Autumn Environmental Measures
By Patricia Nicholson
With shorter days and dropping temperatures, fall is the time of year when energy use starts to rise. That makes it a good time to think about ways to get a little greener in your restaurant.
There are many aspects of your business that have an impact on the environment: which products you choose to buy, how those products are manufactured and transported, the garbage you produce, the energy and water you use.
Garbage is a good place to start. Divert as much as possible to recycling programs, and find out if there is a grease recycling program in your area. Ask your suppliers
if you can return shipping boxes and pallets for reuse. Reducing trash can also save money, depending on your municipal commercial waste system (some charge by the bag or bin) or your disposal contractor.
Consider where your supplies are coming from. One more reason to buy local: produce grown close to home has a short, fuel-efficient trip to your door, rather than a long one.
When possible, use biodegradable products (see sidebar) or recycled paper products, which can include paper napkins, paper towels, menus, take-out containers, etc. Try to use products that contain a high percentage of post-consumer waste.
Have a look at your energy usage and think about possible ways to save. Particularly for kitchens, storage areas and parking lots, there are many alternatives to old-fashioned incandescent lights. These include fluorescent tubes, compact fluorescent bulbs, and halogen infrared lighting. LED lights are a power-saving and long-lasting alternative for exit signs and lit displays.
In the kitchen, a full retrofit -- complete with new energy efficient appliances -- is not a practical option for most restaurants. But if you are buying a new piece of equipment or upgrading existing equipment, keep in mind that an energy efficient model will save you money in the log run. Natural Resources Canada’s Office of Energy Efficiency has buying tips and information – including energy and cost savings – on refrigeration, cooking and dishwashing equipment on its web site at http://oee.nrcan.gc.ca. Similarly, if you’re installing new plumbing, consider water-saving options such as low-flow toilets.
No-cost and low-cost changes include setting up your kitchen so your appliances don’t have to work so hard. Refrigeration usually represents the largest portion of a restaurant’s energy consumption, so small changes can add up to noticeable annual savings.
Small but smart measures include positioning refrigerators away from heat-intensive appliances such as ovens and grills, and keeping them out of direct sunlight. Also vacuum the ventilation grills to make sure there is good airflow to the refrigeration units. Make sure the door seals on refrigeration equipment are in good shape, and consider hanging strip curtains in the doors of walk-in units. Get cold deliveries put away quickly, before they get warm – your refrigerator will only have to work harder to cool them down again.
Get the most out of your dishwasher, too. It uses just as much water and energy to clean half a load as it does to clean a full load, so fill it up every time.
Don’t forget the kitchen sink. Switch to low-flow pre-rinse valves. These use less water and less energy (because the hot water heater does not have to heat as much water)
than standard valves. Check to see if there is a local free or discounted upgrade program in your area. Enbridge offers no-cost retrofits to some of its foodservice clients, and
organizations such as the Clean Air Foundation’s Cool Shops program and the province of Manitoba’s Smart Power for Business program will provide and even install low-flow pre-rinse valves to restaurants free of charge.
In many cases, going green is good for your bottom line. Eliminating waste, conserving water and saving energy make good business sense as well as environmental sense.
Finally, as you’re making these changes, let your customers know what you’re doing for the environment. Many people prefer to frequent “greener” businesses whenever possible, so making the effort may result in more satisfied customers this fall.
Dinnerware that Doesn’t Hang Around
Sysco’s new Earth Plus dinnerware does its job, and then disappears. Under compostable conditions, Sysco’s Earth Plus 100% biodegradable dinnerware becomes organic matter within three months. The line is conscientiously manufactured with renewable and abundant resources using a low-emission process. Like all Sysco products, Earth Plus plates, cups and clamshell containers don’t compromise on quality: they’re microwave and freezer friendly, sturdy and convenient.
Serve the environment while serving your customers!
When the Leaves Turn Brown, it’s a Good Time to go Green