by Mark Masterson
I like to eat out a lot, and I work in the restaurant supply industry. Earlier this year I was at the NAFEM Show. Think of it as the E3 of the restaurant supply world. The big theme that came across this year was energy and water efficiency. Just about every vendor I saw was touting some new technology that made them greener than the competition.
Restaurants are sometimes decried as places where excessive consumption happens. Food waste in restaurants is a huge problem, but energy costs are the real problem. In 2006, experts said that 80% of the $10 billion annual energy bill for commercial food services was caused by inefficient equipment.
The restaurant supply industry and the government is keenly aware of the problem. We really try to push our Energy Star-compliant ice machines in our shop, and the government offers incentives to businesses who purchase energy-efficient equipment. Unfortunately, most restaurants have such a high rate of closure that the used market for big-ticket items is huge. An inefficient stove could get passed among many restaurants before the end of its life.
Progressive foodies can help fight this trend by choosing to dine at restaurants that take the extra steps to become green. But how do you find out if your restaurant is really green? Most of the decisions that really make a restaurant green are in the back of the house where you can’t see them, and the chef isn’t going to let you into the kitchen to check for Energy Star label.
One way to find where the greenest restaurants are is to look at the list made by the Green Restaurant Association at http://dinegreen.com. They measure restaurants on energy and water efficiency, food sourcing and sustainability, waste management, chemical and pollution reduction, and other factors to rate restaurants. They’ve been doing this since 1990, so they have quite a list. The GRA also helps restaurants with environmental assessment and consulting. They also help green restaurants with PR opportunities.
There are also things you can do. Educate yourself on environmental and food-sustainability issues. For instance, some types of meat use more resources than others. Cows require a lot of feed to make beef. Chickens need much less and fish even less than chicken. Learn about food-miles and the locavore movement.
A great way to find out if the seafood you’re eating is sustainable is to check out The Safina Center’s online seafood guide at http://safinacenter.org/seafoods/. Search for the fish you like and you’ll find lots of information to guide your dining choices. This is really useful for sushi lovers.
Finally, eat everything on your plate. 25% of food ordered is thrown out according to the GRA, but it’s not always because the customer’s eyes are too big for their stomach. American restaurants are known for huge portions. If you get stuck with a huge meal, ask for to-go containers and make a note to find a place with reasonable portion sizes next time, or just skip that appetizer. If your servers ask why you don’t order dessert, tell them their entrée was too large and to let the manager know. Trust me, many restaurant owners would love to serve less food to more customers if given the opportunity!
Article provided by RestaurantSupply.com