Green Initiatives: Has Your Restaurant Considered the Various Options?

Long gone are the days when diners leave with take-out in Styrofoam boxes and when restaurant garbage is thrown away in one, unsorted trash bin. Using recyclable packaging and sorting trash into the black, blue and green bins have become common practices for most restaurants seeking to improve their sustainability credentials. However, this is only a start, and there are many green initiative options available to restaurants. As with any initiative, restaurants must consider the costs and the desires of their customers. Though the possibilities are endless, restaurants should scale the extent to which they adopt an initiative in order to best fit its business needs. Some popular sustainability initiatives that many restaurants today have adopted include:
  • Sustainable Foods. Customers are increasingly concerned with knowing where their food comes from. Using locally-grown vegetables and produce (in some cases, even as close as a restaurant’s own backyard) or organic ingredients that are grown without the use of chemicals, such as pesticides and hormones, are a big draw for many customers. The term “farm-to-table” is becoming commonplace as more restaurants develop close relationships with specifically-named farms. Customers are also becoming more conscious of ensuring that the seafood or meat they consume is responsibly sourced. Waitstaff should to be prepared to answer questions about whether the chicken served is free-range, the beef is grass-fed or the fish is farmed or wild.
  • Water and Energy Efficiency. Although it takes upfront investment and research, usingEnergy Star-qualified appliances, such as dishwashers or refrigerators, are not only better for the environment but also saves on utility costs. Many state and local initiatives offer those who implement such efficiencies various incentives and credits.
  • Reducing Waste and Recycling. One way to reduce waste is to actively compost and save grease, which can later be converted into energy or biodiesel. Using packaging made of recycled material or using biodegradable utensils for to-go customers is another way of going green. Many coffee shops have begun providing small savings to customers in order to encourage them to bring their own reusable cups.
  • Sustainable Design. If your restaurant is being renovated or you are looking to replace old furniture, consider using materials or buying furniture that is made of recycled content. Installing solar panels or designing space so that it maximizes daylight flowing in from the windows will also help with energy savings. Using automatic faucets and hand dryers in restrooms or low-flow plumbing fixtures in the kitchen also help with saving water and reducing waste.
Once you have successfully implemented many of the above initiatives, obtaining LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification may not be too far out of reach. The list of LEED-certified restaurants continues to grow each day, with restaurants including Chipotle and Olive Garden opening certified locations nationwide. Yours could be next.

What are some of the green initiatives that your restaurant has implemented?