Our recent post, Environmental Sustainability Inside the Kitchen, outlined tried and true techniques for reducing your carbon footprint inside the fast-paced commercial kitchen environment. This post seeks to further elaborate on practices restaurants can readily embrace to continue sustainable efforts outside of the kitchen.
Sustainable practices are not only necessary for the well-being of the planet, but they’re also in demand. Nielsen reports that 75% of the millennial generation, and more than 50% of Baby Boomers, are willing to pay more for products and services that make a positive impact on the environment. From the dining room to the restroom and beyond, these options are easy to incorporate into day-to-day operations.
Sustainability in the Dining Room
Here are just a few ways your foodservice can enhance its environmental preservation efforts in the dining room.
Use recyclable or reusable cutlery and utensils.
Say no to single-use products such as plastic dinnerware, flatware or to-go containers. If your restaurant currently relies on single-use items, switch to products that can be recycled or composted. Most plastics won’t decompose in a landfill. Fortunately, some manufacturers, like Packnwood, have started making eco-friendly single-use items that are biodegradable.
Phase out straws.
It’s estimated that every day in America, consumers plow through more than 500 million straws! Most plastic straws are not heavy enough to make it through the mechanical recycling sorter, and too many end up polluting the ocean and harming marine life. Instead of offering every customer a straw, implement a new policy that only grants straws upon request. You may be surprised by how fewer straws you hand out.
Opt for cloth over paper.
Paper napkins are another popular single-use item that can be avoided, especially in sit-down establishments. Cloth napkins are washable and can be reused for years!
Replace old incandescent lights with more efficient ones.
Incandescent lights are not energy efficient by any stretch of the imagination. They operate based on heat, a piece of wire shielded by a glass enclosure that passes along an electrical current that gets so hot that light radiates. What does this mean in terms of energy efficiency? Less than 5% of the energy used is converted into visible light.
LED lights (an acronym for Light Emitting Diodes), on the other hand, are a much better, sustainability-promoting solution. Instead of operating on heat, LED bulbs use diodes, a semiconductor device, to pass on the electrical current to produce the same lumens as incandescent bulbs while using a mere 10-20% of the energy. A lot of science talk, we know. Bottom line, they save energy, lowering utility costs and are a much more sustainable alternative. Another pro – they can last for years without needing to be replaced!
Print menus on recycled paper.
This is a very simple, yet effective way to make use of what would otherwise be trash while showcasing your commitment to helping the planet.
Sustainability in the Restrooms
In addition to the dining room setting, restrooms are another common area in restaurants where efficiencies can be implemented to reduce your carbon footprint.
Replace paper towels with energy efficient hand dryers.
It’s estimated that we use 13 billion pounds of paper towels every year in the United States alone! Replacing paper towels with an energy efficient hand dryer is a sure-fire way to enhance sustainability. Many hand dryer manufacturers – such as Excel Dryer, manufacturer of the popular Excel Xlerator dryers – make both a standard and eco-friendly line of dryers, so it’s in your best interest to do a little research on each model’s energy consumption first. For more information on hand dryers, check out our buying guide here.
This video illustrates the difference between standard and eco-friendly hand dryers:
Offer hand towels.
If you’re looking for another alternative besides installing hand dryers, change out the trash can for a laundry hamper and replace disposable paper towels with hand towels.
Install motion-sensors for lights and fans.
This will ensure energy is only being used when people are in the restroom. Lights and fans left on all day substantially increase energy consumption and utility costs.
Additional Sustainable Enhancements
Add some plants!
Not only do they add some extra aesthetic appeal, but plants absorb carbon dioxide, keeping the air clean. Certain plants are better for indoor spaces, such as the areca plant, snake plant (also referred to as mother-in-law’s tongue) or money plant. Whether you decide to add some in the corner of your restaurant or as a centerpiece on the table, they will purify the air and detoxify the space.
This relatively new term implies the reuse of a product for a different purpose. Some creative examples include:
- Repurposing empty bottles to make tabletop vases or decor
- Creating pet toys out of branded items – like old employee t-shirts – to donate to shelters instead of just throwing away
If your business caters and uses a company vehicle to do so, invest in an eco-friendly car! Look for features like a lightweight design, high gas mileage, hybrid or electric mode, efficient air filtration systems, etc.
When it comes to implementing environmental sustainability within your restaurant, there are no limits. The more creative you allow yourself to be, the more options you’ll find. Don’t forget to share your efforts with your community to let your valued guests know you’re committed to reducing your carbon footprint! Change doesn’t happen overnight, but with increased awareness and continual small changes, we can all make a difference!