Restaurant Environmental Stewardship
Research released by the National Restaurant Association shows that American are looking for healthier options and greener restaurants. According to the association's research, 89 percent of fine-dining operators serve locally sourced items. Close to three in 10 quickservice operators serve locally source items. Seventy percent of adults say they are more likely to visit a restaurant that offers locally produced food items. Restaurateurs will also continue to show increasing leadership in becoming greener in 2009 by taking action such as reducing energy and water use in step with patrons' interest in environmental issues. Forty-four percent of patrons survey said they are likely to make a restaurant choice based on an operation's practices in the areas of energy and water conservation (from GreenBiz 1/13/2009).
Restaurants are one of the nation's largest private sector employers with more than 12.8 million people, exceeded only by government. Michigan restaurants are a source of employment for persons of every age, background, skill, and experience. Estimated restaurant and food service employment in Michigan for 2007 is 467,000. Michigan restaurants generate tremendous sales and tax revenues and are a source of great economic growth. Projected sales in the Michigan restaurant industry are $13.1 billion for 2008. Every $1 spent in restaurants in Michigan generates an additional $1.12 in sales for other industries in the state. Restaurants are an important part of the communities in which they are located with 9 out of 10 restaurants donating food, time, facilities and other resources to charitable causes (information from the National Restaurant Association).
In commercial foodservice, the most significant uses of energy are for cooking (nearly 1/3 of total), lighting and refrigeration: in food retail, the most significant uses of energy are for refrigeration (over ½ of the total), followed by lighting and space heating. Foodservice and food retail operations are the first and third most intensive energy users in the commercial sector.
Foodservice and food retail operations represent the largest commercials users of refrigeration many of which are still using chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs are known substance that depletes the ozone layer) and are significant commercials users of cooling. There are alternatives available to these commercial operations such as recycling refrigerants, retrofitting equipment for CFC-free compounds, and replacing equipment with CFC-free equipment.
Generally there are two types of solid waste in the food industry; food waste and packaging waste. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food retailers, foodservice establishments, and consumers produce 48.2 million tons of food waste in 1995, the annual value of which is estimated at about $31 billion. Food waste is the third largest portion of the U.S. municipal waste stream of which 50% of the food scraps come from commercial establishments. Packaging waste consists of corrugated cardboard, paper, glass, metals, and plastics. A study published in 1995, found that grocery packaging accounted for more than 1/3 of the total containers and packaging found in municipal solid waste.
What can the food industry do about rising costs and Environmental impacts? Commercial restaurants and food-related facilities can save money and protect the environment by reducing waste through source reduction, reuse, and recycling. Facilities that may benefit from practicing waste reduction are restaurants, supermarkets, produce and concession stands, school cafeterias, hospitals, food processors, farmers, hotels, prisons, employee lunch room, parks and recreational facilities, and community events. Participating in a pollution prevention program can create an improved public image.
This website offers links to restaurant pollution prevention case studies, partner programs for food-related businesses, tips for fat-free sewers, integrated pest management, green chemicals, green supplies, energy efficiency, water conservation, checklists and guidance to become more sustainable, food waste management, solid waste diversion techniques, free technical assistance, and financial programs.
For more information feel free to contact C. J. Panagiotides.