Tag Archives: restaurant sustainability

Sustainable Restaurant Practices Outside the Kitchen

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.

PackNWood 210CHP19 Eco Straws

PackNWood Eco Straws, Central Model #18M-441, are made out of paper instead of plastic and are biodegradable and compostable!

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 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.

Upcycling

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

Company Car

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!

Sustainable Kitchen Practices

Environmental Sustainability Inside the Kitchen

Decisions made by commercial businesses can have a huge impact on the environment. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 11% of total U.S. emissions are contributed by the commercial and residential sectors.

With increases in the millennial generation’s spending share, there is also an observable demand for sustainable offerings. Nielsen reports approximately 75% of millennials are willing to pay more for products and services that make an effort to positively impact and preserve the environment. Likewise, more than half of the Baby Boomer generation are also willing to support companies in this endeavor.

There are quick and easy changes that can readily be made to drastically impact the environment for the better. All it takes is a bit of knowledge, planning and implementation.

Sustainability Inside the Kitchen

Restaurants can immediately start incorporating environmentally friendly efforts inside their commercial kitchen space. As a quick example, no piece of commercial equipment is immortal. Sooner or later it’ll become outdated or will no longer provide the performance necessary to run an efficient business. There are options for ensuring the replacement process is as waste-free as possible.

When getting rid of an old piece of equipment, first consider selling it to a company specializing in the reuse, refurbishment or recycling of commercial products. Finding such a company is as simple as a quick Google search. Here are just a few:

Energy StarTaking a proactive approach when shopping for new equipment can also have a strong impact, not only on your business’s environmental footprint, but also on the bottom line. Implementing certain keywords, like Energy Star, into your search is a tried and true strategy. Products that are Energy Star rated have been purposefully designed to optimize resources so that less is consumed each time the equipment is used. Many Energy Star certified commercial dishwashers, for instance, use less water consumption per rack than their traditional counterparts, and are up to 40% more energy efficient. This not only assists in sustainability efforts, but lowers long term utility costs associated with the product. Depending on the state you reside, there may also be certain Energy Star rebates applicable to your purchase.

In addition for searching for that Energy Star label, there are several other factors to consider.

1. Water Consumption

When analyzing dishwashers and other high water-consuming equipment, look at how much water is used per rack. Energy Star depicts efficient water consumption at 0.89 gallons per rack, which means any amount up to that point is extremely efficient.

2. Natural vs. LP Gas

When perusing the options for commercial cooking equipment, you’re likely to see options for Natural Gas or LP (liquid propane). Though both offer their unique sets of benefits, LP gas actually provides up to two-and-a-half times more energy output than natural gas, meaning less is needed to produce the same amount. LP gas has also garnered the reputation of “green fuel” because of its nonexistent toxicity to the environment. Natural gas, on the other hand, is considered a greenhouse gas – a gas that contributes to the greenhouse effect by absorbing infrared radiation. In other words, not an ideal solution for enhanced sustainability.

3. Conventional vs. Convection

Conventional ovens cook food by radiating direct heat from the top and bottom of the oven box to the food. Convection ovens heat by circulating forced hot air around the food. This more quickly and evenly cooks the product, making convection ovens the more efficient and sustainable option. Since foods can be heated quicker, the temperature can be set lower – typically by 25°F – thus consuming less energy.

4. Refrigerant Type

The type of refrigerant a piece of equipment uses is often an overlooked factor when searching for environmentally friendly products. Many products use refrigerants made of CFC’s (chlorofluorocarbons) which expel pollutants that can have a negative impact on the ozone. Instead, look for equipment that use less damaging HFC (hydrofluorocarbons) refrigerants. True is one major refrigeration brand that has embraced this change.

5. Cookware Size

The size of the commercial cookware used in preparing meals serves as another important energy-saving aspect. When utilizing an electric stove-top, be cognizant of the size of the pots and pans. If you’re using a smaller pan on a larger burner, you’re wasting heat. The US Department of Energy has found that so much as a 2-inch difference between pan and burner size could waste as much as 40% of heat.

