Restaurants in Rockville Centre now have a model of Earth-friendly excellence in their midst. Arooga’s Tap and Kitchen on North Village Avenue is the first food establishment in the village to be recognized as a Green Restaurant.
The Green Restaurant Association awarded Arooga’s with the certification after it opened last November. The Rockville Centre sports bar and grill is the 20th restaurant in the Arooga’s franchise, which requires all its locations to become Green Restaurant-certified.
“There’s only one Earth,” said Fernando Pepicelli, general manager at Arooga’s in Rockville Centre and Patchogue. “We’ve got to take care of it.”
Seven clean-Earth categories determined Arooga’s score to become certified — waste, water, energy, food, disposables, chemical and pollution reduction and building. The restaurant ranked highest in waste, water and energy.
Arooga’s uses plant-based to-go containers and cups. Its wood chairs, tables and wall accents are all recycled, or made from trees that had already fallen, Pepicelli explained. The menu also features vegan and gluten-free options.
The Rockville Centre restaurant is the first tap and kitchen-version of Arooga’s, he added. Its logo, atmosphere and menu are simpler and have a more “urban-feel” than its counterparts in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Florida. The brick and recycled wood interior help create this neutral vibe. “It feels good to have a business while caring for the environment,” Pepicelli noted.
In addition, Arooga’s has low-energy appliances, low-flow faucets and toilets, room-temperature hand dryers and low-voltage lighting. While some of these can be costly, the restaurant has cut down on its electric and water bills, he said. Other sustainable actions were as simple as installing a bike rack outside and prohibiting smoking within 25 feet of the building.
“It’s about doing the right thing,” Pepicelli said. “The small things help, like starting off with the to-go boxes. I wouldn’t expect other restaurants to do [everything we do], but a little goes a long way.”
By checking all those green boxes, Arooga’s received a 1-star rating from the Green Restaurant Association. Michael Oshman, chief executive officer of the non-profit organization, explained that although the 4-star rating is the highest, restaurants are encouraged to attain a 1-star from them.
“It’s a high level,” he told the Herald. “The way I describe it: these are all Harvard students. One is getting an A-, one is an A, one is an A+ and one is the child prodigy who graduated years in advance. Very few have 4 stars.”
The average restaurant produces 100,000 pounds of garbage and uses 300,000 gallons of water per year, according to the Green Restaurant Association. In addition, restaurants use one-third of all electricity in the retail sector, its website states.
At a village board meeting last month, Mayor Francis X. Murray commended Arooga’s for its commitment to environmental sustainability.
“In an industry where costs are high and margins are low, the idea of going green can seem like an unrealistic objective,” Murray said. “Arooga’s of Rockville Centre is leading the way as the first all-green establishment in our village.”
Oshman reinforced that restaurants like Arooga’s serve as a model to others. There are currently about 700 Green Restaurants nationwide and “tens of thousands” who take influence from them and implement some of their practices, he noted.
Restaurateurs can learn how to take steps toward going green by visiting dinegreen.com/education.