to show off Singapore’s culinary talent and food brands.

Acorn House, London, England


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Billed as London’s first truly sustainable restaurant, Acorn House serves seasonal food in the Shoreditch area of the city. The restaurant composts and recycles all of its waste, buys only organic and fair trade products as well as seasonal local foods, uses boxes that can be sent back to suppliers and picks up produce in its biodiesel car. Acorn House also boasts a training program that prepares local youths to become sustainability-minded chefs.

Slowpoke Espresso Cafe, Fitzroy, Australia


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The walls of the Slowpoke Espresso Cafe in Fitzroy, Australia were turned into a rich tapestry of weathered wood by designer Anne-Sophie Poirier of Sasufi, who was working on a tight budget. In fact, Poirier used only recycled and reclaimed materials in the design, the wood scraps coming from local furniture makers. The warmth of the wood contrasts with bright white walls. Everything from the desks and lamp shades to tiles, vases and the street sign were sourced second-hand at flea markets.

Runway 34, Recycled Airplane Restaurant


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Airplanes aren’t typically sought-after destinations when it comes to dining. Then again, Runway 34 isn’t your typical airplane. A Soviet-era plane has been reclaimed as a restaurant in Zurich, Switzerland, allowing diners to sit beneath the plane and gaze up at its underbelly; inside the the cabin is a cigar lounge with a vintage vibe that recollects first-class cabins. Appropriately aviation-themed, the restaurant features ‘in-flight magazine racks’ and servers dressed as flight attendants.

Plant Cafe Organic, San Francisco, California


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Designed by CCS Architecture, San Francisco’s Plant Cafe Organic has been named the city’s top vegetarian restaurant as well as its greenest eatery. With two locations renovated from historic warehouses and fronting the San Francisco Bay, Plant Cafe Organic stands out with a menu full of tasty dishes that are almost entirely organic and locally sourced.

Tang Palace Bamboo Restaurant, China


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Sustainable, fast-growing bamboo was used to create the stunning interiors of the Tang Palace Bamboo Restaurant in Hangzhou, China. Atelier FCJZ wove bamboo into a shell-like interior structure that flows throughout the space, enhancing privacy and fostering a sense of intimacy.

Say the designers, “The waved ceiling creates a dramatic visual expression within the hall. The hollowed-out bamboo net maintains the original story height and thereby creates an interactive relation between the levels. We also wrapped the core column with light-transmitting bamboo boards to form a light-box, which transforms the previously heavy concrete block into a light and lively focus object.”

Bloodwood Restaurant, Sydney, Australia


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Reclaimed, recycled and recyclable materials were used to create the warm contemporary interiors of Bloodwood Restaurant & Bar in Sydney, Australia. The owners of Bloodwood commissioned designer Matt Woods to create a space that reflects their dedication to sustainability, which is also reflected in the restaurant’s largely seasonal menu. Salvaged doors, reclaimed timber and railway sleepers give the space a sense of age and history. The restaurant is lit with LED lights, the wine bottles are re-blown, and the kitchen makes use of scraps in order to reduce waste as much as possible.

Bamboo Sushi, Portland, Oregon


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The world’s first certified sustainable sushi restaurant is in Portland, Oregon. Bamboo Sushi uses only the freshest ethically sourced fish, meats and produce available. Bamboo Sushi also purchases 100% of its power from renewable energy sources, offers reusable chopsticks and fully biodegradable take-out containers, and strives to compost or recycle all waste. “We maintain transparency and accountability for our customers through our multiple, nationally recognized certifications and rigorous, independent, third-party audits,” states the restaurant’s website.

Greenhouse Shipping Container Restaurant


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Joost Bakker’s Greenhouse Restaurant has a long list of eco-credentials that lodges it firmly within the world’s top eco-friendly eateries. The traveling Greenhouse Restaurant, which began in Sydney, Australia in 2010, is a follow-up to two similar projects by Joost including a pop-up version and a permanent version in Perth, also called Greenhouse Restaurant. Designed to be easily dismantled and recycled, The Greenhouse is made of used shipping containers; greenery covers the exterior walls and produce is grown on the roof. All incoming ingredients and supplies are delivered in reusable, returnable containers to eliminate waste, and many are locally produced. Food scraps make the soil in the rooftop garden richer, and oil from the deep fryer is turned into biodiesel to provide the restaurant’s electricity. The Greenhouse has traveled to Milan, Berlin, Brussels and London.

Wind & Solar Powered Burger King in Germany


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On a list of sustainable restaurants, a fast-food joint like Burger King definitely does not belong. Or does it? One location in Germany is powered entirely by on-site wind and solar energy, with waste heat providing the energy to heat water, energy-efficient LEDs to provide lighting and a broiler that reduces gas consumption. It also boasts a solar-powered electric vehicle charging station and rainwater collection to keep the landscaping green. However, it’s still Burger King, serving unsustainable and unhealthy food. If only these green efforts carried over into the company’s regular operations.

Treehouse Restaurant, New Zealand


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A pair of wooden cocoons dangle yards above the ground at the edge of a redwood forest. The Treehouse Restaurant in New Zealand is accessed by an elevated walkway and can seat 30 to 50 diners at a time. Made of sustainably grown poplar and pine, the restaurant has won multiple awards for its stunning design. While it’s now closed to the public, this unusual concept will undoubtedly inspire additional treehouse restaurants.

Ubuntu Restaurant & Yoga Studio, Napa Valley, California


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A vegetarian restaurant with an attached yoga studio in California’s lush and laid-back Napa Valley, Ubuntu serves a creative seasonal menu and sources its wine from biodynamic and sustainable vineyards, which are presumably plentiful in wine country. The fresh produce that makes the restaurant’s dishes so healthy and colorful is harvested from a local biodynamic garden and orchard. Designed by Apparatus Architecture, Ubuntu stuns with contemporary décor set against a 19th century stone wall.