Going Green for a Little Green

 
Full service restaurants can be more environmentally conscious without spending a lot of money.
Full service restaurants can be more environmentally conscious without spending a lot of money. thinkstock

Something as simple as serving water on request, rather than automatically pouring water for every guest, could save millions of gallons of water each year.

Restaurants have discovered that becoming environmentally conscious is as good for the budget as it is for the planet.

“What’s great is that we’re getting all kinds of operators addressing this,” says Chris Moyer, senior program manager for Conserve, a National Restaurant Association initiative that inspires eateries to explore conservation efforts. “It can run the gamut from people who have not done anything to those who have already taken steps to become more green, and there are all kinds of no-cost or low-cost solutions that they can embrace.”

Better yet, most will have an impact. Something as simple as offering water to guests, instead of pouring it automatically, can benefit the planet. Moyer noted that if just one in four diners declines water, it could save about 25 million gallons of water a year.

In fact, the benefits are so quantifiable that becoming green may soon be mandated by utility companies or, in some instances, by law.

“It is going to happen,” says Howard Cummins, founder of Green Restaurant Strategies, a San Francisco–based consultant. “That’s the direction we’re heading, and the sooner you embrace it and get ahead of the curve, the better.”

When Cummins, a restaurant veteran, talks to operators, he doesn’t tell them to become green because it’s the right thing to do. Instead, he lets them know it will save them big bucks and can also serve as a marketing tool.

“Greening your restaurant can absolutely be achieved on a budget with highly effective results,” affirms Lara Hardcastle, project manager and green guru for Founding Farmers, a pair of restaurants in Washington, D.C., and Potomac, Maryland, that are owned by the North Dakota Farmers Union and are committed to a sustainable, farm-to-table food focus.

In fact, many energy conservation steps cost little or nothing—things like turning off lights, installing motion detectors so lights are activated only when needed, and sealing windows and doors to prevent heated or cooled air from escaping.

“One of the first things we looked at, which resulted in very good savings, was light bulbs,” says Trey Foshee, chef and partner at George’s at the Cove, a highly regarded, innovative, and GRA-certified San Diego eatery.

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