As stewards of the Earth, it is our responsibility to protect,
nurture and build upon the natural resources provided to us. We
will continually seek out new ways to grow, harvest and distribute food
in a manner that not only preserves and protects the environment, but
strengthens our ability to deliver the best possible quality to our
customers. In this way, we ensure a healthy future not just for our
planet, but for our businesses and end users alike.
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Why Operators Should Go Green and Practical Steps for Doing It
Going green is not just the right thing to do; it can benefit
your bottom line. In fact, conserving natural resources and reducing
waste can reduce restaurant operating costs, which is critical
in these challenging times, and being environmentally friendly
can be a great way to bring more customers in your door. Sysco
has reviewed foodservice industry publications, articles, and
best practices in the area of sustainability. The collective
wisdom of these sources has been distilled to provide actionable
What’s the Fuss about the Environment?
Certainly every operator has heard something about
sustainability and “going green.” As operators are considering
environmentally related steps they might take, many operators are
asking, “Why should we go green? What are the benefits? How do we do it?
What do we do? What resources are available to assist me?”
Why Go Green?
There are many compelling reasons to become more
environmentally conscious and to make environmentally focused changes to
your operations. The key reasons to go green include:
So, reducing the resources that are used is simply
right thing to do.
It can deliver significant cost savings.
Reducing the amount of food, electricity, and water that are used
can decrease operating expenses. For example, an operator profiled
in a December article in the Boston Globe said that composting and
recycling costs him 30% less than traditional trash service and
replacing one conventional light bulb with a compact fluorescent one
can save $35-$45 per year. Because operations often have numerous
light bulbs, this savings can add up.
It can help attract customers.
According to the National Restaurant Association, 62% of adults
surveyed say they are likely to choose a restaurant based on how
environmentally friendly it is. As a result, operators that go green
and that promote their environmental activities can leverage this as
a strategy to grow their traffic.
The bottom line is that going green can be good
for operators’ bottom line. It is not just a strategy for ardent
environmentalists; it is a strategy for savvy business people to
decrease operating expenses, increase traffic, and differentiate their
operation. As one operator said in a NRA publication, “This is the new
way of business for restaurants.”
How to Go Green—Areas of Focus
For new or renovated operations, it is possible to
“build green.” For existing operations, it is possible to become greener
through approaches that include conserving energy, reducing water usage,
and decreasing food
If you are opening a new restaurant, thinking
about renovations, or just taking notes for future locations, there are
several creative ways to keep the environment in mind.
To conserve energy, use natural light whenever
possible. This will naturally warm the space and reduce electricity
consumption. Kitchens should be designed around energy-efficient
appliances and equipment. Rooftops can be painted to reflect sunlight
and lower air conditioning costs. An upfront investment in high quality,
efficient products will save significant cash down the road.
Also consider using products that contain recycled
materials. There are numerous tiles, décors, centerpieces, and light
fixtures made from recycled glass. Old wooden doors make great tabletops
or hostess stands. Look for restaurant furniture auctions. These events
often showcase retro materials, hard-to find novelties, and even
Finally, be sure to seek out sustainable building
materials. Bamboo is harder than most woods and is fast-growing and
rapidly renewable. Sisal fiber contains low or zero volatile organic
compounds (VOCs). This product safeguards indoor air quality by reducing
emissions from paints and adhesives, and minimizes sound transmission
within the building. Granite alternatives that are made from recycled
newsprint look great and make excellent countertops.
Conserving energy is a great way to help the environment and reduce
costs. Virtually every restaurant can employ numerous free or
inexpensive techniques for cutting back on electricity use. A few
Unplug and turn off. When devices that
run on electricity are not in use, unplug them. This includes
computers, electronics, coffee machines, the POS system, and any
small appliance. Turn off lights and cooking hoods when they are not
in use. Consider installing motion detectors in storerooms, offices,
and restrooms, and set lights on timers.
Replace lighting. Replace incandescent
light bulbs with longer lasting CFL or LED lights. Don’t forget exit
signs—traditional signage can be replaced with LED exit lighting.
Clean and maintain. Clean equipment
uses energy more efficiently. Regularly dust all appliances, top to
bottom. Also perform routine preventive maintenance on HVAC,
plumbing, appliances, and major equipment.
Decrease Water Usage
Water usage is another area where restaurants can do their part to help
the environment while saving money. Tips include only serving customers
water upon request and running dishwashers only when they are full.
Opportunities for water conservation exist in all areas of the
Kitchen. Turn off the continuous flow used to
clean drain trays of the beverage island. Clean the trays only as
needed. Reuse water from steam tables to wash down the cooking area.
Recycle water where feasible, consistent with state and county
requirements. For example, consider recirculating rinse water from
the dishwasher to the garbage disposal.
Bar. Don’t use running water to melt ice in
the sink strainers. Investigate installing automatic shut-off
faucets for the bar sink.
Maintenance. Check for leaks and turn off any
unnecessary flows. Repair dripping faucets and leaking toilets. (A
leaky toilet can waste more than 50 gallons of water a day.) Reduce
the water used in toilet flushing by adjusting the vacuum flush
mechanism or installing toilet tank displacement devices. Switch
from wet or steam carpet cleaning methods to dry powder methods and
instruct the clean-up crew to use less water for mopping.
Today, food waste losses account for up to $30 to
$40 billion per year in restaurants and convenience stores. Less than 3%
of food waste is currently recovered. Other types of waste occur as
well, including waste in beverages, paper products, chemicals, and more.
Programs to reduce waste, particularly food waste, can result in both
economic and societal benefits.
