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National Restaurant Association - NRA showcases Conserve program at sustainability summit

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NRA showcases Conserve program at sustainability summit

Using its Conserve Sustainability Education ProgramSM as a base for discussion, the National Restaurant Association recently met with public sector leaders at a sustainability summit in Santa Monica, Calif., to share ideas about how the private sector can implement environmental best practices in their communities.

Scott DeFife, the association's executive vice president of policy and government affairs, addressed the group of nearly 100 public officials, which included local policymakers, members of nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs, private sector experts and academics at Governing magazine's 2012 Summit on Sustainability, June 20-21.

DeFife attended the summit "to talk about public-private partnerships," and in particular, "about Conserve, a private sector initiative that could connect with public sector efforts."

"This was an opportunity to talk to local leaders and make [them] aware that the restaurant industry is thinking about sustainable practices," he said. "When talking to public officials, the restaurant industry is not necessarily the first group that comes to mind when it comes to sustainability issues, but [the group] understood immediately the impact the industry's work could have on their respective jurisdictions.

"Many approach environmental issues from the top down, but we are an example of approaching the issue from the community level up," he continued. "We showed that you can bring what is often a lofty discussion down to an actionable, local, community level and that the industry is working on solutions of its own."

He added that, "The restaurant industry has a lot of experience with recycling, water conservation and energy efficiency that could be valuable" to others, and that the Conserve program could provide examples of best practices that are easy and affordable to implement anywhere.

DeFife talked about the origins of Conserve, which the NRA developed starting in 2009, as well as the association's 2011 study on recycling practices in the restaurant industry, co-sponsored by Georgia-Pacific Professional. He highlighted a number of sustainable initiatives the NRA is presiding over, including the rollout of Conserve's second phase: its Sustainable Action Zones program.

He further noted the association's ongoing work in eliminating food waste as well as its collaborations with the Grocery Manufacturers Association on that issue and with the Foodservice Packing Institute to create a sustainable supply chain for foodservice packaging.

During the summit, various issues pertaining to the implementation of sustainable practices were addressed, including economic development, energy efficiencies, infrastructure and financing. Attendees shared their sustainable plans and projects along with the problems they've experienced in trying to implement them in their various locales and jurisdictions.

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