With restaurants across the nation participating in Earth Day 2010 activities yesterday, the National Restaurant Association supported their efforts through its Conserve: Solutions for Sustainability initiative and its new Greener Restaurants program.

Association research shows that four out of 10 consumers say they are likely to make a restaurant choice based on its conservation practices; and that 40 percent of full-service restaurants and 31 percent of quick-service restaurants plan to devote more resources to green initiatives in 2010.

“The restaurant industry is committed to becoming a greener industry, and we encourage all our guests to get involved,” says Dawn Sweeney, National Restaurant Association President and CEO.

“Each year, more of America’s restaurants celebrate Earth Day in support of sustainability efforts everywhere.”

Greener Restaurants, in pilot to be launched industry-wide soon, is a new, national program to recognize restaurants’ environmental sustainability efforts and help them share their successes with guests.

The program was created to help restaurant operators save money and manage costs while incorporating sustainability practices throughout the restaurant. In addition, the program will help restaurants market their efforts to “go greener” to guests both onsite and online. It was developed with the input of restaurant operators and partners of the National Restaurant Association Conserve initiative – the Turner Foundation, Kendall College, the Food Service Technology Center, and EPA Energy Star.

Greener Restaurants is an extension of the National Restaurant Association’s Conserve: Solutions for Sustainability initiative, which encourages and assists restaurant operators to increase their environmental efforts while preserving, and many times boosting, their bottom line. The Conserve website provides tips, tools, and resources to help restaurants reduce their environmental footprint and increase business.

Because energy-conservation is central in the Conserve initiative, the Association also advocates for the Building STAR Energy Efficiency Rebate Act of 2010, S. 3079, which was recently introduced by U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.). The bill would establish tax incentives for commercial building owners to upgrade their property’s energy efficiency. Building STAR was developed by Rebuilding America, a coalition that includes the National Restaurant Association and more than 80 other groups.

As part of the legislation, restaurants would benefit from reduced energy bills and operating costs that result from an energy efficiency retrofit. The technology-specific rebates in Building STAR are based on proven rebate programs already in place.