Growing up, we've always been taught to be more sustainable by recycling, saving energy, using reusable alternatives, and composting. However, restaurant sustainability also plays a key role in decreasing carbon footprints and addressing key environmental concerns, such as food wastage, water consumption, and carbon mileage.

Did you know that the average carbon-dioxide-equivalent emissions of one meal is about 17.5 pounds? That's comparable to burning a gallon of gasoline, which is like traveling a distance of 20 miles by car. Around 70% of a restaurant's carbon emissions come from the natural sourcing of its ingredients, so it is necessary to be more mindful of the restaurants we choose to eat at.

So, what better way to celebrate Earth Day than by visiting a local, sustainable restaurant in Atlanta? Here's a list of the top 3.

1. Herban Fix

Located in the heart of Midtown, Herban Fix is a completely vegan restaurant led by Chef Wendy Chang. The menu features a wide range of Pan-Asian dishes, such as organic bibimbap, pan-seared soy "fish", steamed buns with crispy soy "duck", and a mushroom "steak". Herban Fix does a fantastic job of showcasing authentic vegan recipes enjoyable for not only plant-based eaters, but meat lovers as well. 

According to Chef Chang, Herban Fix's main mission is to be a part of the green and healthy movement. In particular, she wishes to raise awareness about animal agriculture pollution, which is the second major source of human-made greenhouse gas emissions. This has the ability to cause irreversible effects on the Earth, such as deforestation, resource depletion, and loss of biodiversity. By educating the public with tasty vegan dishes, Herban Fix is a notable Atlanta restaurant highlighting the importance of plant-based diets to make the environment a better place.

2. Farm Burger

Contrary to popular belief, not all sustainable restaurants have to be 100% vegan! Farm Burger prizes themselves with their locally sourced, 100% grassfed beef burgers with 6 locations in the Atlanta area. Not a meat-eater? Don't fret – they also have vegetarian and vegan options!

Farm Burger only uses grassfed beef from local ranchers, as they are aware that cows were naturally evolved to eat grass, not grains like they are normally fed on larger-scale livestock farms. Additionally, their farms are certified by the American Grassfed Association and are proud to advertise that they are hormone, antibiotic, and GMO free.

Small-scale farming is another hallmark of Farm Burger, as they are aware of the importance of animal welfare, rotational grazing, natural fertilizers (with manure!), and soil integrity with smaller, local farms. Not only does this help the local economy, but it also decreases the amount of fossil fuels by reducing carbon emissions from trucks that carry ingredients from farm to restaurant.

3. Upbeet

Upbeet in West Midtown is an organic restaurant known for their delicious and nutritious bowls and drinks. Their superfood lattes are made with a unique blend of ingredients featuring antioxidant-rich ingredients such as cardamom, chaga mushrooms, matcha, blue majik, and raw cacao. If you're more of a smoothie person, Upbeet has a wide range of options to choose from! With summertime approaching, I would definitely recommend their Beach House smoothie made with pineapples, mangos, bananas, dates, honey, mint, and coconut milk.

Customers rave about the customizability of Upbeet, as the "Build Your Own Bowl" section of the menu consists of all the toppings you could ever dream of. What's even more impressive is the fact that all of the ingredients used are naturally and locally sourced, reducing their overall carbon footprint. To add onto this list, they compost and recycle all waste products, purchase 100% compostable to-go packaging, use EnergyStar equipment, and have installed LED lighting throughout their dining space, as well as water-efficient toilets and sinks.

Honorable Mention: King of Pops

The King of Pops we all know and love gets an honorable mention, as they purchase dairy and fruit ingredients from local partners. Additionally, they make sure to compost food waste at the "King of Compost" site of their farm.

Diminished natural resources and increased temperatures due to global warming will pose a threat to wildlife and humanity. Because it is our responsibility to take care for the Earth, I urge you to make small, gradual, personal changes to your lifestyle by trying out some local, sustainable restaurants near you. Happy Earth Day, and happy eating!