Eco Dine is a free environmental certification project for restaurants in Calgary started by University of Calgary students. The group certifies restaurants based on their environmental practices and educates them on effective green practices.
By helping restaurants go eco- friendly, Eco Dine has reduced waste costs by up to 40 per cent.
The program examines restaurants based on their green practices and determines short- and long-term strategies to stay environmentally friendly. Eco Dine has certified over 600 restaurants.
On March 8, 2013, Eco Dine won the Western Canada champion title in the Scotiabank EcoLiving Green Challenge, a competition between green university initiatives in Canada.
For each restaurant examined, Eco Dine looks at waste management, water conservation, employee awareness, local sustainability and innovation. Eco Dine also promotes a clean cooking oil system, which recycles used oil so it does not end up in sewers or landfills. The oil is then refined and distributed to corporate energy companies to be used in biofuel production.
According to Eco Dine member and fourth-year geology student Zakir L. Hussein, Eco Dine works with several hundred restaurants in Calgary and rates them on bronze, silver and gold standards.
“We certify restaurants on how eco-friendly they are being in their practices in sustainable development — so whether they’re composting or if they’re recycling,” said Hussein. “We reassess them annually on how they can better themselves.”
Eco Dine has partnered with several waste management companies in Calgary. Hussein said that Eco Dine has been environmentally and economically positive for restaurants that have participated.
“Everybody wants to go green but nobody wants to pay the price, especially for many smaller restaurants that are competition in a market place so large,” said Hussein. “By restaurants being certified, they are also able to reduce their waste disposal fees by up to 40 per cent. It’s a benefit economically for them.”
Hussein said that this small, student volunteer program has grown into a sustainable microbusiness.
Eco Dine is funded through Organo Energy, a clean energy initiative founded by Hussein.
Proceeds from Eco Dine are given to the Boys and Girls club of Calgary, a charitable organization that aids youth between 12–17 years old.
“The restaurants have been undeniably supportive and have created value in environmental awareness by not lacking in economic benefit,” said Hussein. “We’ve put over 500 volunteer hours into this project and we will continue to grow.”
Eco Dine is partnered with Alberta Clean Technologies Ltd., a student organization founded at the U of C that aims to increase environmental practices.
Hussein hopes to increase the environmental mindset in Calgary.
“If we can increase environmental awareness, that is what will be positive,” said Hussein.