Posts Tagged ‘composting’

What makes a restaurant sustainable, and why does it matter?

Let’s address the second question first. With its emphasis on super-efficient operations, sustainability brings obvious financial advantages to virtually any business, which is why is has become a core consideration for successful businesses worldwide. In the commercial sector, restaurants are amongst the heaviest users of both energy and water, so they stand to gain even more than the average business from implementing sustainability measures. In addition, market research indicates that consumer interest in sustainable food production is on the rise, which makes the case for restaurant sustainability even more compelling from a purely economic point of view.

Profits aside, their public profile and popularity enables restaurants to easily assume a leadership role in promoting sustainable practices. They can also positively impact the local and global economy and environment through sustainable sourcing and operations choices.

To answer the first question, let’s take a look at seven of the hottest trends in restaurant sustainability, and how some of the most sustainable eating establishments across the country are implementing them.

  1. Local food sourcing. Seattle restaurateur Maria Hines is passionate about supporting the local organic farming community. Ninety-five percent of the food she serves in her three restaurants — Tilth, Golden Beetle and Agrodolce — is organically grown and local. She even lists links to the farms on her website.
  2. On-site growing. Recently designated the “Greenest Restaurant in America” by the Green Restaurant Association, Chicago’s Uncommon Ground restaurant features a 2,500-square-foot urban farm on its rooftop. The produce they grow on-site is supplemented with food sourced from local farms. “Our mission is to stand as a working model for other restaurants, businesses and home owners,” says owner Helen Cameron, “to show what is possible within an urban environment.”
  3. Sustainability education. Clayton Chapman, proprietor of The Grey Plume in Omaha, Nebraska, is leveraging the interest in local food production his restaurant has generated to work with a neighborhood development project to initiate a sustainable garden. “There are a lot of young families and multiple-children families in the neighborhood, so it’s a great learning tool,” he says.
  4. Sustainable seafood. While seafood is a healthy and delicious choice, the decline of global food fish populations is a subject of great concern. Portland’s Bamboo Sushi proves that with careful sourcing, seafood connoisseurs can have their fish and eat it, too. They do their homework to ensure that all thefish they serve comes from populations that are plentiful and in good health, and that the fish are caught in an environmentally ethical manner.
  5. Renewable energy. Green Sage Café in Asheville, North Carolina utilizes solar thermal panels for water heating, as well as photovoltaics to power their lighting. They have also implemented a large number of energy-efficiency measures to get the most out of their renewable energy systems. Wind is another renewable energy solution that restaurant owners can take advantage of where space permits. Root Down Denver is a restaurant powered exclusively by the wind, and also features recycled and reclaimed interior décor and rooftop and patio gardens.
  6. Recycling and food waste composting. For Spike Gjerde, chef proprietor of Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore, waste management is a top priority. In addition to recycling all plastic, glass, metal and paper waste, his insistence on recycling all food scraps makes his restaurant a zero-waste facility. Gjerde contracts with a food waste hauler to take all kitchen and table scraps to a local farm for composting. Even the oyster shells are saved and returned to Chesapeake Bay as part of a native oyster regeneration program.
  7. Water conservation. Minneapolis supper club The Red Stag is the first LEED-CI registered restaurant in Minnesota. In addition to many energy efficiency measures, they have implemented a computer-controlled monitoring system that has helped them reduce their water consumption by 70 percent.

It’s important to note that each of these restaurants has made an effort to embrace a holistic approach to sustainability. Instead of implementing just one sustainable practice (like local food sourcing), they are going all-out to green up all aspects of their business. In the process, they are enjoying incredible customer loyalty, not to mention lots of publicity. Kudos to them, and to the other restaurants across the country that are doing their part to be environmentally responsible!

 

About the author:

Ezra Adler is the Ecommerce Marketing Director for Culinary Depot Inc., located in Monsey, NY. An online retailer for restaurant equipment, Culinary Depot has a large selection commercial equipment and kitchen supplies.

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1. Start-up, Shutdown Schedules
Not everything needs to be turned on right away when the first cook arrives. Equipment start-up schedules similar to just-in-time ordering saves energy with no investment.

