Today, one of the biggest topics of conversation for business owners and entrepreneurs is about how to make their restaurant, bar, club, catering company, food truck, or pop-up environmentally friendly. We have all heard about the sea turtles being affected by plastic waste, our wildlife becoming injured or sick due to excess trash, and parts of our environment degrading or dying off due to waste pollution. So how can you reduce these instances with your very own business?
Below are 20 eco-trending solutions for every food-orientated business you may run, some at no cost or with limited upkeep needed. Try a few, implement them all, mix and match — the possibilities for environmental sustainability are endless! Don’t have time to read our entire article? Check out this quick eco friendly solution guide!
First Off, Why Go Green?
Before you begin investing time, money, and energy into restaurant changes, it is important to understand why. Sure, you want to be part of the change for the earth, but what does that change mean? Making the decision to have your restaurant or bar go green means you recognize the effects on the earth from pollution, plastics, needless energy consumption, water waste, and more. The reduction of materials, the implementation of reusable products, and the practice of recycling keeps our water cleaner, our environment protected, and our animals safe from harm. Going green is about recognizing our impact on the planet, and is a choice on how to make our footprint a bit more positive, one change at a time.
Involve Your Customers – They Want to Go Green, Too
It is important to recognize that these solutions are not just about your business and your carbon footprint, but your customer’s impact on the earth as well. When you are part of the solution, your customers are apart of the solution, too, and that makes your business experience even more rewarding for them. Share your solutions with your customers, and let them be apart of the change with you, because that’s worth bragging about.
Here’s How You Can Begin to Have a Sustainable Restaurant Today:
1) How Old is That Cooktop? Upgrade Your Appliances for Energy Efficiency
Regardless of whether you are just beginning to plan your bar or restaurant, or you are looking to make eco-friendly changes to your existing business, energy efficient appliances should be at the top of your list. An Energy Star appliance is one of the best things you can do to your kitchen to help reduce your carbon footprint. Ice machines, refrigerators, water heaters, ventilation equipment, steam cookers, ovens, and more all have options to maximize energy efficiency. Though it may cost you more in the short term, taking the steps to replace today will reduce your costs in the future, both for upkeep and on energy usage. Prepare to make these changes, either by shopping around or beginning to save for replacements, and you will see what an energy efficient kitchen can do for you. Sustainable Food Service is our recommendation for more in-depth reading on the changes you can make in this area.
2) Brighten Your Space with Energy Efficient Light Bulbs
Just like switching out your appliances, switching out your light bulbs is another great way to go green. Think about your actual light usage – it is the first thing you turn on in the morning, and the last thing you turn off at night (or if you run a bar, the other way around). During your business’ entire day, the light bulbs are running and consuming valuable energy. Commercial eco-friendly light bulb options include both LEDs and CFLs, which are better than your standard incandescent lighting. Take a look at different lighting options to save on energy consumption, for your restaurant and the planet.
3) You’ve Upgraded the Equipment, Now Keep It Clean
Every day you need to wipe down the counters, sterilize the tables, clean the bar, kitchen, and utensils. You may also have mirrors as part of your ambiance that need to be shined, or other decorations that get wiped down for ultimate cleanliness. You have probably been using the same popular cleaning products your entire life, but did you know there are eco-friendly cleaning options available, even for business needs? Just last year Hood Filters reviewed four of the best products recommended for restaurant cleaning that are safe for the environment. The products they covered include cleaners to break down grease and oil; cleaners for kitchen hoods, grease fryers, grease traps, and griddles; products to remove rooftop grease; and products that would allow the grease to be washed away, FDA approved.
Other household eco-friendly cleaning products can also be used in your restaurant, bar, or pop-up food service. HIP2SAVE compiled a “this to that” review for products you may already be using, and what you can switch them out for. Your glass cleaner, furniture or multi-surface polish, bathroom cleaner, dish soap and detergent, general cleaning wipes, and floor cleaners all now have eco friendly options. If you want to go a step further, there are also do-it-yourself options to make environmentally friendly cleaners yourself. Next time you are preparing your cleaning supply order or out shopping, consider some alternatives and begin to implement a change over. One by one, your bar can shine with eco friendly cleaning ingredients!
