Go Green: 17 Ways to an Eco-friendly Restaurant

Going green is no longer a buzzword. Lately, small and large businesses all over the world are taking sustainability measures for greener establishments.

Besides saving our planet - mother earth - going green will also save your restaurant thousands of dollars each year.

“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” Robert Swan, Author

Keep reading and you will find out the easy ways you too can embrace for an eco-friendly restaurant.

Ready? Let’s get to the point.

1. Do Your Homework

Like everything else, research is crucial when it comes to running a sustainable, ethical and better yet cost-effective restaurant business.

In short: do your “homework” on matters related to food sourcing, materials, equipment, and waste management.

Start by seeking as much information as possible on the producers along with the products you purchase. Thus, you’ll be aware of the choices that you make.

Next, identify opportunities to play down any costs that may emerge due to the sustainable practices.

2. Start Small

It’s your decision, but don’t try to run before you can walk. Instead, break down your green goals into achievable milestones.

Make a road map and realistically agree that it will take your business even years to fully go green.

That means you start with what is achievable at the moment and keep progressing. For example, have the menu printed recycled paper or switch to energy efficient equipment such as light bulbs.

3. Build a Sustainable Dining Room

Indeed, there are ways to make your restaurant’s dining room more sustainable. Here are some key ones you need to keep in mind:

Outdoor cantilever umbrella shade: Break the monotony of indoor dining by offering your guests an outdoor dining experience. As they enjoy the scenic views and a splash of fresh air provide them with ample shade using a cantilever umbrella.

Furniture: Source for locally built dining tables and chairs. In fact, partner with the local woodworkers and even promote their work in your establishment.

Reduce linens: Cloth tablecloths and napkins seem like an eco-friendly option. But the problem is; to keep them hygienic and looking great you’ll need chemical cleaners, starches, and bleaches. Moreover, a lot of water is needed for every wash.

Therefore, if you really must use linens opt for softer cloth material linens instead of the traditional starchy fabrics. Better still, use recyclable paper materials.

Reduce Food Waste

“Consuming less means throwing away less, while reusing things actually helps to save the planet as well as the pennies.” Sheherazade Goldsmith

Have you ever done an analysis of how much food your restaurant wastes in a year? The answer might surprise you.

The trick is to get a handle on your food waste - for the planet and for your bottom line.

Here are a few steps to help you out:

  • Use a digital inventory management tool.The software will keep you up to speed with your inventory. You can tell when inventory is nearing expiration and also a real-time update on your inventory to so you don’t over order.
  • Highlight expiration dates. Put a “use by date” sticker on all the ingredients. This will help the chefs pick the ones closest to expiry.
  • Donate surplus food. Have a food pantry on speed dial. Despite putting waste controls, you may still end up with excess food. Donate so that it doesn’t go to waste.

4. Buy in Bulk Locally

Buy restaurant supplies from the local farms to help reduce carbon emissions. The local farm produces are transported across the city rather than across the country.

Therefore, making purchases locally saves the planet from harmful emissions. And you also save on transportation costs.

While at it, purchase more of peak-season produces - when they are delicious and inexpensive. Preserve them by drying or freezing for later use.

5. Grow it Yourself

The best solution to a green restaurant is right at your own backyard.

How about you flex your green thumb and grow your own vegetables or herbs?

You can turn your roof or patio into a mini garden. Or if you prefer, you can build your own raised garden.

6. Be Strategic About Shipping

Work with distributors and vendors who are keen to work with you in an eco-friendly manner. For instance, you can work out a way to reduce your shipments to say, once a week in order to cut down on carbon emissions.

Another idea is to request your distributors to use biodegradable materials and less packaging for your orders.

Once your distributors understand your eco-friendly goals, the may also suggest more ways that they can incorporate to reduce your restaurant’s carbon footprint.

7. Partner with the Right Producers

You can go a step further and network with accredited suppliers who are responsible and keen to follow sustainable practices. Having such ethical partners helps you know that you are sourcing your ingredients from eco-friendly farms.

8. Cook What’s in Season

Keeping your restaurant's menu seasonal is a smart cost-effective way to achieve your green goals.

You can alter your menu each season and even rotate it to accommodate ingredients that are only available during the short growing seasons. Just be flexible and creative while at it.