Economic benefits. From an economic
perspective, developing a food waste reduction program candecrease
disposal fees, lower sewer treatment and electricity costs, and
decrease purchasing costs because the restaurant only buys what is
needed. The extra food that is present at the end of a shift
contributes greatly to the amount of food waste and affects an
operation’s food cost percentage.
Using prep sheets that base production on actual
sales history and projections, instead of “well, we’ve always made this
much,” will help decrease the amount of food leftover, thereby lowering
A good first step in developing a food waste
reduction program is conducting a food waste audit. Track and collect
data on the types and amounts of each food scrap item. The quality of
the food scraps and the estimated generation rate will help determine
how to reduce the amount of food waste and divert it for useful
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has
created the Food Waste Recovery Hierarchy to prioritize different
methods for reducing surplus food. The levels of this hierarchy are:
Source reduction. Based on the outcome
of the food waste audit, operators can change their operations to
reduce unused food. Operators can also talk with their Sysco
Marketing Associate about products that are packaged in ways that
can reduce the amount of material being disposed. For example,
consider buying products in concentrate form, using refillable
condiment bottles, buying shelf-stable food in bulk, or purchasing
recycled paper products.
Feed people. Unsold or excess food that
meets quality and safety standards can be donated to food banks.
Many national and local food recovery programs offer free pickups
and containers. The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act
(Public Law 104-210) protects food donors from legal liability.
Feed animals. Determine if local
farmers or zoos use food scraps as animal feed. There may also be
nearby companies that convert food scraps into animal food products.
Industrial uses. Waste oils, fat, and
grease can be rendered into a raw material to make biodiesel, soaps,
Composting. Food scraps can be
composted either at a composting facility or on-site. Contact your
local or state environmental agency to find out more about
composting options in your area.
Use of landfills and incineration, which is common
today, is the last resort for food, only after the other options have
Become “Certified Green”
One way that operators can demonstrate their
environmental commitment is by becoming a Certified Green RestaurantTM.
This is a certification offered by the Green Restaurant Association (GRA),
a non-profit, national environmental organization.
The GRA has developed environmental standards for
restaurants, a points system where operations can earn points in
hundreds of different ways for reducing their environmental impact, and
a suggested process for becoming Certified Green.
A key step in this process is securing support for
going green from an operation’s key financial, marketing, and
operational stakeholders. Their support is based on understanding the
benefits of having a more environmentally friendly operation.
Financial. The key financial issue is
understanding the short- and long-term financial impact of operating
a more sustainable business. The GRA can help demonstrate how
restaurants are saving money through lower gas, oil, water,
electricity, and garbage costs.
Marketing. Becoming a Certified Green
RestaurantTM provides an opportunity for an operator to project a
positive image and to appeal to the large segment of society that
cares about the environment.
Operations and Purchasing. Those with
operational and purchasing responsibilities may be concerned that
going green will compromise quality or causes purchasing headaches.
But once the GRA explains its 18-year- old system of working with
vendors to create a smooth change process, fears of operational
concerns usually disappear. Those in operations and purchasing can
be confident that instead of being a burden to staff, the process of
environmental improvement will contribute to positive employee
morale and higher productivity.
Once a restaurant has the necessary buy-in and
support to proceed with becoming green certified, the next step is to
develop a strategy for certification. The GRA works with each restaurant
to conduct an environmental assessment, and then environmental
consulting, implementation, education, certification, and
In implementing each of these environmental
strategies, operators should include their staff in the discussion of
what to do and the implementation plans. Ask for their input and
assistance in reducing waste and reducing consumption of electricity and
water. Involving staff in the decision-making process and rewarding them
for good ideas can pay dividends with higher productivity, better
morale, lower costs, and less waste.
Resources to Assist
You in Going Green
There is a wealth of information and resources to
assist operators in the efforts to become more environmentally friendly,
and to save money in doing so.
Sysco Can Help
As you work to reduce your restaurant’s carbon footprint, Sysco can
provide valuable assistance. Sysco iCare partners offer solutions that
help environmentally minded business owners. These partners include:
Green Restaurant Association (www.dinegreen.com).
The Green Restaurant Association (GRA), which is described in more
detail in the previous section, uses environmental consulting,
education, certification, public relations, and marketing to help
restaurants implement credible environmental change.
Tradition Energy (www.traditionenergy.com).
Tradition Energy offers Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) and
Green Power to restaurants. RECs represent the environmental,
social, or other positive attributes of power generated by renewable
resources. RECs are purchased separately from, and in addition to,
conventional commodity energy supplies. Green Power is conventional
fossil fuel generated electricity bundled with RECs.
NorthWrite energy monitoring solutions help create sustainability
through decreased energy use, reduced waste, and a streamlined flow
of information that helps an operator measure and manage energy
consumption. DegreeGuardTM monitors temperatures of coolers and
freezers, ensuring equipment is operating correctly, doors are
properly closed, and energy is not wasted. EnergyGuardTM helps
benchmark energy use to see if significant opportunities for savings
Another way that Sysco can help is through
electronic billing and payments. Sysco operating companies offer
customers the ability to receive their billing statements via email, and
in the first quarter of 2009 Sysco plans to roll out web payment
capabilities. Electronic billing and payment reduces mailing expenses
and administrative time while also decreasing the amount of paper used
and the energy required to deliver a piece of mail. The United States
Postal Service recently released a study which showed that every first
class piece of mail generates 87 grams of CO2. A Sysco customer
receiving bills and paying electronically can reduce its carbon
footprint by 22.5 pounds per year. If 50,000 customers use electronic
billing and payments, Sysco will eliminate about 1.3 million pounds of
CO2 each year.
Additional resources include: