Green Eating at the Garden

Green Dining Alliance Awards 5-Star Rating to Sassafras 

The delicious lunches served daily at the Garden’s cafe are now even greener! In the Garden’s annual review as a member of the St. Louis Green Dining Alliance (GDA), the Garden’s cafe, Sassafras, rose to a 5-Star Rating, the top level of GDA certification.

“This process has been a great learning experience for us,” says Brianne Cima, who directs restaurant and internal event operations for Catering St. Louis at the Garden. “We continue to partner with the Garden’s sustainability leaders to implement green dining initiatives, refining our practices and planning for improvements. It is really rewarding to have achieved this 5-Star goal!”





GDA-logoThe St. Louis Green Dining Alliance works with more than 100 restaurants across the St. Louis region to support sustainable efforts of owners and employees. An annual review includes a site visit by GDA staff to evaluate a wide range of practices and identify options to improve.

To earn certification, a restaurant must commit to GDA Core Concepts, including phasing in energy efficient lighting, eliminating the use of Styrofoam, practicing recycling and setting waste reduction goals. Beyond these basics, each restaurant can earn points in seven categories:

  • Recycling and Waste Reduction
  • Sourcing and Procurement
  • Water Conservation
  • Energy Efficiency
  • Chemicals
  • Awareness and Education
  • Innovation


Waste collection station at Sassafras


Sassafras earns highest marks in three GDA categories, as the Garden vividly educates guests about the ways we keep useful material out of landfills, composts all food and serving waste and, of course, recycles. In both café and event-catering operations, these practices help the Garden maintain a waste diversion rate of 60% or more, year-round.


A sampling of locally sourced products available at Sassafras


Efforts to source local food helped boost Sassafras into the GDA 5-Star tier. Our café menu includes local breads, cheeses, fresh mushrooms, artisan beers and Ted Drewes Frozen Custard, plus seasonal items. Sassafras previously served heirloom tomatoes, radishes and fennel grown on the farm owned by Catering St. Louis. Sustainable procurement helps grow our region’s local-food economy, while reducing impacts of long-distance food production.

Sustainable food service has been the standard in Sassafras for many years. Guests enjoy their meals on durable, washable ware, and all single-use ware is 100% compostable, including cold and hot cups and utensils provided with carry-out meals.

Sassafras also receives high marks for energy and water conservation. Cooking and dishwashing equipment and café lighting are selected and used with efficiency in mind. Free, healthy daylight saves energy while giving guests the year-round pleasure of glorious Garden views.




The Garden’s green dining efforts began in 2008, when the Garden and its food service partner Catering St. Louis joined the Green Restaurant Association, a national non-profit based in Boston. The Garden was the second cultural institution in the U.S. to earn GRA certification.

When St. Louis Earth Day launched the Green Dining Alliance in 2012, the Garden signed on to work with this longtime local partner organization. Sassafras was one of the first restaurants to engage in this local service.

“It is such a pleasure to continue our partnership with Sassafras and the Missouri Botanical Garden,” says Jenn DeRose, GDA Program Manager. “Watching [the Garden’s] sustainability efforts improve over these last few years has been inspiring.”

Learn more ways the Garden works toward a greener future.


Jean Ponzi
Green Resources Manager

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