Back in mid-to-late 2009, there was a lot of debate about going green and whether or not it was a passing fad. At the time, it did seem like a fad. It was at the height of the recession, and consumers were migrating back to conventional non-green products because they were cheaper.
The market was also awash with supposedly green products that turned out to be not-so-green after all. Research by Terrachoice showed that 95% of green consumer products were falsely labeled. The result of this “greenwashing” caused customers to be more careful, be more critical and demand more transparency on supposed green products. This doesn’t mean that going green is dead; on the contrary. People are paying even more attention to the environment and care for their communities, so going green is still good for business.
The Benefits of Going Green for Restaurants
If you ignore all of the socio-political aspects of going green and look at the situation from a purely business standpoint, going green is still a sound business option for restaurant owners. Going green will help you save money, retain customers and protect the environment.
Save money. Food and operating costs are on the rise, so restaurant owners need to save money any way they can. Investing in ENERGY STAR® qualified restaurant equipment and other environmentally sound practices will save money on utility costs, helping to offset the rising food prices. Also, many municipalities offer rebates for purchasing green restaurant equipment.
Save customers. Whether you think it is trendy, a marketing gimmick or the only way we can save ourselves, the bottom line is, going green is still a good business decision. Customers, especially those in urban areas, like hearing about a restaurant’s sustainable practices or that food comes from a local source. It makes customers feel better about eating out, knowing their money is going to a business that cares about the planet.
Save the environment. Restaurants use more energy per square foot than any other commercial building and can pollute with the best of them in the form of food waste going to landfills and chemicals and grease entering the waterways. Implementing, environmentally-sound business practices is imperative to assuring the planet can sustain us, so saving the environment is in turn saving your business.
Tips for Going Green in Your Restaurant
In 2009, consumers spent $25 billion on organic food. Also, in 2010, there was a 16% increase in the number of farmers markets. Consumers still care about going green, so it’s still good for business. Restaurant operators who want to help the environment and retain or gain new customers need to make their restaurants more sustainable. Here are a couple of tips to make your restaurant more green:
Reduce electricity and water usage. Electricity and water are two expensive aspects of running a restaurant, so anything you can do to reduce how much you use, the better. The first step to being more green with utility costs is to get an energy and water assessment to show how much energy you are using. To start reducing, you can purchase energy-efficient equipment, low-flow pre-rinse sprayers and compact fluorescent light bulbs.
Reduce waste. Most of the waste that a restaurant throws out is food waste, much of which can be composted into a nutrient rich soil additive as opposed to going to a landfill. Contracting with a local composting facility to haul away your compostable materials will significantly reduce your garbage hauling fees, and it is good for the environment. Furthermore, set up a recycling pickup to take care of your plastic, glass and paper waste. Depending on the locale, recycling may cost the same as or less than regular garbage pickup.
Use green cleaning products. Conventional cleaners pollute fresh water sources and can cause skin irritation and respiratory problems for employees and guests. Green cleaning supplies are just as effective as conventional products but not nearly as dangerous to use. However, do your homework before purchasing green cleaners. This is probably the most greenwashed product category on the market, so be sure to check for viable, third-party certifications. Or, you can make your own green cleaners. Borax, vinegar and baking soda can be used to perform just about any cleaning task in a restaurant. >> Learn how to Make Your Own Green Cleaners
Get certified. There are a handful of green certification programs for restaurants, but the most popular and trusted comes from the Green Restaurant Association. There are strict environmental guidelines in place to obtain and retain certification, like the requirement to implement two new green practices every year. The process isn’t easy, but it keeps you green.
Buy local food. Buying as much local food as you can not only supports the local economy, but reduces pollution caused by foods that are shipped from far away. Community supported agriculture, farmers markets and on-site gardens are three sustainable food sources restaurants are turning to.
Be transparent. Since going green in the restaurant has a lot to do with gaining and retaining customers, advertise your environmental responsibility and be honest with your processes. Nobody is perfectly green, but as long as you tell customers exactly what you are doing to be more sustainable, they will appreciate the honesty and be more loyal to your brand.