Don’t Leave Going Green on the Backburner
Posted on April 22, 2014
Going green isn’t just about swapping out those plastic bags for reusable ones or composting your banana peels instead of throwing them away. At the beginning of the green movement, a few people here and there concentrated on making small changes. Now, it’s grown into an enormous movement of groups and businesses doing everything they can to reduce their carbon footprint. Restaurants are among the many businesses making waves in the sustainability game.
These eateries aren’t just gimmicky joints looking to cash in on a fad. They represent a changing industry that is shifting to more energy-efficient and earth friendly options. In other words, going green is becoming the new normal.
A Shifting Industry
Michael Oshman, CEO of the Green Restaurant Association (GRA), says sustainable dining has been changing the culture of restaurants for quite some time. He credits a new generation of green-educated diners for the tilt towards more eco-friendly options.
“Green is more normal than it ever was before,” said Oshman. “Ten years ago, the 22 year old working at a restaurant now was 12 getting environmental education in high school and middle school.”
It’s this explosion of eco-knowledge that’s made green dining attractive not just to employees, but consumers as well. And the demand is only getting stronger.
Studies show 79% of diners would sit down at an eco-friendly restaurant over a less sustainable option. Oshman says eateries like the ones certified by the GRA are more transparent, which is a huge part of today’s dining experience. Restaurant goers like knowing where their food came from, how it was cooked, and how they’re helping the environmental cause.
More than Restaurants
This shifting mindset has crept to larger entities that have moved toward a more eco-friendly existence. Los Angeles banned plastic bags in 2007 and now California is looking to make them illegal across the board. New York City recently kicked Styrofoam to the curb and even proposed a bill that would require restaurants to send their food waste to composting plants if they generate more than one ton of waste per week.
These mandates point to a larger push towards sustainability as a whole. The change in public opinion should serve as a wake-up call for restaurants who aren’t taking steps toward the inevitable greenification of the restaurant industry.
Going Green is Easier than You Think
While the stigma of going green has a lot of weight behind it, you don’t have to be a tree hugger or a hardcore vegan restaurant to jump onboard. Subscribing to the sustainable lifestyle can be an easy and affordable way to start saving money and natural resources in the long run.
“We’re excited about people who are going to do whatever is helpful to save energy,” Oshman said. “We also realize people have a tight budget. We want to make sure that narrow time, space and money is going to be used appropriately.”
For restaurants looking to get their feet green, it’s the little things that will help you find some extra money at the end of the month. Look to LED lighting, a technology that wasn’t readily available for restaurants 10 years ago, as an easy option for saving money and energy. Peruvian-Italian restaurant Taranta in Boston saves $25 per bulb with this technology every year. This east-coast eatery also saved $1300 last year by switching from paper towels to an energy-efficient hand dryer.
Plenty of Benefits
Aside from cutting costs on energy and water, going green also increases employee retention and morale. When a restaurant creates a healthier environment, it’s the workers who benefit first.
“You’re probably not going to start paying your employees $100 an hour, but you can start using chemicals that won’t make you stink and hurt your eyes and hands,” said Oshman.
And it won’t be just your employees that notice your efforts. Local and national media outlets have eaten up the green restaurant movement and continue to find businesses to highlight.
“Since becoming certified, we’ve been highlighted in several local newspapers and blogs, and our customers are thrilled with our efforts,” said Amy Edelman of Night Kitchen Bakery in Philadelphia on the GRA’s website.
“[Going green] isn’t a fancy PR message that we packaged,” added Oshman. “Restaurants are soaking up some pretty real attention.”
Don’t Put Off Your Green Intentions
When colored televisions first came out, they were considered a novelty. But as time went on and technology improved, the less they were called “colored televisions” and the more they were referred to as just televisions.
In the same way, green dining options aren’t so much considered “green” anymore—they’re just restaurants. This means businesses that are reluctant to take strides toward sustainability might get left in the dust.
“Will there be businesses that miss the boat and a competitor will come along and gain traction? Sure,” said Oshman. “However, we find that businesses that weren’t [going green] a year ago are doing it now and businesses that aren’t doing it now will do it in 6 months.”
You’re Not Alone
The FoodServiceWarehouse team is on-hand to answer any questions you might have about more sustainable options for your restaurant, including energy-efficient equipment and biodegradable disposable supplies.
However, nobody’s expecting you to completely gut your kitchen and install energy-efficient equipment right off the bat. The idea is to slowly ease into the green lifestyle—and you can start with a phone call to Food Service Warehouse or the GRA.
By providing consultations, environmental assessments and a certification program, the GRA will help you get on the track to sustainability. Not only will they develop a timeline catered to you and your goals, but they’ll schedule regular follow-ups to ensure goals are met.
“Whether you’re a huge corporation or a small mom and pop restaurant, what we’ve found is one of the most valuable pieces is having a solid plan to act on,” said Oshman.