According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA) restaurants are the most energy intensive commercial buildings in the US. The extensive pressure restaurant operators are under to provide meals faster more often are resulting in extensive hours of operation, the use of specialized equipment and limited down time. A recent study conducted by the Department of Energy (DOE) found full-service restaurants use 5-7 times more energy per square foot than average commercial buildings, and Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs) can reach up to 10 times more than average. Up to 80 percent of that energy is wasted through excess heat and noise from inefficient equipment, heating ventilators, air conditioning systems, lights and refrigerators. This alarming use of energy is economically draining to restaurant owners as well as potentially devastating to our environment. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) warns that, given the current trends, energy-related emissions released from both natural and renewable energy will increase by 70% by 2050. This can accelerate the negative consequences of climate change, including higher temperatures and a rise in the frequency of extreme weather events.
It should come to no surprise that restaurants are a leading contributor of this waste. A study conducted by Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), on behalf of the Food Waste Reduction Alliance (FWRA) indicates 3.3 pounds of food is wasted per $1000 of company revenue. For a corporation with a billion-dollar revenue, more than 3 million pounds of food is wasted. The same study also revealed 84% of of the food waste generated by US restaurants ends up in a landfill, 1.4% is donated, and only 14.3% is recycled.
Excessive water use is yet another environmental infraction the food service industry is guilty of. Restaurants use an average of 5,800 gallons per day of water! According to EPA’s Water Sense program, 52% of that is used in kitchens, and another 31% goes down the drain in restrooms. Studies show that 20% used in a restaurant kitchen is wasted. Leaky faucets, improper use of water (such as being used as a thawing method), excessive dish-washing and even complimentary glasses of water are the largest contributors to this waste. Why is wasting 580 gallons daily per restaurant in America a problem? Even though the earth is 70% water, 97% of that water is ocean, unsuitable for human consumption. Another 2 percent is trapped in glaciers and ice caps, which leaves only 1 percent for humanity’s needs. Although some water resources are renewable, the demand is outstripping supply.
Customers are becoming more aware of the destruction the food industry is causing our environment and are taking action to correct the issues before it’s too late. . A poll conducted by Time Magazine (By Richard Stengel, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2009) found that almost 50% of Americans valued environmental protection over economic growth. Restaurants have seen this statistic and have witnessed the destruction to the environment and are therefore stepping up to make a change. From small “mom and pop” restaurants to multinational restaurant chains, it has become an increasing trend to transform the once wasteful operations into environment friendly establishments. According to Pricewaterhouse Coopers the expected growth in the number of companies offering an emphatically “green-branded” set of products or services will grow drastically by 2050. Industry leaders such as IHOP, Applebee’s, Chipotle, Starbucks, Subway and even McDonald’s have already joined the green revolution, inspiring restaurants all over the nation to follow suite.
Going green is not an easy process and has been misconstrued as an expensive profit draining program. This could not be further from the truth, according to the Green Business Bureau (GBB), “Becoming more efficient in the restaurant business is a globally responsible choice. But in addition to reducing emissions and waste in our world, green restaurants are more profitable.”
For great tips check out the Webstaurant's Blog: 5 Way Your Restaurant Can Go Green For Earth Day
Written by: Becky Simmons