Making sustainable decisions can start long before you open your doors or reopen when it comes time to renovate. In some cases, it doesn’t have to be a complete remodel but an opportunity to evaluate where you can improve upon the initial buildout to be more sustainable.
Selecting sustainable choices during the buildout can not only give the opportunity to help the planet, but it can also create operational savings.
There a several certifications that been launched over the past several years that allow owners to stamp their restaurant as a sustainable business. We’ll highlight two here, but you should check your local area to see if there are local or regional-specific certifications near you.
While some restaurants may be ready to go all-in, others can use these programs as a guide to look at areas to improve.
A common certification is LEED, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It is a green building rating system that provides a framework for healthy, highly efficient and cost-savings green buildings. The bottom-line numbers are impressive. LEED-certified building accrued $1.2 billion in energy savings, $149.5 million in water savings, $715.3 in maintenance savings and $54.2 million in waste savings based on 2015-2018 estimates.
Another common certification is through a state green certification program. California has a robust initiative that combines both building and operational practices through the California Green Business Network.
Benchmark Pizzeria is a Certified Green Business in Kensington, California. “It means we’ve created and implemented an environmental policy statement under the guidance of the CA Green Business Program, committed to as many environmentally-friendly practices as is practical, and undergone audits of these practices by local agencies,” says co-owner Melissa Swanson.
She continues, “We’ve converted our energy to all renewable via (local energy provider) MCE, implemented a composting program and revamped recycling, committed to using either paper or recyclable packaging, added a couple of vegan options to our menu, evaluated water flow of our faucets and in some cases, added aerators, converted lighting to LEDs, and changed our cleaning chemicals. We’ve already been sourcing our food from local, organic and fair-trade producers. We want to prove to our customers, vendors, and employees that we are doing our part, as a local business, to take care of the environment, and to let all of those people know our values, which is one of the reasons we hope people will feel good about supporting the restaurant,” Swanson says.
Restaurants use five to seven times more energy per square foot than other commercial buildings — even up to 10 times if you’re are a high-volume quick-serve restaurant, according to EPA’s Energy Star Guide for Cafes, Restaurants and Institutional Kitchens. Choosing wisely when buying materials and equipment for your new pizzeria of remodeled restaurant can have a direct impact on your sustainability and your wallet. Purchase for the long game.
Let’s look at some key areas you can make an impact:
• Energy Efficiency. Your biggest energy consumption areas are your kitchen and HVAC. Skimping on those will cost you in energy savings in the long run.
Pizzerias like Brooklyn Pizza Company in Tucson, Arizona harness the power of the sun with solar units on its roof and parking structure.
Smart thermostat may be your biggest defense to an energy sucking HVAC system. Don’t just have one installed, you need to understand when and how your restaurant uses the HVAC and program the thermostat accordingly. Be sure you have the app downloaded to your phone so that you know when settings have been manually overridden and why.
Lighting is one of the easiest ways to increase your sustainability and lower your energy bill. On the buildout, you can have a switching system installed so you are only lighting areas of the restaurant in use. Whether opening a new restaurant, renovating or simply looking for savings, ditch the standard incandescent and fluorescent lighting for the LED. It can be as simple as swapping out the old light bulbs for a range of new LED varieties.
Kitchen equipment will be your biggest business investment so choose wisely. Energy Star-rated certified kitchen equipment offers significant energy savings and may also result in energy rebates or incentives from your local energy utility. Be sure to check out all of the tips in the extensive Energy Star Guide for Cafes, Restaurants and Institutional Kitchens at EnergyStar.gov.
• Water Efficiency. It’s not only good business, but it’s also a necessity, especially in areas of the U.S. with water shortages and drought issues. According to the EPA, approximately 15 percent of the total water use in commercial and institutional facilities in the U.S. takes place in hospitality and food service establishments. Drilling down further, kitchen operations followed by restrooms have the highest water usage. Energy Star-certified dishwashers and ice machines help control and conserve water. Use more water-efficient spray valves for pre-rinsing.
In the restroom and staff hand-washing stations, opt for motion activated faucets and add aerators that reduce the amount of water and controls the stream of the water
coming out of the faucet.
Spring for low-flow toilets. Motion-activated toilets also help with water consumption as well as ensure flushing after use. You can also invest in waterless urinals.
In addition to Energy Star, the EPA has also created the WaterSense program to help businesses and citizens adopt more water-efficient equipment and practices. More water efficiency tips can be found at epa.gov/watersense/.
• Reuse and Repurpose. It’s a building strategy that small pizzerias with limited buildout budgets have adopted since the first pizza businesses opened in the U.S. Work with your architect, contractors and interior designers to let them know that you want to instill a reuse/repurpose strategy wherever possible. That may mean using recycled wood or titled floor, which not only adds up to cost savings, but also gives the restaurant a unique character. This may require you to do some digging or hunting for materials. We’ve seen several pizzerias repurpose materials like bowling alley lanes for flooring, tables and counters. You should have several local and regional resources who can help you acquire reuse materials.
Applying sustainable strategies requires planning and forethought. Think about sustainability in your next buildout or remodel.
Denise Greer is Executive Editor of Pizza Today.