Restaurants are making efforts to implement “green” practices ranging from low-cost energy-efficient projects to recycling initiatives even if they take small steps at first and only have small budgets for the upgrades.
One such restaurant is Baja Fresh Mexican Gril, a fast-casual Mexican food chain that just launched its 2010 “Earth Fresh” initiative, which is focused on using recycled food packaging and plates.
Baja Fresh introduced recycled napkins, paper bags, burrito wrapping paper, and biodegradable plates, containing a minimum of 40 percent post consumer material, in eight restaurants, including its California locations in Cypress, Westlake Village, Simi Valley, Beverly Hills, Tustin Marketplace, South Irvine and Lakewood. The papers are not made with processed chlorine or its derivatives and converted papers are FDA compliant, reports Fast Casual.
The new plates, which are produced from a byproduct of wheat harvest, are designed to quickly disintegrate and biodegrade in a professionally managed composting facility, and are certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute.
The restaurant says the production and use of natural, unbleached burrito wraps versus bleached paper wraps deliver significant savings include a 46 percent reduction in waste water and 21 percent reduction in wood pulp use. It also cuts down on solid waste by 16 percent and greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent.
Dan Simons, principal at Vucurevich/Simons Advisory Group, a restaurant consulting-and-development firm, told Restaurants & Institutions, that taking low-cost steps to reduce energy use is a good idea such as installing motion sensor-controlled lights in restrooms or replacing some bulbs with compact fluorescents.
Other good ideas cited in the article include separating trash for recycling and composting, validating your trash company to make sure the recyclables are being recycled, asking guests if they want water instead of automatically filling glasses, unloading used cooking oil for biodiesel fuel, and purchasing green cleaning products.
A few better ideas include repairing faucet leaks and re-evaluating lighting needs, while the best ideas include benchmarking and getting certified to the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification or Certified Green Restaurant status.
As an example, Black’s Bar & Kitchen in Bethesda, Md., has been adding sustainable practices to its restaurants step by step, reports Restaurants & Institutions. The restaurant uses wind energy to power the restaurant, prints its menus on recycled paper, sources ingredients from local farmers and stocks the bathrooms with cloth hand towels. The restaurant also used reclaimed wood on the walls of the bar.
In addition to eco-friendly measures, some restaurants like Agraria in Georgetown and Founding Farmers in Washington, D.C., include sustainable farming as part of their environmental initiatives.