4) Eco Friendly Decor – Reuse, Not New
The eco friendly purchases do not end with your appliances or their cleaners. Think about the ambience and decoration of your company — tables, chairs, items on the walls, mirrors, knick-knacks, shelving, and so forth. Every brand new item you purchase has to be manufactured and shipped. The warehouses for these products and their shipping pollution all return back into the area. Visiting your local thrift stores, upcycle stores, or Habitat for Humanity shops allows you to purchase items that would otherwise go to waste, and reduces the manufacturing of new products. Not only does your business become greener by reusing decorations or furniture, it creates a one-of-a-kind experience that cannot be replicated, which makes you stand out around town.
5) Buy Produce in Season, Locally
A great way to reduce your environmental footprint and supply speciality items to your customers is to create dishes guided by what produce is in season. Food harvested in season has more nutrients, is richer in flavor, and often supports your local economy because it is grown and supplied by local farmers. When you purchase produce that is out of season, it is often transported across states, causing more of an environmental impact. Seasonal Food Guide lets you search by state, time of year, or produce to help you plan your dishes. They also reference recipes to aid you in your creativity.
Even if you primarily run a bar or club, the produce you include in drinks or for appetizers can be tailored to seasonal tastes. See what your local neighbors are growing on their farms, and plan your cocktail specials around those products. As a bonus, your customers will be attracted to the seasonal, limited edition items.
6) Offer Vegan Food Dishes, and Make It Known
[Organic and vegan food options can have a positive environmental effect. Cows emit greenhouse gases, meaning that their growth and harvest emits large amounts of gases each year, harming the environment. While you do not have to go entirely vegan, offer vegan or organic recipes, and make it known! Highlight these menu options with symbols or separate headers, so your patrons know what their options are and how they are helping by eating green at your establishment.
7) Compost, Compost, Compost
We all know that reducing waste is part of the solution, but the waste does not end with napkins and dishes. Not everyone can finish off an entire meal, or take the leftovers home with them. And what about those parts of the produce or meat you could not find a use for in a dish?
Compost is a terrific, efficient way to reduce the waste in your restaurant or bar. Compost literally costs nothing to begin — create a compost area outside, and watch how what that which was waste becomes natural fertilizer when utilized correctly. Compost will additionally save you money on fertilizer. Instead of buying those chemically enhanced fertilizers, you can use compost to fertilize your garden and grow your crops organically.
8) Go Green — Literally: Start a Garden!
Even when you are buying locally, organic, and in season, you can still start a garden to aid your food production’s eco friendly impact. Gardens can be grown in the backyard of your business, or on a separately purchased lot. A garden gives you control of the produce you are supplying to your customers. Growing your own speciality items or mass produced items also saves on shipping costs, and can add flair to your recipes. If nothing else, they can provide inspiration for daily specials and are a conversation piece with your customers.
9) All Parts of the Pine Tree are Edible – Use Every Piece of the Produce
As you plan your menus and consider your recipes, consider all parts of the produce you buy. Perhaps you use lemon as a garnish, but what about the rest of it? If you are only buying a product to use one part of it, consider how you can add those leftover elements into the rest of your recipe. Remember that pieces of produce can be used in dishes, soups, drinks, appetizers, and desserts. Channel your creativity and expand on the usage of the food you purchase.
10) Menu Displays – There’s More Than Paper
Your menu is highly valuable in your business — it showcases your specials, the vegan options, seasonal recipes, and the hard work you have invested into your culinary vision. When you continually reprint that menu, however, for updates and new recipe selections, it begins to have a big impact on the environment. The excess printed materials end up back in our waste dumps, potentially harming our wildlife.
Consider specials menus, lunch menus, late night menus, in season promotions, and more – all of these are reprinted on paper that eventually have to be replaced. To make this function of your business greener, consider a chalkboard, white board, or digital menu displays. Creating a menu display allows you to re-do it as many times as needed, without becoming a cost you have to think about or harming the environment. A small selection of menus in addition to this large display can provide customers with a multitude of options. And those printed menus can be done on recycled paper, keeping you 100% green.
11) Lose the Straws and Go Paper
Although it is a habit, now is the time to stop automatically providing straws to customers. The best way to be eco friendly is to provide reusable drinkware, without a straw. If customers ask, provide paper straws instead of plastic. Eco-pliant provides a variety of paper straws, all of which are produced in the USA and have a several-hour lifespan. Whether you are suppling for a cocktail or smoothie, you can go eco-friendly, which means your customers can, too. Check out some of our options below, or our full menu of paper straws are available here.
