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 that 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 is also willing to support companies in this endeavor.
Globe with recycling logo
There are quick and easy changes that one can readily make 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. One 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 Sooner or later it’ll become outdated or will no longer provide the performance necessary to run an efficient business.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. Before 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:  
Taking 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 strategically 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 assists in sustainability efforts and 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.
Energy Star Logo
In addition to researching Energy Star products, 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 note products fueled by Natural Gas or LP (liquid propane). Though both offer their unique sets of benefits, LP gas 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 cooks the product quicker and more evenly, thus convection ovens are the more efficient and sustainable choice. Since foods can be heated quicker, the temperature can be set lower, typically by 25°F, 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 uses 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.

What to Remember with Sustainability 

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. 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.
Divided Recycling Bins

The Importance of 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 facilities nearby to take in your food waste, and properly compost it. Recycling food waste is an important change that the restaurant industry can make to be more sustainable.
This hotel uses composting to process food waste to reuse food scraps to enhance their restaurant’s food quality:
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. Don’t neglect to advertise your efforts. Many potential customers hold a business’s sustainability efforts as a primary influencer on where and why to dine there. They want to know you’re making strides to promote a brighter, healthier planet. 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.
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