9. Use Energy Efficiently

"Energy consumption matters both to our environment and our economy.” John Baldacci

Here’s something you probably don’t know: The food service industry uses $10 billion each year in energy.

That means there’s a lot of room for improvement towards reducing your restaurant energy consumption.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Do an energy audit
  • Control energy consumption
  • On nicer days cool down with fresh air
  • Tune up your equipment and appliances
  • Invest in energy efficient appliances and light bulbs
  • Keep track of staff energy consumption
  • Reward start energy savers

Implement these tips among others and you will truly see your energy bills reduce.

10. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

“If you’re not buying recycled products, you’re not really recycling.” Ed Begley, Jr.

Chances are the 3 R’s are your mantra in your efforts toward an environmentally friendly restaurant.

You can make huge sustainability strides by simply reducing waste, reusing cutlery and drinkware, and recycling materials.

Have a look at these clever ideas to get you started:

  • Station easily accessible recycling stations within the restaurant for everyone to reduce their trash waste
  • Use chlorine-free recycled paper in place of the regular toilet paper and paper towels
  • Use mats made from 100% recycled materials
  • Recycle wooden boxes, cardboard, glass bottles, and more
  • Use reusable cups and recyclable containers instead of plastics or styrofoam
  • Reduce and eventually eliminate plastic straws

11. Get Smarter About Water

"We never know the worth of water till the well is dry." Thomas Fuller, Historian

Practice water efficiency and conservation for eco-friendly purpose and to bring down you energy bills.

Here are a few pointers:

  • Install water-saving toilets to reduce the amount of water used after each flush
  • Install a restaurant water filtration system instead of bottled water
  • Install solar thermal panels for heating your restaurant’s water

12. Consider Composting

“There is no such thing as “away”. When we throw anything away it must go somewhere.” Annie Leonard, The Story of STUFF Project

Composting is a great way to manage your food waste and reduce greenhouse emissions.

Luckily, it is very easy to do composting.

Simply have a separate bin in the kitchen where all food-based waste should be disposed. Afterwards, dump the contents into an outdoor compost bin.

Use this restaurant composting guide to help you get started.

You’ll have free compost fertilizer for your restaurant’s garden. You could also donate the fertilizer to a community garden if you don’t have your own garden yet.

13. Clean Green

The truth is that using conventional cleaning products negatively affects the environment.

For starters, the harsh chemicals contained in industrial cleaners don't break down thus polluting the water table. And you know what else? The just bleached smell irks your guests.

Green your cleaning routine by replacing all the conventional cleaners with eco-friendly certified cleaning chemicals.

14. Train Your Staff to Be Passionate About the Cause

“Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize we cannot eat money.” Cree Indian Proverb

Staff training can prove to be a big challenge when moving your business towards more sustainability.

Therefore, it’s important that you get your whole team on board so that they buy into your mission and vision towards a greener restaurant.

Once your staff own the process, it will be easier for them to get the information to the guests. Which brings us to the next point...

15. Tell Your Customers All About Your Practices

Yes, your staff should be in a position to communicate your restaurant’s mission and vision. But here’s something else you need to keep in mind - prioritize customer satisfaction above all else.

You don’t necessarily have to shove your sustainability efforts down your guests’ throats. Instead pass sufficient information via your website, menu, and staff education. If the guests are interested, they will seek further details.

16. Reduce Pollution

Not that your restaurant alone can solve climate change. However, there is so much you can do to reduce your business establishment’s impact on pollution.

Have a look at some of the ideas:

  • Encourage your employees to take the bus, carpool, or ride a bike to work. You can offer incentives to those who embrace these practices to encourage more staff to join in.
  • If you have a lawn landscape, use a manual mower
  • Do local deliveries by foot, hybrid, or bike
  • Open windows to let in fresh air and natural light instead of air conditioners and lights
  • Grow organic plants and flowers in your restaurant

17. Become a Certified Environmentally Friendly Restaurant

Besides incorporating these handy tips into your restaurant's operations, you also need to become an official green business. Consider becoming a green business through the Green Table certification process.

Green your Restaurant

Frankly, the process of transforming your restaurant to be eco-friendly is worth the effort and time. As you endeavour to reduce your carbon footprint you will also notice huge savings on your bottom line.

So, take the next step and start incorporating these eco-friendly ways for a greener restaurant.