Michael Oshman - Founder and CEO of the Green Restaurant Association

Michael Oshman - Founder and CEO of the Green Restaurant Association

Michael Oshman is the Founder and CEO of the Green Restaurant Association (GRA), a national non-profit organization formed in 1990 to shift the restaurant industry toward ecological sustainability.

Mr. Oshman has given keynote speeches and lectures at conferences in the U.S., Mexico, Canada, and Asia. He has consulted some of America's largest chains, spoken in front of the Olympics Organizing committee, met with the President's Council on Environmental Quality, and met directly with the head of the EPA.

Michael Joins Sustainable Nation to Discuss:

  • Green Restaurant Awards

  • Voting with your Dollar

  • The importance and benefits of sustainability in restaurants

  • Advice and recommendations for sustainability leaders

Michael's Final Five Question Responses:

What is one piece of advice you would give other sustainability leaders that might help them in their careers?

The piece of advice that I would give is not only know your sustainability information that is very learnable, but to equally, if not more important, learn the language of business.. It doesn't mean people need to get an MBA, but people need to exceed the expectations of the businesses that they're serving because that is where they're going to develop credibility. When you demonstrate that you are going to deliver what you say you're going to deliver, you have integrity, you're going to be prompt, you're going to deliver a great service, then the business trusts you. They don't tend to question your green credentials. What they question is this person going to be able to deliver their promise to saving money and get me a greater marketing, etc.? So I would say people should build up their skills in delivering the business benefits of the sustainability piece.

What are you most excited about right now in the world of sustainability?

What I'm excited about is we are at a major turning point for economy right now with the battery prices plummeting, with solar prices plummeting. We are in nothing less than an incredible transition that we're going to look back upon in the same way we look back upon planes and cars 100 years ago. So I'm excited about not just the Chevy Bolt and the Tesla, but I'm excited about scores of cars exceeding 200 mile range and getting cheaper and cheaper. I'm excited about solar becoming more integrated both legislatively and just price wise. I'm excited about the education and cultural shift of consumers really expecting sustainability to be on their proverbial plate such that big and small companies and universities and different cultural institutions, including government, are realizing this is here to stay and change needs to be made.

What is one book you would recommend sustainability leaders read?

One of the books that really impacted me was John Robbins Diet for a New America. I think it makes a great argument. I don't even know if I'm remembering the title correctly. This is John Robbins from Baskin Robbins, and he just makes very empirical arguments for eating low on the food chain. And so food is the pink elephant in the room that people often don't talk about, but eating low on the food chain is a huge piece. And I think his book makes a very empirical, logical argument that shifting our society towards a food lower in the food chain is more important even if people don't become vegans, but just to shift more of the food there.

What are some of your favorite resources or tools that really help you in your work?

For all the plagues of the modern world of overconsumption and disposability, in a corresponding way, our modern society in terms of computers and phones. What we are able to do with our technology is incredible. So how we're able to help our restaurants now versus even 20 years ago with modern technology is absolutely incredible. The ability to peek inside of a restaurant via phone or an iPad and get some information that we would have had to fly out for 20 years ago. It's absolutely incredible. We're really having a lot of fun between apps and websites, creating easy technology to make it easy for consumers and restaurants.

Where can our listeners go to learn more about you and the work that you're leading at the Green Restaurant Association.

The best place to go is to go to dinegreen.com and to subscribe to the newsletter to Facebook and to Twitter. And very soon we'll be having some awesome features. People will be able to nominate restaurants to go green, to do crowdfunding campaigns, to vote for restaurants to go green. So we're really going to be entering into some of that modern technology to crowdsource the ability for restaurants to go green.