Implementation of an environmental education program will help your employees to understand important energy, waste, water, and chemical issues, and how they relate to the restaurant industry. By understanding these issues, every employee can do their part conserve energy, water, and natural resources, and prevent pollution. This knowledge will help boost employee morale, and foster job loyalty.
Understand Your Restaurant’s Impact
The restaurant industry is the #1 consumer of electricity in the US retail sector, and the US is the largest consumer of electricity in the world. Over 70% of this electricity comes from fossil fuels: coal, gas, and petroleum, which contribute to global warming and endanger human health. Approximately 80% of restaurant energy bills are a result of inefficient equipment.
The average restaurant consumes 300,000 gallons of water a year, but less than 3% of the water on Earth is available for human consumption. The water usage of a single appliance in a restaurant can be greater than that of an entire house. By installing water efficient appliances a restaurant can save over 200,000 gallons of water a year.
The average restaurant produces 100,000 pounds of garbage a year, 95% of which could be recycled or composted. Recycling and composting saves landfill space, energy, and natural resources; and reduces air and water pollution. For instance, it takes 95% less energy to make a tin can from recycled metal than from raw materials mined from the earth, and every ton of recycled paper saves: 12 trees, 2000 pounds of greenhouse gases, and 390 gallons of oil, and protects ancient forests (in the US, less than 5% of the ancient forests remain standing). Composting turns waste into a fertile soil conditioner, thereby reducing the need for synthetic fertilizers.
Employees can make existing equipment more efficient by following start-up and shut down schedules for appliances and lighting, and turning off faucets when they are not needed. Employee education and participation is also the key to recycling and composting efficacy.
Establish an environmental staff manual and training program based on the above information to educate staff from the onset of their employment to promote environmentally sound behaviors. Set up monthly meetings to discuss your environmental initiatives, and make sure new hire training protocols include an environmental education component. Post stickers and signs at critical locations to remind staff to shut off the water or power down equipment, and develop incentive programs to encourage employees to look for additional ways to reduce energy use, water consumption, and waste.
Take staff on field trips to local farms, recycling facilities, etc.
Encourage employees to attend local seminars, and workshops that address environmental sustainability and the food service industry.
Bulletin Boards & Signage:
Bulletin boards can highlight the latest announcements about social and environmental initiatives, as well as displaying progress toward corporate goals, and ways to get involved. Signage in bathrooms and around the store could also draw attention to green technologies like energy-efficient lighting and low-flow fixtures.
Cups, napkins, and other disposables can be printed with their environmental characteristics, such as “contains 80% post consumer content and is processed chlorine-free.” Products can list environmental facts and the steps your facility has taken to reduce its environmental impact.
Use your menu to educate customers. For example, explain why you serve local produce or sustainable seafood.
Together, these efforts would dramatically increase the level of awareness of your customer base, generate new customers, and promote brand loyalty.
c. Events & Marketing
Host themed nights that highlight your “green” initiatives. For example, if you purchase produce from local farmers, develop a special menu around their products, invite them to be a part of the evening, etc.
Host food-themed EcoTours for adventurous customers.
Use online newsletters or email lists to highlight your environmental initiatives