Going Green

More and more venues are switching over to greener practices and equipment, but it seems as though some restaurant and quick-service owners aren't sure where to start or if they can even afford it. The reality is that going green is going to cost you some money initially, but any change you make to your business will. However, changing your habits to help the environment actually saves far more money in the first year alone than you will spend altogether. Whether you plan on make a few small changes or going all-out on new equipment, you can still make a huge difference. According to PG&E's FTSC, restaurants use 500,000 kilowatt hours of electricity, 20,000 therms of natural gas, and 800,000 gallons of water, which comes out to more than 490 tons of carbon dioxide per restaurant each year. Just making one or two changes can cut back costs both monetarily and environmentally. Where Do You Start? Before looking into big expense tactics to conserving energy, take a look around your venue to see where you are being most wasteful. Most likely you are using more electricity than you really need because your appliances and lights stay on much longer than they need to be. Creating shutdown schedules and using timers on appliances or outside lights can save you huge sums of money each year. One restaurant owner in Boston even put motion sensors on the lights and fans in the restrooms so that they were only in use when someone was present, which ended up saving him $2,000 by the end of the first year. Another way to make an impact is to change to non-toxic products, such as cleaning solutions and paints. Also try using chlorine-free paper products and reusing grease for other purposes if you're not sure how to dispose of it properly. You can also try: cutting back on preheat times and cooking space, making good use of a timer, preparing food in bulk when you can, using lids to keep in heat, temporarily turning off door heaters on refrigerators and freezers, and maintaining and cleaning all of your equipment.   Making Small Changes When people think of "going green" they think of recycling projects and basic conservation efforts. There are a number of ways to do both and it just takes a little creative thinking. The core idea of conservation is to use less, so do it! This means using less paper, packaging, water, electricity, Styrofoam, and harmful chemicals. Change out your current Styrofoam or plastic to-go containers, straws, and cups with paper ones and have your new menus made out of recycled products. Swap your toilets out with low-flow ones and swap your urinals with waterless models. To cut back on the emission of harmful gases, opt for locally grown produce that won't have to travel hundreds of miles to get to you. You might even want to consider having a bicycle delivery service if your business relies on a lot of outside sales. Making a Bigger Investment If you plan to make even bigger changes to your restaurant or foodservice business, there are a number of different ways that you can do so. Purchasing ENERGY STAR® appliances can be costly initially, but the savings add up very quickly. You can also get rebates from energy companies. Other things to look for are self-contained or "connectionless" appliances that use far less water, walk-in cooler curtains, and bigger hoods for ranges and fryers that collect more waste (5-6' instead of 4'). If you don't want to purchase more hoods for you kitchen, then try grouping heavy appliances together. Not only will this cut back on how much waste escapes, but it will also cut back on cooling expenses for your kitchen. Creative Ideas from Restaurant Owners & ENERGY STAR® - Use night curtains on display cases to keep in cold air and to save energy. - If you have fans, utilize them more than your AC. Researchers have found that energy use increases 4-5% every time you lower your thermostat by 1 degree. You can cut your costs by 12-15% just by raising the thermostat 3 degrees. - Offer a discount to customers on to-go orders if they bring their own Tupperware. - Compost trash to cut back on trash pick-ups costs by up to 45%. - Switching just 8 of your regular light bulbs that are used for 16 hours a day to incandescent bulbs can save you $342 annually. - Changing the defrost cycle on freezers from 70 minutes to 15 minutes saved one restaurant owner $800 annually. - Putting a special film on your windows can cut back on energy costs and make your guests more comfortable. - Installing solar panels can earn you an energy rebate depending on where you live. - A bakery owner in Battery Park City planted herbs on the roof to insulate the store and to improve air quality. - A store owner in New England wrapped the first three feet of his hot water-out pipes with insulation to conserve heat. For more tips on how to "go green" check out these sites: ENERGY STAR® NPR: Restaurants Set Sights on Going Green USA Today: Can Restaurants Go Green, Earn Green?
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