Since we first wrote about it during the summer of 2007, Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based organic pizza chain Pizza Fusion has been expanding rapidly despite the lousy economy. It entered 2008 with only two restaurants open but now begins 2009 with 16 in operation across 8 states, including New Jersey, where it is currently aiming for the Garden State’s first LEED-certified restaurant in my hometown of Ridgewood. (As you might guess, this was pretty exciting news for me to uncover.) The Ridgewood Pizza Fusion – located at 33 Godwin Avenue, just a short walk from our train station if you’re thinking about taking the quick trip out from Midtown - opened back in mid-December and is the first of eleven that Bergen County resident Nick Morin hopes to open across New Jersey over the next three years.
Pizza Fusion was recently recognized by PETA as one of its top ten vegan-friendly pizzerias and is the only restaurant franchisor in the country that mandates third-party organic restaurant certification for all of its franchisees. Specific details on green design features at the Ridgewood location do not appear available, but Pizza Fusion is committed to assisting all of its franchisees achieve LEED certification by requiring a variety of standard sustainable construction elements, including recycled glass countertops, low-VOC paints, recycled drywall and plastic chairs, efficient lighting, and FSC-certified cabinets. Each location is designed to reduce water consumption by 40 percent and electricity consumption by 20 percent over comparable restaurants. Pizza Fusion also delivers each of its pies using hybrid vehicles. Note that restaurants are the top energy consumers amongst American retail businesses, accounting for a whopping 33 percent of the total consumed annually.
It remains to be seen where Pizza Fusion falls in the Ridgewood hierarchy of pizzerias, but regardless it’s quite exciting for my hometown to be in pursuit of its first LEED certification. From a much broader perspective, it’s clear that businesses devoted to sustainable practices – operations, maintenance, and construction – are gaining a competitive advantage even as the recession deepens. I’ll follow up with additional thoughts on Pizza Fusion both after I check the pizzeria out the next time I’m in Ridgewood and once Mr. Morin earns his LEED certification from USGBC.