It’s Not Easy Being Green

going-green_frog-earthEnvironmentalism and the Ecology movement have moved front and center in the business arena and more and more press is being given to what industry is doing to protect the environment.

As for the hospitality and especially food & beverage industry there is an evolution of change taking place. “In the Mix” Magazine has taken a small peek through the window at what our industry has been doing to become eco-friendly by finding ways to save energy, reduce waste and generally reduce our carbon footprint.

What does it mean to be green?
How can we help to improve our environment?
What are others doing right now?

Here are some ideas and examples of how some of our leading industry customers and suppliers are contributing to changing and improving our world by thinking green and helping others.

The first article is written by Lee Simon an award winning foodservice designer with The General Group.

Hey Kermit, Being Green Is Getting Easier (Part II)

By: Lee Simon

In past articles, I began to refute the well known claim made by Kermit the Frog that “it’s not easy being green.” Actually, it is getting much easier with every passing moment. It is becoming more popular. Your guests are beginning to weigh your environmental philosophies when selecting a hotel or restaurant. And, might I suggest that green initiatives can even be profitable.

To briefly revisit my position, I believe that there are three key components to a green program for any hospitality or foodservice operation. First, there are the operational practices and decisions. Second, there are the building related practices which have been developed by other industries and which can be readily adopted. And finally, there are the initiatives, both operational and building related, which are specific to the hospitality industry. These are programs and practices that we must develop – because no one knows our industry better than we do. In the first installment, I explored some simple operational initiatives. This time, I want to explore initiatives related to the building and physical infrastructure.

No Need to Reinvent The Wheel

going-green_lightbulbNearly every restaurant and hotel has at least one thing in common – they are housed in a physical structure, a building of some sort. Fortunately, there are experts who have been working for years to develop green building practices which consider the environmental impact of the initial construction phase as well as the upkeep and maintenance throughout the building’s life cycle. These guidelines are the result of countless hours of work and research which can be readily adopted by the hospitality industry. There is even an accreditation that has been established for professionals who are skilled in the specific art of helping to create environmentally friendly and sustainable buildings called LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

Green initiatives that have already been established for other building types can be implemented for both new construction and renovation projects. Below are just a few examples of green building practices that any foodservice or hospitality facility can implement.

Please note, however, that there are many others which can be found both on-line and in printed literature.

  • Selection and use of energy efficient appliances
  • Use of sustainable building materials
  • Use of building materials that are derived from recycling of other products
  • Construction using materials that use reduced or no toxic chemicals in fabrication
  • Use of energy efficient light bulbs, such as compact fluorescent bulbs
  • Implementation of energy management systems that lower energy usage, especially during off-peal periods
  • Use of water conserving devices

Taking the Next Step

While the implementation of general green building practices is a great first step, to rely solely on these existing initiatives for foodservice and hospitality facilities would, in my opinion, be a half-hearted effort. Our buildings are unique. Specifically, per square foot (or square meter), commercial kitchens are one of the highest ranking users of energy. Consider that according to the Green Restaurant Association’s “A Guide to Creating Environmentally Sustainable Restaurants and Kitchens,” the restaurant industry accounts for a disproportionate one-third of all retail energy use in the United States. The same guide also indicates that restaurants produce an average of 50,000 pounds of garbage per year, of which 95% could be recycled or composted, and use nearly 300,000 gallons of water annually.

It is my belief that we need to begin looking at commercial kitchens in a completely different way – through green colored lenses, if you will.

We need to evaluate the kitchen as a complete system, carefully scrutinizing what is going in and what is coming out of our establishments. Because our operations are so distinctive, we cannot simply rely on others to develop a system specific to our needs. We know hospitality operations better than anyone else. It is our responsibility to develop our own industry-specific green practices. We must take the initiative, and we need to do it now.