More people around the world are increasingly aware of their role in protecting and preserving the environment - in short, adopting a sustainable lifestyle. In the case of restaurants, sustainability means having policies and principles that protect, preserve and restore the natural environment. It also means promoting social equity, enhancing the lives of people and communities, while also contributing to the economic prosperity of shareholders and stakeholders. According to the Nielsen Company, about three in four Millennials (74 percent) and Generation Z consumers (72 percent) are willing to pay more for sustainable products and services. Below are several practical steps you can take to fire up your restaurant’s sustainability.
Cut Energy Wastage
Most restaurants have enormous opportunities for cost savings through energy efficiency upgrades and renewable energy investments. It’s important to start with the development of a comprehensive energy management plan which should include the use of an Energy Management System (EMS) to allow for real-time tracking and monitoring of energy use across facilities.
Abate Energy Group is a company that provides EMS technology to help restaurants identify energy waste in their operations and take intentional and drastic steps towards reducing energy use through behavioral change, new policies, or energy efficiency upgrades.
Efficiency opportunities in the restaurant industry include;
- LED lighting retrofits
- Energy Star/efficient appliance upgrade
- Motion sensors
- HVAC upgrades
- Behavior change
Many states provide rebates for businesses that install energy-efficient equipment, making the return on investment very attractive for restaurants.
Move Towards Zero Waste
Reducing solid waste, especially food waste, is a major opportunity for many restaurants to save money and enhance public perception and community relations. According to the World Resources Institute, approximately one-third of all food produced in the world intended for human consumption is lost or wasted. This inefficiency equates to a loss of $940 billion per year and contributes to 8% of annual global greenhouse gas emissions.
Restaurants can address waste by implementing food waste composting, reduction and reuse programs, implementing comprehensive recycling programs, eliminating the use of Styrofoam, and developing a zero-waste management plan.
The True Zero Waste certification program is a great guide for businesses to not only reduce food waste but to move their entire facility to zero waste.
Reduce Water Wastage
As our world continues to address the pressing issue of water scarcity and security, it would be wise for businesses to develop efficient practices that mitigate risk against future water regulations and build long-term resiliency within their operations.
Reducing water use not saves money on the water bill but also saves money on the energy used to pump the water, the energy used to heat the water, and the costs associated with sending the water off to be treated.
Like energy use, restaurants need to develop comprehensive water management plans that account for their total water usage and cost, set reduction targets, and develop strategies to reduce overtime.
APANA is a cutting-edge water management technology company that uses internet-of-things technology to track and monitor water use in facilities and provides automated alerts to identify and eliminate water waste.
Some water efficiency opportunities in restaurants include;
- Low-flow nozzles and fixtures
- Water capture and reuse dishwasher system
- Waterless urinals
Manage Your Emissions more Effectively
Greenhouse gas emissions are associated with many several aspects of the restaurant business. Such aspects include;
- Propane and natural gas used in operations
- Fuel used in employee commuting
- Embedded energy in supply chain activities
The first step in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is to understand the company’s current carbon footprint or the total greenhouse gas emissions associated with a business’s operations.
Using on-site renewable energy systems or purchasing off-site renewable energy through direct access energy providers or Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) can help restaurants reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with their operations. On-site renewable energy systems also reduce energy costs in some cases.
Go Green with Your Food Offerings
Being a restaurant, you'll want to start by greening the critical element - the food you serve. If you're already serving organic food, that's a great step in the right direction but there's still more you can do. Organic and sustainable don't always go hand-in-hand, so you'll need to up your game. Other food options and practices you should consider are;
- Serve organic food that's locally sourced at your restaurant
- Cut back on food packaging
- Serve many vegetarian and vegan options
- If you serve fish, consider sustainable seafood options such as the choices listed on Blue Ocean Institute or Monterey Bay Aquarium’s “Green” lists
- Consider on-site food production
- Go GMO-free and look for other sustainable food labels
- Practice water efficiency and conservation
Increase Efficiency by Reducing Waste
Reducing waste in your restaurant is one of the best ways to accomplish sustainability. Some of the practices that help to reduce waste are;
- Serve proper servings which will result in less food waste
- Donate leftover food to local shelters
- Go paperless by taking online reservations, keeping customer info on the computer, creating paperless billing for all vendors and employees, and paying your bills online
- If you renovate or redecorate, recycle or donate old items
- Use actual towels instead of paper towels or air hand dryers in the restrooms.
- Use refillable reusable soap containers with bulk, natural hand soap
- Always print on both sides of the recycled content paper and reuse or recycle ink cartridges you use in your printers
Restaurant sustainability is not an achievement that can happen overnight. It needs proper strategic planning and remaining disciplined to the plan. However, it is easily achievable when you and your staff are committed to preserving the natural environment.