If you are a restaurant owner you probably already know that restaurants are not amazing for the environment.
Restaurants use a lot of energy for coolers, shipping, and utilities. Plus, they result in 18% of total food waste. And that is just the beginning.
If you are reading this article, you probably want to make your restaurant more eco-friendly. The problem is that is simply a lot of work to run an eco-friendly restaurant.
There are simple ways to reduce the impact your restaurant has on the environment. You don't have to stress and work overtime to be an eco-friendly restaurant.
If you want to know more about how your restaurant could be hurting the earth and what you can do to stop it, read on! We will cover all that and more in this article.
Let’s get started!
Why Should We Care About The Earth?
Before we get started, we need to ask ourselves some questions:
Let’s see if we can answer some of these questions.
The two main reasons to take good care of the earth
Here are the two main, overarching reasons we should care for our planet:
Let’s face it, folks - we only have one planet.
And on that one planet is everything we need to survive - air, water, food, shelter, and all the other things we need to stay alive. The planet is our lifeline, and if we don’t have a healthy planet, we don’t have healthy lives.
When our actions endanger the planet, we inadvertently endanger our own lives. We essentially bite the hand that feeds us. So when we take care of the earth, we are taking care of ourselves.
Life isn’t just about us.
We don’t choose the world we are born into. The earth you live on was given to you by all the people who lived here before you. They chose what to give you, and you had no say.
What about the people that will live 100 years from now? When we endanger the planet, we risk not only our lives but theirs. What we choose now "for us" is what we choose for them.
What is going to happen if we don’t care for the earth?
And what do we choose if we don’t choose responsibly?
- Rising sea levels
- Shrinking polar ice
- Higher global temperatures
- More droughts and heat waves
- Stronger hurricanes
- Increased wildfires
- Increased flooding
- And unforeseen consequences
It’s easy to look at this list and see a lot of words. But the things on this list will have real, actual effects on people like you.
For example, what if we rewrote that list like this:
- A Southwest farmer loses his crops to drought and goes bankrupt. His family suffers in poverty.
- People on the coast lose their homes to hurricanes and flooding.
- Wildfires gut towns and homes in the West. Families lose homes, jobs, memories, and maybe even loved ones.
- Extreme heat affects people’s health, and some people may have to live with poor quality of life instead of full, healthy lives.
- Flooding and erosion affect infrastructure and transportation, which may have economic impacts on our businesses.
Perhaps this list sounds a little dramatic. But it’s not just a bunch of tree-hugging nonsense. The point is that how we treat our planet will have direct, tangible effects on real people like you and your children. Even businessmen who don’t currently care a drop for the environment may suffer.
Imagine losing your home to a wildfire. Or having to leave the area you grew up in because the climate became too hot for your spouse’s health. Or even losing your land and farming business because droughts repeatedly ruined your crops. That would hit harder than a lot of articles and science terms.
That is why each of us must take direct responsibility for our environment. If everybody is on board, it’s incredible what a change we can make!
4 Common Environmental Issues In Restaurants
Restaurants can be a major culprit when it comes to things like climate change and pollution. Let’s find out why this is.
As you read over the list, ask yourself which items are issues in your restaurant.
Packaging and dinnerware waste
It’s no secret that the food industry produces a lot of waste from disposable packaging and eating utensils. Some common culprits include:
- Plastic wrap
- Plastic utensils and dinnerware
- To-go containers
- Storage containers
- Coffee cup lids
- Drink stirrers
- Plastic bibs
Almost every meal you order at a restaurant is served with a side of plastic, whether it’s your take-out container or the plastic wrap the food item was wrapped in for shipping.
The problem of plastic goes deeper than just killing sea turtles too. Plastic creates problems for the environment from the first stage of their life cycle to the last:
- Plastic is derived from oil and natural gas. These are non-renewable resources and it’s carbon intensive to harvest and transport them.
- Plastic is then extracted and refined, which takes more energy and produces more emissions.
- Finally, plastic has to be disposed of, and sometimes we use some not-so-great ways to get rid of all the plastic we produce.
- When plastics enter the environment they pollute for years, even after they are broken down.
The bottom line is, plastics are bad for earth, animals, and humans, and the fewer plastics we use, the better!
Shipping food and supplies
Did you know the average food item in the US travels 1,500 miles before it reaches your plate?
Imagine all the energy it takes to get that food item to you! It takes energy to package the food, drive a truck or fly a plane for that 15,000 miles, and keep the food product cooled while it’s shipping.
You can save a whole lot of that energy if you buy your food and restaurant supplies locally and cut all the shipping.
As much as humans love food, we throw a lot of it away.
The UN Environment Program estimates that about ⅓ of all the food we produce never gets eaten. That is like buying 3 bags of groceries and then leaving 1 of them in the grocery store parking lot every time you go shopping!
This food waste accounts for approximately 8% of annual global emissions.
Unfortunately, restaurants are big-time food wasters. In fact, restaurants account for about 18% of all food waste.
Interestingly, figures show that almost half (45 percent) of all the food wasted in restaurants arises from food prep, not spoilage or over-sized portions.
Energy for utilities
By nature, restaurants use a lot of power for lighting, cooking, cooling food, and running utilities.
Of course, restaurants will always need power, but not often restaurants aren't very wise about their power usage. Most restaurants could reduce how much energy they use for essential utilities if they used them more efficiently.
7 Cost-Effective Ways To Make Your Restaurant More Eco-Friendly
We have talked about a lot of negative things so far. Is there a bright side?