12) Coasters Are Not to be Ignored
The recycling doesn’t stop at the straws, although that is important. The coasters you use are vital to your environmental impact as well. Corkboard coasters are an option, as are those made from recycled paper. Sandstone, ceramic, and slate also offer moisture-catching alternatives while adding a new look to your restaurant or bar. Whatever you may use, just ditch the one-use napkin and opt for something that can be cleaned and used again and again.
13) Switch Out Those Dishes
To reduce the waste your business provides in general, purchasing reusable dishware is one of the best ways to do so. Instead of supplying plastic utensils for patrons or disposable dishware, provide washable dishware. A lot of businesses have a drop off station or two for their dishware, so customers can easily set aside their plates and bowls, and employees can it pick up (to wash with their now-eco-friendly detergent or soap). We provide biodegradable options for any take out solution, so no matter where your customers are eating, the earth is staying protected.
14) Make Your Recycling Options Obvious
This is at the top of everyone’s list, but are you doing it right? A recycling bin out front, or one only back, isn’t enough. To ensure you are recycling as much as you can, and your customers can, you want to station bins in the back for your employees, and several out front for your customers. Provide signs between the trash bins and recycle bins. Help to illustrate what items can be trashed and what can be reused – not everyone knows, and this is a great help! Alternatively, there are a lot of great companies out there that handle your recycling needs for you. One great company we recommend is 99 Junk Removal.
15) Advocate for Change
Once you have made these eco-friendly changes, brag about it! Advocate for other local businesses to make the same changes you have. Social media is a great place to post about your changes, and it will inspire others to do the same. Markers or icons next to menu items can signify when you have developed a recipe that is intentionally in season, and posters about environmental changes will help show customers you care. The more public we are about our influence, the more people we can assist with the same types of changes. In the end, our eco-friendly choices are about saving our earth, so let’s do it together, as a community.
16) Water Reduction – Are You Aware?
Water is our most valuable resource, and yet water is the first thing we find ourselves wasting. It can be hard to realize, but water waste occurs in cleaning, mixing drinks, unused ice, and more. Be aware of how often and how you are using your water resources, and be conscious to reduce. Keep water pollution and water reduction in mind next time you create your cleaning schedule, throw away ice cubs, and more.
17) Install Beverage Stations, Say Goodbye to Bottles and Cans
If possible, cut out your water bottles and canned drinks, and offer a beverage station instead. Beverage stations reduce the waste caused by the empty plastic bottles and aluminum cans your patrons will need to discard. These also allow you to get creative with your drink offerings — no longer are you limited to food recipes, but you can offer one-of-a-kind sodas, teas, or juices to your customers. Eco-pliant has a variety of sizes of the paper cold cup & hot paper cups! From hot coffee to cold beverages, there is a more sustainable option for you to choose from. If you do not offer paper hot cup or paper cold cup, your customers may begin ordering elsewhere. Serve your customers with a coffee to go paper portion cup, fully fitted with a fiber, eco-friendly lid. Wholesale paper coffee cup are now available to you, so change your business practices and watch how quickly your reputation flourishes.
18) Shipment Considerations – Order Wisely
All products and out of season produce you order must be shipped. This may not seem like something that is in your control, but mindfulness can be applied to any of your business practices. For example, if you order all your produce from different companies, that is several different companies that must ship their product to you. This carbon footprint can be doubled if you are ordering out of season and the trucks must travel further and have had to use chemicals to develop the produce out of their natural season. Those shipment miles really add up and begin impacting the environment. Try ordering as concisely as possible from local companies — less trips, shorter distances, better mother earth.
19) Get Staff Involved
All the parts you invest in are nothing without the workers. Teach your staff about the importance of creating an eco friendly restaurant, and share with them how to implement the products and appliances you have purchased. Include educational posters or materials that display what can and cannot be recycled, share knowledge about how to reuse parts of food products or what goes into the compost, and encourage staff to come up with their own ideas to share. The earth’s safety is a team effort, bring your staff along with you.
20) Customer Input – It’s Valuable
Just as important as it is to involve your staff, you need to involve your customers as well. People want to be a part of the change, and your restaurant can be that for them!Whether you run a bar, catering company, club, food truck or food service pop-up, advertise how your changes make your dining experience better for your clients. Always be open to their suggestions, and respond to their meaningful ideas. The community effort is the first part of environmental change, so be a part of your neighborhood and consider your local options and opinions as you move ahead.