Chicago eatery named greenest restaurant in America

The greenest restaurant in America features energy-efficient dishwashers, tables made of fallen trees, solar panels and LED lighting. While other business owners do not have to go quite to those lengths to achieve energy efficiency in their restaurants, commercial inspections can reveal simple measures that can save an owner a large sum of money.

The Green Restaurant Association (GRA), a Boston nonprofit, named Chicago's Uncommon Ground at Devon Avenue the greenest restaurant in the country due to its 116 different environmentally friendly features. Another Uncommon Ground location received GRA's highest rating of four stars, but only three other restaurants in the country, out of 450 locations studied, achieved that status.

In an interview with Crain's Chicago Business, restaurant co-owner Helen Cameron said that her restaurants also recently replaced paper towels with accelerated hand dryers. One of the most significant energy savers has been solar panels, half of which were paid for in state tax rebates. She estimates that because the panels save her at least $5,000 per year in gas costs, the panels will be paid for in full through savings in less than four years.

"Sometimes I'm spending more on some items, like chemicals for cleaning, or the organic food that comes from local sources," co-owner Helen Cameron told the news source. "But these are basic ideals and principles that have been interwoven into our values since the get-go."

In addition to any state tax incentives, business owners can take advantage of the Energy Efficient Commercial Buildings Tax Deduction, which allows a tax deduction of $1.80 per square foot of energy improvements related to hot water systems, interior lighting and HVAC systems. If you're a business owner in the Tri-State area who wants to take advantage of these incentives, you should solicit a qualified commercial inspection service that can conduct an energy audit to determine areas of your property that can undergo energy improvements.