Remember the 3 Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Perhaps one of the simplest ways your restaurant can be eco-friendly is by enforcing good recycling habits. Keep recycling bins accessible in your kitchen and be sure to recycle plastic and paper scraps, and anything else your local recycling center accepts. If the center requires recyclables to be separated, simply add another bin and mark it for such.

Rubbermaid 3 Stream Recycling Bin

Rubbermaid 3-Stream Recycling Bin; Central Model #972-5C3

When implementing new recycling bins, post signs that inform what types of items can be recycled to better ensure non-recyclables stay out. It is extremely important that your staff is careful about what they put in. If they throw in a material not listed, like certain plastics or food, the recycling plant may not be able to process the bin and your recycling efforts could be wasted.

Composting

The National Restaurant Association reports that restaurants throw away 10% of the food they buy. This translates to 15% (or roughly 20 billion pounds!) of all food waste in landfills. Composting is a simple and beneficial way to reduce food waste and avoid environmental harm. Benefits of composting include:

  • Returns valuable nutrients back to the soil, enhancing plant growth
  • Provides a natural fertilizer that won’t burn plants like some chemical fertilizers
  • Improves air circulation in the soil
  • Retains soil moisture, reducing the need to water as frequently

Food scraps in any restaurant are inevitable, but composting offers a way to rid of them while making a positive contribution. If your restaurant grows its own food, composting on site is a perfect opportunity to promote a better ecosystem. If your restaurant doesn’t have the need or desire to compost on site, find an organics collection service or other composting facility nearby to take in your food waste and properly compost it.

This hotel uses composting to process food waste as a way to reuse food scraps to enhance their restaurant quality:

Tidy Planet ROCKET Food Waste Composter from Tidy Planet on Vimeo.

It is as important as ever to promote sustainability in business practices, and restaurants have several unique opportunities to do so. By recycling the old and purchasing energy efficient equipment, your restaurant can significantly reduce its carbon footprint. Simply by instilling everyday habits like using the right size cookware or composting scraps and food waste can result in a substantial impact.

If you enjoyed this post on sustainable techniques inside the kitchen environment, you may also like our post on readily implementable efforts outside the kitchen, including eco-friendly enhancements to the dining room and restroom.

Restaurant Sustainability: Best Practices

Today’s restaurant goers care more than ever about where their food comes from, responsible business practices and social responsibility.  In short, they care about restaurant sustainability and they speak with their wallets.  Sustainable practices are not only good for the environment, they can also save you money.  With this in mind, we took some time to scour the web for the easiest ways to improve restaurant sustainability and have aggregated the best ones for you!

Restaurant Sustainability: Best Practices

  1. Source Local: According to lightspeedhq.com, “purchasing food from a local vendor or farmers’ market means that the trip to your restaurant is shorter and less gas has been used on the journey”.  In addition, this supports local farmers and suppliers, and customers view this in a positive light.
  2. Cook What’s in Season: Openforbusiness.opentable.com suggests changing your menu four times a year (once for each season) and rotating new dishes in every six weeks or so to accommodate ingredients with short growing seasons.  In addition, if you can grow it yourself, do it!
  3. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: This is a very simple way to not only cut costs, but to improve your restaurant sustainability.  According to buzztime, you can: buy kitchen and bar mats made from 100% recycled materials; recycle wood boxes, cardboard and glass bottles; and opt for beverage and takeout containers made from recycled paper or compostable materials.
  4. Recycle Fryer Oil: You may not even have to go anywhere to do this.  According to starchefs.com “there are biofuel companies across the country that will pick it up and convert it”.  The win is two-fold here.  You recycle your old oil, and you provide a cleaner source of fuel.
  5. Don’t Waste Ice: It takes energy and water to make ice, so don’t just automatically refill ice bins.  Starchefs.com suggests waiting until the bins get truly low, and only adding as much as needed to get through.

These tips are among the easiest to implement and can begin having a positive impact on your sales and reputation in the community.  Little steps add up and make a big difference over time, so keep it up!