Going Green: Restaurant Sustainability Tips to Celebrate Earth Day

Every April, businesses around the world commemorate Earth Day by thinking of new ways to reduce their carbon footprint. As a restaurant owner, you can do the same by implementing these six sustainability best practices in your restaurant. Not only will going green help preserve our planet for generations to come, but it will also make a positive impact on your restaurant’s bottom line.

Replace pre-rinse spray valves

Designed to remove food waste prior to dishwashing, pre-rinse spray valves are a common sight in restaurant kitchens across the country. In fact, about one million U.S. restaurants use a combined 51 billion gallons of water each year to rinse dishes. Manufacturers, however, have now developed spray valve models that use 1.28 gallons of water per minute (gpm) – or 20 percent less than the federal standard of 1.6 gpm. By swapping out your restaurant’s pre-rinse spray valves with these efficient models, you can save $115 to $240 annually on water and energy costs.

Recycle used cooking oil

Reducing oil waste doesn’t mean you have cut back on the amount of fried food you serve. Rather, grease haulers and production companies often convert used cooking oil into biodiesel. Check to see if there is anyone in your area who might be interested in taking the used oil off your hands. You can also extend the life of your cooking oil by skimming it every two hours and filtering it at least twice a day to remove extra food particles or contaminants.

Shut off equipment

It takes a lot of energy to keep restaurant kitchens up and running. Energy-intensive appliances, such as ovens and broilers, usually operate for hours at a time. But by shutting down some kitchen equipment when orders begin dwindle, you can save hundreds of dollars each year. For example, turning off holding cabinets before you leave for the night can shave up to $500 off of your utility bill. It may even be a good idea to keep track of how busy your restaurant is each day of the week. On nights when business is slow, you could turn off extra appliances for even more savings.

Invest in sustainable packaging

Demand for sustainable packaging is heating up. According to a survey by Asia Pulp & Paper, nearly two-thirds of U.S. diners want the food industry to feature sustainable packaging information on product labels, including what type of packaging it is and whether it’s sustainably sourced. From takeout to delivery, consider investing in food packaging that is made from eco-friendly materials such as recycled fiber. Even small changes, such as swapping out polystyrene foam cups with ones made from paper, can reduce plastic pollution while also increasing sales. Nearly 45 percent of U.S diners are willing to pay more for products that are packaged sustainably.

Conduct a waste audit

Aside from helping you figure out how much waste your restaurant produces, an effective waste audit will also give you a closer look at what you’re throwing away. Using this data, you have the opportunity to properly sort waste that could otherwise be recycled or composted. Cardboard, for example, takes up about 25 percent of the space in your dumpster. Separating reusable materials from the rest of your trash can slash waste-hauling costs in no time.

Insulate hot water pipes

Whether they’re cooking food or washing dishes, your back-of-house staff needs access to hot water at a moment’s notice. When fall turns to winter, however, heating up water can take a little longer than usual. Consider insulating pipes that pump hot water throughout your restaurant to raise the temperature by two to four degrees. For just a few bucks, you can purchase and install material that will end up cutting your heating bill. Better yet, some utility companies even offer rebates for pipe insulation. Another way to fight high water bills and reduce water usage is a tankless hot water system, which only produce hot water as needed, rather than producing the standby energy losses associated with storage water heaters.

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