Achieve Your Green Restaurant Goals Part II: From local food to low-flow faucets, it all adds up

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The first step to achieving your "green goals" as a coffee shop is conducting an energy audit -- but what comes after that? If an energy audit uncovers expensive fixes—perhaps a need for Energy Star appliances or a new H-VAC system (not easy tasks), don’t worry. You can do those things in phases, and in the meantime add implement green restaurant methods that won’t break the bank:

Reduce your use of water.

Simple changes in your water use can save thousands of gallons per year while cutting down on soap and energy use, and utility costs:

- Run the dishwasher only when it’s completely full

- Loosen dried food by soaking rather than rinsing

- Install low-flow faucets and toilets

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Install energy-efficient lighting.

You’ll save up to $25 per bulb per year in electricity costs by switching to energy efficient light bulbs. These days there are many options available that provide warm, natural-looking light.

Keep the lights off.

If your restaurant benefits from good natural light, keep lights off when they’re not needed. You could also install intelligent lighting that automatically turns lights off when an area is bright enough and doesn’t need to be artificially lit.

Don’t crank the heat or air conditioning.

Turning your thermostat down by a degree or two in colder months can make a big difference in your energy costs. If going from 70 to 68 is still comfortable, why not? The same goes for air conditioning: If it’s cold enough in your establishment that people need a sweater to be comfortable, you’re overdoing it on the AC.

Smart thermostats like Nest and Ecobee are easy to set up and program, so you can warm the place up just in time for opening, and cool it down at closing time.

Keep refrigerated food and drinks cold, not nearly frozen.

Use your refrigerators efficiently by keeping items cold enough. Refrigeration is a major energy sucker.

Use sustainable foods in your menu items.

Food that supports the long-term health of land includes organic and locally grown items, both of which reduce toxic pesticides and fertilizers, as well as pollution associated with long-distance transportation. Connect with local farmers to find out what produce they carry, and when.

Recycle and compost.

Recycling is an obvious and simple way to go green as it can be done almost anywhere. (Stay tuned for Green Goals Part III: Eliminating Plastics. It’s a hefty topic that warrants a blog post all its own.)

To assure your recycling program is a success, set up stations in all areas of the restaurant—kitchen, wait station, bar and office. And train your staff to utilize the system.

Composting food waste is a natural fit for restaurants that have gardens. It’s easy to do once you have a station set up outside. If you don't have a garden but still want to recycle food waste into compost, connect with local farmers or garden clubs and arrange for someone to pick up the compost periodically.

Empower your staff to drive your green goals home.

For your green initiatives to succeed, everyone at your shop or restaurant needs to be involved. Educate your staff about the importance of sorting recyclable items. Tell them to turn off lights when they’re not needed. Encourage them to bring in their own take-home containers instead of using disposable restaurant packaging for their meals.

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Check out other posts in this series:

Achieve Your Green Restaurant Goals, Part 1: Perform an Energy Audit

Achieve Your Green Coffee Shop Goals Part III: Eliminating Plastics