Green Places Shows Businesses How to Shrink Their Carbon Footprints

It helps restaurants like bartaco think outside the sustainability box.

bartaco's Denver LoHi location visually embodies Green Place's mission
bartaco's Denver LoHi location visually embodies Green Place's mission.


Even if it takes some getting used to, informed restaurant customers are supporting their favorite eateries’ decisions to switch to paper straws and replace paper menus with QR code menus. These efforts help their businesses to operate more sustainably and, in the process, become better citizens in the community. In order for any business to be truly sustainable, however, there’s going to be more to the process than just swapping plastic for paper or swapping paper with technology. 

This is where Green Places comes in. This firm is dedicated to helping restaurants and other business clients adjust various aspects of their day-to-day operations to lessen their carbon footprint. Given that there may be an investment involved, an overhaul can be overwhelming, especially in this economy and the pandemic environment. However, founder and CEO Alex Lassiter (who previously co-founded Gather, known for its groundbreaking hospitality industry software) is so confident that Green Places can help make the process easier and more approachable that its landing page includes a free calculator allowing a prospective client to calculate his or her carbon footprint and begin the rethinking process.

Scott Lawton, CEO and co-founder of bartaco, the coastal restaurant brand currently operating 21 locations in 11 states, was ready to go beyond paper straws when he approached Lassiter about lessening his carbon footprint. He also had the advantage of working with Lassiter a decade ago when he was bringing some of Gather’s restaurant technology products into one of his earlier businesses.

“When I saw what Alex was up to on LinkedIn, I noticed what he was doing with Green Places aligned with a lot of the sustainability initiatives we were moving toward,” says Lawton. “The process of running a greener business has been an all-encompassing thing, from rethinking our interior design to our takeout packaging to the equipment we are using in the kitchen. By developing a plan with Alex, we’re hoping to figure out how we can ultimately be more responsible and a part of the solution rather than the problem going forward. I believe that is important to our customers as well as our employees and us [management], as I'm a father with five kids.”

Alex Lassiter
Alex Lassiter, CEO, Green Places.

Green Places

Unlike computer software implementation, the customized sustainability plans that Green Places provides are not “plug-and-play,” but a continuous learning plan involving a variety of calculation tools and science-based solutions taken from the findings of climate experts.

While some larger corporations can afford to build in-house divisions to purchase carbon offsets and make other investments, Lawton says that Green Places bridges this gap by helping smaller firms like bartaco calculate its carbon load and buy the right number of offsets to neutralize that. The calculator on the landing page, developed in collaboration with UC Berkeley's climatology department, is the first step to show the client what the carbon footprint looks like, leading to an understanding of what needs to be done to get operations closer to carbon-neutral.

“While it is important for Scott to know exactly what needs to be done, if I am an environmentally-conscious customer, I want to know what bartaco is doing to have a more positive impact in the communities where the restaurants operate,” continues Lassiter. “It’s not just about making a financial impact but also a climate impact. Scott can take action by making changes in the choices of what equipment and supplies he’s purchasing, and changing out what results in a larger carbon footprint and bringing in what will lessen it in the present time and over the years as bartaco continues to grow.”

Lassiter says that the first part of the plan is focused on helping Lawton and the management team make adjustments and adaptations over time to reduce the restaurant’s footprint. The second is investing in climate positive projects, such as planting and protecting forests, and investing in renewable energy purveyors and infrastructure.

From there, Lawton can be transparent with customers, showing what it is producing in emissions in a direct and measurable way and what it's doing to remedy it on the back end. While producing carbon is unavoidable, Lawton can show customers, with Green Places serving as bartaco’s sustainability team, exactly what’s being done to offset its emissions. 

Denver Lohi bartaco location
Denver Lohi bartaco location.


The third part of the equation—and of most interest to bartaco customers—is transparency in showing them exactly how it is being socially responsible. Customers can go to the Green Places website to see exactly what makes up bartaco’s plan in terms of being more socially and environmentally responsible.

“Hopefully, there will be a long list of restaurants that will follow our lead, and send the message that they’re going to take responsibility for carbon emissions, as we have,” says Lawton. “Customers who are concerned about the environment have provided feedback that they would prefer to patronize a restaurant that's doing things more sustainably. I have definitely [received this kind of feedback] from my staff, and I know that this is important with our younger demographic. I think as other companies start to make responsible choices, the public will become increasingly more discerning and choose places that are trying to be more forward-thinking with regards to the environment."

Lassiter concurs. “I think we're at a point where businesses have a unique opportunity to do something that's great for the planet but also good for [themselves]. One of the reports that we quote a lot is the state of consumer spending. One thing the report highlights is that 62% of Gen Z consumers prefer to buy from sustainable brands, and the number is about the same for Millennials. However, I think good sustainable practices cross over and appeal to all generations. Smart businesses and producers understand that as climate change is a large existential crisis to humanity, as well as a physical one, good business is not just about profitability, but what’s done to achieve it intelligently and thoughtfully.”