Not too long ago the journey to turn your restaurant into a sustainable establishment began. Unsure of where to start, you kicked-off the process with an on-site sustainability audit. The results were shocking! Much to your surprise, the amount of food that was wasted could virtually feed a small nation.Trash was being tossed into the recycle bins, contaminating the truly recyclable items. Recyclable items were being thrown in the trash, substantially increasing your disposal fees. And this was just the tip of the iceberg.
Immediately following the analysis you began to put into practice short-term recommendations, and aligned your restaurant’s processes with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Food Recovery Program (Prevent, Recover, Recycle) Hierarchy. After seeing the positive results of a few simple changes such as keeping liquids out of the trash and encouraging customers to take leftovers home, you took the leap and began implementing longer-term sustainability initiatives. Composting is now the rule rather than the exception, and you’ve updated your menu to serve more eco-friendly, customer pleasing vegetarian dishes.
Your kitchen has never been so efficient – serving sizes were slightly reduced, lessening waste and reducing food costs. Inventory is consistently accurate, nearly eliminating the amount of spoiled or ‘after use’ foods. By simply reducing the amount of excess food, you’ve made great strides in decreasing waste. Your ‘go green’ investments are paying off. Profitability is up and since consumers think about food waste when choosing a restaurant, your tables are always filled. However, giving mother nature a helping hand shouldn’t end with your menu items. Here are a few tips to expand your restaurant’s sustainability efforts.
Tips to expand your sustainability efforts
From water and electricity to paper, plastic, aluminum and glass, you can further reduce your environmental footprint. Let’s take a look at other sustainability considerations.
1. Conserve water: Did you know that, on average, restaurants use 5,800 gallons of water each and every day, which equates to at least $8,000 per year? Want to save money and help preserve one of our most precious national resources? You can start small and increase your efforts over time. The leaky faucets that have become background noise should be one of the first things you tackle. You can further conserve water by installing low flow and/or touchless faucets, as well as dual flush toilets.
If your dishwashers and ice makers are reaching their end of life, replace them with Energy Star appliances which are approximately 10% more water efficient, not to mention 15% more energy efficient. Speaking of ice makers… By replacing your water-cooled ice machine with an air-cooled one, you can reduce water consumption by 100,000 gallons a year (figure for a 500 lb machine).
Do you regularly serve customers a glass of water once they are seated? You can slash water consumption by only serving drinking water upon request. What happens to the water that patrons don’t finish? Most likely it goes down the drain. By simply recycling unconsumed drinking water, as well as excess water from ice buckets and other sources you can put this grey water to good use. Use it to irrigate your gardens and landscaping to further reduce water usage, as well as to lower your maintenance costs.
2. Zap energy consumption: The restaurant industry use 3x – 5x more energy than any other commercial entity, making it the number one user of electricity. Since energy falls into the ‘must have’ bucket, it’s essential to know where your biggest energy draws reside. In order of electricity consumption, the top four are heating & cooling (28.8%), refrigeration (20.9%), cooking (19.1%), lighting (18.4%). Here’s how you can curb energy consumption of the big four.
- HVAC – Cut your electricity bill by up to 9% by lowering the temperature just 2 -3 degrees. And in the summer dial up the temperature by a few degrees. To keep your system running at optimal levels be sure to regularly change the air filters and keep the condenser coils clean.
- Refrigeration – Equip your freezers and refrigerators with automatic door closers to reduce air penetration. Then go inside these appliances and replace incandescent bulbs with lower electricity usage LEDs.
- Cooking – Ovens and broilers are two of your biggest energy hogs. Is your kitchen staff still using older model ovens? If so, it may be time to think about replacing them with more energy efficient convection ovens. When it comes to your broilers, implement processes that reduce idle time and make sure sections of the broiler that are not in use are turned off.
- Lighting – Some simple and affordable measures can make a huge difference. To start replace incandescent bulbs with Energy Star LEDs, which uses 75% less energy. Motion sensor lighting and daylight sensors will also reduce your energy consumption. And don’t forget to turn off the lights before locking up each night.
Go a step further with renewable energy systems such as solar panels and wind turbines.
3. Be paper, plastic, aluminum and glass aware: This is an area where you can recycle, minimize and upcycle. Paper, cardboard, and in some communities plastics and glass can use the same recycling bin. These items are then sorted and appropriately recycled, reducing non-food waste and easing your hauling and disposal fees.
Purchase items with minimal packaging, replace paper napkins with cloth and swap single use packets of salt, pepper, sugar, condiments, etc. with reusable containers. With take-out becoming increasingly popular, be sure to ask whether the customer requires serviceware, napkins and condiments before tossing them in the bag.
Give your disposables a second life. Use pallets, wine bottles, cans, water bottles and even wine corks to create aesthetically appealing wall art, lighting fixtures and even ceiling decorations. Have old kitchenware? Think table decorations for candles or flowers. Use pots that have seen better days to create plant or herb containers, ice buckets, etc. When it comes to upcycling, let your imagination run wild!
It’s a win-win proposition
Yes, sustainability is a process. One that pays for itself by reducing your environmental footprint and increasing your profitability. By implementing simple and affordable measures, a little effort will go a long way.