2. Low flow aerators
These are potentially one of the lowest priced efficiency measures a restaurant can buy. Aerators range from .50 to a several dollars and return the investment almost instantly.

3. Pre-rinse Sprayers
At about $60, these devices pay for themselves in about a week depending on your usage and prior sprayer. Some of the newest units on the market use as little as .65 gallons per minute compared to the old units that use around 3.5 gpm. New regulations require all pre-rinse sprayers to use no more than 1.6 gpm so go as low as you can find.

4. Turbo Pots
Research from the Food Service Technology Center shows that Turbo Pots use about half as much energy to boil a pot of water compared to a standard pot. If you have a pot of water boiling all day in your kitchen these pots are a must have.

5. Thawing Meats
A little bit of organization and scheduling could save many restaurants thousands of gallons of water and hundreds of dollars a year. If you must thaw meats with running water make sure the faucet has a low-flow aerator, and turn the flow down to just enough to keep water flowing across the product – not full blast.

6. CFLs
They are simple and almost old school at this point, but CFLs save a lot of money. Today’s CFLs are cheap and high quality, but don’t buy the cheapest ones you can find. You get what you pay for. Use them in hoods, storage areas, offices, back halls and walk-in coolers.

7. Training
All the green gadgets and gizmos in the world don’t save money unless the users are using them correctly. Moreover, training staff to be conscious about the resources they are using will go much further than any piece of energy efficient equipment.

8. Recycling
Even restaurants that currently recycle should audit their garbage once in a while. More than likely, recyclables are being thrown away and potentially costing the business extra hauling fees. Recycling is a simple task, and can cut a garbage bill in half if the restaurant is not currently taking part in the practice.

9. Composting
Food waste makes up something around 50% of the volume and 75% of the weight of most full service restaurants. Implementing a composting program can be a little more involved, but like recycling it soon becomes second nature to the staff.

10. Food Waste Tracking
Before starting a composting program, start tracking the restaurant’s food waste, and make changes to reduce that waste. Whether through simple paper logs or more complex digital systems like Leanpath, food waste tracking helps chefs and management actualize their waste and make adjustments to par lists, menus or schedules.

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I recently posted a couple articles about food waste in the news section of sustainablefoodservice.com. One was on the regulation of food waste, and the other about a restaurant group that has installed an on-site composting machine called the eCorect. I don’t normally post articles about specific restaurants going green, but this one brought up some specific thoughts for me.

What does sustainability mean when it comes to composting?

In the big picture, there are a lot of interworking systems that go into composting, and therefore carbon footprints. Large-scale industrial facilities have enormous infrastructure including aerators, heavy machinery and some sort of distribution system while small-scale systems like the eCorect have a large initial carbon footprint in the manufacturing of the machinery, and continue to consume energy throughout the machines life.

Restaurant Worm Bin

Large-scale worm bin that processes 120 gallons of restaurant food waste a week.

Smaller, traditional composting bins don’t use any power or need a huge infrastructure, but can’t process large amounts of material or any meats or dairy. They are usually just not practical for most restaurants. Other systems like large vermiculture systems are simple to build and can process large amounts of material, but you still need the space on-site to process the food waste. There are also anaerobic digesters and several types of on-site composting machines.

Despite the carbon footprint from the infrastructure of large-scale composting facilities that most restaurants will use, composting is the most sustainable option – there have been studies done… Ideally we would all have a compost bin out back, but that is obviously not practical nor is a composting machine in every restaurant.

I do think there is a place for every system depending on the foodservice operation. Small, rural restaurants may have enough room to have their own compost pile, an on-site composter or send their food scraps to a farmer, while urban restaurants are generally going to use composing machines or a commercial composting facility with regular food waste collection.

Whichever service is available or system used, restaurant owners need to start thinking about food waste if they are not already. As noted in the article from the UK, regulations on organic waste are on their way. San Francisco recently enacted mandatory composting, and many areas will soon follow as they build composting infrastructures.

This should be viewed as a good thing for restaurant operators. Composting whether with a hauler or on-site is cheaper than waste hauling and will only get more economical as landfills run out of space and gasoline prices continue to rise.

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