Chicago Department of Aviation plan makes it easier to travel 'green'

May 25, 2012 (CHICAGO)

From using locally-grown produce to bio-degradable cutlery –- some airport restaurants are doing it all. There is now a rating system to let passengers see at a glance which ones are committed to sustainability. It's the newest way to help you travel "green."

Harry Caray's Seventh Inning Stretch at Midway Airport is more than just a place to grab a burger and catch the game before your flight. It is now one of the first eateries to earn the Green Airplane Certificate. That's the newest part of a plan to make both of Chicago's airports more environmentally friendly.

"Working collaboratively over the years with airports from all across the country and around the world, we've been able to develop a Sustainable Airport Manual," said Chicago Department of Aviation Commissioner Rosemarie Andolino. "It's design and construction, tenants and concessions as well as operations and maintenance."

Changes, including its policy to only serve water upon request to help conserve resource and switching from Styrofoam to biodegradable take-out containers, helped Harry Caray's earn its green status.

Sprigs also earned the rating. The concessionaire specializes in serving fresh salads and sources at least half of its produce from within 250 miles. The restaurant also separates its leftovers so food waste can be composted.

Timothy Rand, who heads Midway Airport concessions, says the changes have also proven cost-effective.

"We undertook this initiative about eight months ago, and it's proven to be very beneficial for us," said Rand. "In fact, we've been able to save some monies purchasing some of the products. So this green initiative works."

Taylor Street Market rounds out the list of those granted the green status. Each of the restaurants volunteered to have their sustainability practices evaluated. Other restaurants are expected to follow.

"We want our customers to know that we're thinking about the environment. We're not only being fiscally responsible, environmentally responsible as well as socially responsible," said Andolino.

At O'Hare Airport, Rick Bayless's Tortas Frontera is the first restaurant to receive the Green Airplane rating. The airport is in the process of reviewing several others.

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