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Jun 17

Written by: Lakeside
Monday, June 17, 2013 12:40 PM 

Every year on April 22, Earth Day is celebrated worldwide to promote better ways of taking care of the earth and its environment.  The movement towards sustainability has trended recently thanks to a larger and more enthusiastic effort to provide awareness and education.

However, one of the most important areas to improve and increase sustainability is in foodservice.  According to the Energy Information Administration, restaurants are the most energy intensive commercial buildings in the United States.  Most of the energy is used through cooking and food preparation.

The first way to prevent wasted energy is through maintenance.  Simply by cleaning equipment regularly, it will last longer and run more efficiently.  A refrigerator with a bad door seal uses 11% more energy than a normal running refrigerator, while one with a refrigerant leak can use up to 100% more energy.  Several organizations such as Energy Star, Foodservice Technology Center (FSTC), and the Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE) have established their own set of energy efficiency standards to independently evaluate and rate manufacturers’ equipment.  Their websites provide lists of manufacturers and their products that meet each organization’s criteria.

Investing in highly efficient equipment can actually save money too.  Rebate and tax credit programs have been created to encourage purchases of energy and water efficient equipment.  In addition, these pieces of equipment will save thousands of dollars per year in energy and water bills.  The best part about this type of equipment is that it is not much more expensive than less efficient equipment still on the market.

One of the biggest ways to contribute to sustainable foodservice is through waste reduction.  This technique can be accomplished through a variety of ways.  Reusable packaging, composting programs, donating food and old equipment, using wood tables and serving food in disposable containers to control rations, are only several of the recommended ways to reduce waste.  More are listed here on the website Sustainablefoodservice.com.

Some catering companies, like Sodexo, have implemented programs such as the US EPA’s Waste Recovery Hierarchy and used them to educate their clients.  In addition, Sodexo developed a Sustainability Management and Reporting Tool (SMART) which “helps clients establish baseline sustainability performance, prioritize initiatives, and track improvements in the areas of carbon and energy, water, and healthy/sustainable food and environments” (BioCycle.net).  However, the biggest contribution Sodexo has made to the sustainability movement is “trayless dining.”  Statistics show that this form of dining reduces waste by 1.5 oz per person, per meal.  In total, 25% to 35% of waste is reduced.  Sodexo is just one example of how sustainability is applicable to foodservice.

Before implementing a sustainable foodservice program though, you must first develop a plan.  Luckily there are a number of resources to guide you in this process.

For example, you can find numerous trade articles online that provide valuable information about best practices for sustainable foodservice operations.  One recent article in Foodservice Equipment & Supplies (FES) outlines five key steps to creating a green foodservice plan.  Another article published by FastCasual.com, an online trade magazine that reports on innovative restaurant trends, discusses 12 specific ways a restaurant can save energy and be more profitable.  As previously mentioned, SustainableFooderservice.com also offers lots of free information in this area too.  The site aims to educate foodservice personnel about their “business’ effect on the environment and ways to reduce their facility’s environmental footprint while saving money in the process.”

In addition, there are not-for-profit organizations such as the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) and the Green Restaurant Association (GRA) that promote sustainable practices throughout all foodservice channels – from restaurants and manufacturers to distributors and even diners.

The niche of sustainable foodservice has also spawned a need for specialized consultants as well.  Companies like Sustainable Food Systems and Beyond Green Sustainable Food Partners have developed their own distinct sustainable models.  For instance, Sustainable Food Systems created a systemized approach it calls the “5 Spokes of the Sustainable Wheel” which consists of five foundational principals upon which to build a sustainable foodservice program.  Beyond Green Sustainable Food Partners, on the other hand, focuses on zero-waste food operations by using a “holistic approach that integrates organizational change with planning, outreach, and education to bring everyone from administrators to consumers on board.”

Whether purchasing a new piece of foodservice equipment or finding ways to reduce food waste at your facility, placing sustainability at the core of your decision making process will help benefit your operations, your patrons and the environment.  Let’s keep moving forward to make every day more like Earth Day!

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