Whatever you’re doing on the environmental front, it’s worth talking about. Consumers are interested, and so are corporate and government clients - in some cases, they have been told to make this a priority in their choice of venues. Start with some of these bullet points and add to them as you organise other activities – you may be surprised at how many you are doing.
Bring the information together in a short Sustainability Statement on your website, to inspire customers and staff. Here are some of the elements to include:
- Energy Efficiency: how you work to reduce energy use with lighting, heating, ventilation, air conditioning, appliances, office equipment, and transport. Talk about the new LED lighting you’ve installed, and low-energy dishwashers or gas appliances.
- Energy Efficiency Audits: the cost of these reports usually has a very rapid pay-back time, and it’s surprising the waste that is identified. Does your coffee machine really need to be on 24 hours a day? A quick Google search will find local consultants, and there may be government subsidies.
- Water conservation: review the methods you use with kitchen appliances, equipment and landscaping, and in a way that doesn’t compromise hygiene and cleanliness. Spray rinse hoses in the kitchen are a good target, as are regular inspections for dripping taps.
- Recycling: glass, plastic, metal, cardboard, paper, corks, waste oil, ink and toner cartridges are all a part of daily operations. Describe how you recycle them – the bins and drums in the back lane, bottle crushers, cardboard baling machines and more.
- Source Reduction: do suppliers take back the packaging supplied with deliveries, or eliminate it altogether? Are polystyrene foam boxes and package still accepted for any deliveries? Give some examples and share photos.
- Sustainable food: used where possible to support the long-term viability of agriculture, fishing and grazing. Sourcing food locally to reduce the use of fossil foods in transport – customers love to see the word ‘local’ on your menu. It’s not always possible, but worth trying.
- Sustainable Wooden Products: used wherever possible, ensuring that wooden furniture and any wooden items do not come from old-growth forests. There’s a thriving industry in recycling old furniture, wooden beams and floors from old buildings.
- Paper-free Management: no more paper bank statements or invoices, pay slips and flyers. It’s worth sharing examples and numbers. For examples ‘of our 24 suppliers, only 4 still send us paper invoices – the rest are electronic. All our employees receive their pay advice electronically, instead of paper slips that are easy to lose’.
- Non-toxic Cleaning Products: are you using those that are biodegradable, free of hazardous ingredients, and safe for people and the environment? Ask your supplier for fact sheets – these products usually have extensive information on labels and supplier websites.
- Green Power: is your electricity supply contract from renewable resources - wind, solar, geothermal or hydro-electric? Most power companies have this option, and the price may not be much different. There may be subsidies to install rooftop solar power for your own use or to sell back to the grid.
- Join a Carbon Offset Program: explain the program you use and the savings you make each month. Comparing the numbers before and after can be very impressive – often expressed in the number of kilos of carbon saved. Think of that as a pile of coal!
- Apply for Sustainability Awards: these are often promoted by government departments, and they love to have foodservice operators involved. Someone on your staff can do the application form and gather the information – just being a finalist is worth boasting about!
- Employee Education: at the heart of an environmental commitment – how are staff educated and how is their commitment sustained? It would not be possible without their contribution, and they’ll be keen to contribute to this statement, and find more ways to go green in the business.
- Share Your Activities on Social Media: in between the food and happy customer posts on Facebook and Instagram, there’s room for at least one post a week on some of these activities listed above – the recycling truck taking away cardboard, delivery of local vegetables, a 20 second video of the bottle crusher in action, before and after shots of your power bill after an energy audit. Small and regular examples are a powerful way to show your commitment.
Interested in finding out more? Here are some resources for Sustainable Foodservice in Canada:
- How to Obtain LEAF Certification as a Susstainable Restaurant
- Green Restaurant Association has great resources for Canada and US
- Sustainable Restaurant Project at University of Guelph
- The Green Hotelier – resources for foodservice and accommodation
- Understanding Energy Star Ratings for Equipment in Canada