You bet there is!
The good news is that there are many simple ways to make your restaurant more eco-friendly. And the better news is that some of these ideas even save your business money while helping the environment!
Let’s get to it. Here are 7 simple ways you can protect the environment from within the walls of your business.
Switch to sustainable dinnerware
Switching to biodegradable, sustainable eating utensils is a small way you can cut down on all that trash. If you can’t make the switch all at once, try taking small steps. Switch out your single-use plastic straws for agave straws. Then replace your plastic forks and spoons with bamboo, and take more steps from there.
10-second marketing tip: Did you know that 77% of people want to live more sustainably? And beyond that, 45% try to avoid single-use plastics, and 72% are motivated to leave their children a better planet.
If you own a restaurant, you know you need to give people what they want in order to succeed. From the above stats, it seems that people want to live sustainably!
Eco-friendly dinnerware is an obvious, visible message to your customers that you care about the environment. It’s much more public than using green cleaners or keeping your cooler door shut, although those are both great things to do!
If you want to make sure your customers know you care about the earth, sustainable paperware is one of the best ways to go!
Want to know more? Here are 8 benefits of eco-friendly dinnerware.
Serve more vegetarian options
Meat and dairy products are notoriously bad for the environment. While it’s not wrong to eat some meat now and then, most people eat more than they need, and it’s much more efficient to eat vegetables or fruits because it takes less land to grow food directly for humans than to feed animals that humans eat.
Beyond that, adding more vegan or vegetarian options to your menu may help you save money since meat and dairy are much more expensive than fruits and vegetables.
And again, adding vegan and vegetarian options to your menu is a public way you can let your customers know you care about sustainability.
Even if you don’t cut meat from your menu items, reducing your meat portion sizes can help. Research shows that most Americans eat more meat than is healthy, so cutting portion sizes can also increase health and cut your food costs as well as help sustain the earth.
Reduce food waste
Wasting food hurts the environment and can also hurt your business by decreasing your profits. Here are a few ways you can reduce the food waste at your restaurant:
- Monitor your inventory - It pays to keep careful track of your inventory, so you don’t let food spoil on your shelves. That way, you will also know exactly what and when to order so you can keep your food shipments to the absolute minimum. Plus, it saves you money to use what you have rather than ordering more.
- Use portion control measurements - It’s helpful to require your cooks to measure or weigh ingredients, so you know exactly how much food goes on each plate. That way, you can keep track of how much food you go through and keep your portions the right size so customers don’t throw food away.
- Be picky about food storage - Store your food correctly in airtight bags or containers so it doesn’t spoil. Nobody benefits from spoiled food.
- Put food waste on the menu - Let your chefs get creative and use leftover ingredients to create specials or a “leftover menu!” Not only does this reduce your waste, but it can also be fun for your chefs! Plus, you can play this up in your marketing and promote your eco-friendly options.
- Donate your food waste to a soup kitchen - If you don’t want to spend time at your restaurant coming up with things to make out of your food waste, find a place where you can donate it so it doesn’t completely go to waste.
If you still find yourself with an excessive amount of food waste, consider joining a compost program so you can put the waste to good use.
When possible, source locally
Shipping sucks up a tremendous amount of energy. That is energy you could save if you buy locally instead of shipping food and supplies hundreds of miles.
We get it. The local stuff may be more expensive, and it’s hard to track down all your ingredients and supplies locally. But maybe it’s a small price to pay in exchange for a healthier planet and healthier lives!
We are not saying you should never ship anything, but even buying some of your supplies locally could cut down on the number of shipments you have to order.
Another neat upside of buying locally is that you may strike up some interesting relationships with local farmers and businessmen!
Be smart about the energy usage at your building
Let’s face it: restaurant buildings require a lot of energy just to keep running. In fact, restaurants use 5 to 7 times more energy per square foot than any other commercial building!
Simply being smart about running your building can save both energy and money! Here are a few ways you can increase the energy efficiency of your restaurant building:
- Keep your cooler doors shut whenever possible. Opening your cooler makes it work much harder and sucks up more energy.
- Install energy-efficient appliances such as stoves and lighting.
- Turn your equipment off when not in use. That idle time is bad for both the environment and your energy bill!
- Lighting is a huge energy user for restaurants, averaging about 13% of a restaurant’s total energy breakdown. Invest in installing efficient lighting.
Skip paper receipts
Paper is better than plastic, but it’s still disposable.
Nowadays, you can email or text receipts to customers instead of handing out slips of paper they will just throw away. Many customers even prefer getting their receipt digitally. That saves them a wallet stuffed full of old receipts!
Promote your eco-friendly practices!
Your customers want to live sustainably. Show them you care too!
People are willing to pay the extra dollar for a green experience. Be sure to let people know you are going green.
Also, tell your employees about any switches you make to eco-friendly practices. Let them take pride in your business and tell everyone about what you are doing!
Sometimes it’s easy to feel hopeless about problems such as pollution and climate change. They seem so big, and the impact we can make feels so small.
But don’t let that fool you!
If everyone does something small, it adds up to a big sum. If you do the small things you can make your restaurant more sustainable. You can make a difference.
If you want to take the first step today, contact Pick On Us! We offer sustainable restaurant ware such as toothpicks, skewers, and dinnerware.
Some of our collections include:
- Eco-friendly toothpicks
- Eco-friendly skewers
- Eco-friendly tableware
- Eco-friendly straws
- Custom branded designs
Check them out today to start making a difference at your restaurant!
We look forward to hearing from you.