These days, buzzwords like “going green” and “sustainability” are thrown around a lot, and for good reason. Green is the new black as restaurants and consumers alike are looking to environmentally friendly practices. From restaurant advertising to consumer reviews, focusing on turning your establishment into one that impacts the environment less is more important than ever.
So how do you “green” your business? From buying efficient equipment, switching out light fixtures, and retrofitting your pipes to locally sourcing produce and keeping your restaurant supply stocked with recyclable and compostable materials, it’s less daunting than it seems. Rather turning your eatery into an engine of environmental efficiency overnight, start small and work up to a full-fledged program. Here are a few steps that guarantee to improve efficiency:
Conserve Energy and Water
An analysis by the Department of Energy shows that restaurants are the most energy-intensive businesses in the commercial sector—meaning most energy per square foot. Picture a restaurant kitchen. With ovens, broilers, fryers, ice machines, walk-in refrigerators and dishwashers, you’d be hard-pressed to find another type of business with comparable energy needs. Instead of replacing every component of your restaurant, start small and simple.
Start with tracking your restaurant’s energy usage. Reduce your energy bill every month by setting up a startup/shutdown schedule for all equipment. Not all equipment needs to be turned on first thing in the morning, so having a set schedule for each piece of equipment, or a more general schedule for your entire kitchen, can save you money. If you are looking to invest in a streamlined system, consider automating your start-up and shutdown schedules so you don’t have to do a thing.
Use Energy Star compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) instead of traditional incandescent bulbs in storerooms, break rooms, offices, wall sconces, kitchen exhaust hoods and walk-in refrigerators.
Install low-flow aerators. This is probably the easiest and cheapest way to reduce your water consumption. Use low flow pre-rinse spray nozzles at the dish machine. Your water company may even provide the low flow nozzles for free. Quality aerators are inexpensive and once installed can effectively reduce the amount of water used each time a faucet is turned on. The mileage a few dollars-worth of low-flow aerators can travel is impressive. You’ll be surprised just how much water is saved each month, just by putting a few in place. Consider using ultra low-flow toilets and flow restrictors on restroom faucets as well.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Recycling is the go-to notion when the green buzzwords circle. A successful recycling effort can drastically reduce your waste, but it needs to be constantly monitored and wholeheartedly supported. Recycling can be as simple as buying bins and making the effort to fill them.
Use recycled-content paper products, or none at all. Commit to buying products in returnable, reusable or recyclable containers and, including hand towels, napkins, and take-out containers. All materials used by restaurants certified by the Green Restaurant Association must be able to be composted (paper) or recycled (#1 and #2 plastics, aluminum) instead of polystyrene (Styrofoam). With email receipts and a Kitchen Display system you can cut down on the amount of paper that is used in your operation altogether.
Consider composting. Composting, while it might seem intimidating, is easier than you think. In the same way recycling helps reduce garbage, composting can help reduce food waste and improve your restaurant’s “green” footprint. Treat composting as the next step once you’ve established your restaurant’s recycling efforts.
Stay consistent. A properly trained staff to back up your recycling plan and follow your water consumption guidelines is essential to the success of your green initiatives. Make sure your goals and intentions are made clear, and that the sustainability efforts you want your staff to implement are discussed regularly.
Have a question? Enter the non-profit Green Restaurant Association (GRA), a certification and support program for restaurants interested in going green. When a restaurant is certified by the GRA, you know it meets clear environmental standards with regard to energy, water, waste, disposables, pollution and—oh yeah—food.