Thank you for tuning in for FE&S’ Jan. 31 Webcast Sustainable Foodservice, hosted by Editor in Chief Joe Carbonara, featuring Greg Christian of Beyond Green: Sustainable Food Partners and Richard Young of the Food Service Technology Center.
Below please find the answers to a handful of questions our panelists were unable to answer during the course of the webcast. Also, we invite you to check out the sustainability related blogs offered by Beyond Green: Sustainable Food Partners and the Food Service Technology Center.
What can you tell us about onsite food digesters, pulpers, and composting machines that are being developed? Do these represent a good option and are they worth the money?
Greg: Compost with a farmer. To me it’s the best way. I would guess that sending food scraps to waste water management will not be allowed in 10 years.
What are three quick wins for university dining in energy or water?
Greg: First, develop an environmental management plan that spans five years and generates results that you can measure. Second, place your kitchens on a meter separate from other parts of the operation. Doing so will allow you to know your electricity and gas usage in the kitchen instead of having it lumped in with other parts of the building. Right now, those levels are not measured so, chances are, you have no idea how much the kitchen consumes. Third, change the lights to more energy-efficient units.
Richard: First, install low-flow pre-rinse spray valves in the dishroom. Second, replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps or LED lamps in exhaust hoods, walk-ins, offices, store rooms, break rooms, bathrooms, and other basic work-horse lighting applications. Look for Energy Star-rated lamps and the Lighting Facts label on LED lamps. Finally, replace shaded pole motors on walk-in evaporator and condenser fans with Electronically Commutated Motors (ECM).
(Editor’s note: To learn how one chain operator reduced energy consumption by doing this, check out Saving Energy Can Be Cool.)
How do operators decide the best sustainable route to take? For example, in warewashing, what is more sustainable: high temp machines, low temp machines or no warewashing at all i.e., using biodegradables?
Richard: Typically, it is more sustainable to have reusable dishware and a warewasher than it is to use disposable products — even if they are biodegradable. It also typically costs less in the long run. The choice of high-temp vs. low-temp warewashers often comes down to ownership or rental. A high-temp machine will perform better and usually consume less water while a low-temp will potentially use less energy but the dishes exiting the machine take longer to dry. Regardless of temp-type, choose a water efficient machine from the Energy Star list. Here is an online calculator that can help you analyze the life-cycle cost of your dishmachine.
(Editor’s Note: For additional information, check out Specifying Green Disposables.)
What is the best way to reach out to operators who are looking for energy efficient equipment? Websites? Consultants? Are there energy efficiency certifications in the industry that are well known?
Richard: The easiest way to find efficiency food service equipment is to consult the Energy Star list and the California Energy Wise list. All the appliances on the California Energy Wise list have been third-party lab tested by one of the California food service energy centers including the PG&E Food Service Technology Center, the Energy Resource Center at Southern California Gas and the Foodservice Technology Center at Southern California Edison.
How do you reach out to the busy people in the restaurants to get them to try sustainable practices?
Greg: This is very, very hard, and I have had no luck at this.
Richard: Start small and simple and go a step at a time. You can quantify savings from efficient lighting or pre-rinse spray valves fairly easily. Then, reinvest those savings in bigger, more costly technologies like efficient appliances. If you have an efficiency “savings account” and knowledge of where to get efficient appliances, then you can find and afford the high-efficiency equipment and will end up thousands of dollars ahead over the lifespan of that equipment. Motivate operators to learn about efficiency by reminding them that their competition in the chain world is definitely moving toward more efficient operations.
What, other than specifying Energy Star-rated equipment and water saving equipment, can designers do to create a more sustainable kitchen?
Greg: The biggest challenge an operator can face is transitioning from cooking packaged or pre-processed food to more scratch cooking. Before making this transition, it is important to ensure the operation has the right size and type of refrigeration and enough cooking capacity to handle the switch.
Richard: Kitchen ventilation systems are big energy users and are good candidates for optimized, efficient design and operations. Hot water systems are also big energy users with great potential for both energy and water savings.
Are imported refrigerators and freezers being Energy Star rated?
Richard: Yes, the Energy Star list contains several off-shore manufacturers from around the world.
What is the role of employee education in sustainable foodservice and how do you measure the return on the investment in employee sustainability education?
Greg: This is key because once the staff is trained they will bring new ideas to the table. If you don’t properly educate or train the staff it forever remains a top down battle. You will get way more done when staff is on board so be sure to document all of your sustainability tasks and efforts in the employee manual. That way, employees know the game and agree to play it from day one. A common mistake many operators make is hiring a “head of sustainability,” which ultimately creates silos within the company. The sustainability efforts need to be a shared vision and shared responsibilities for them to really succeed.
Richard: There are multiple stories of how employee education was the key to making a sustainable project a success. Typically, sustainability tracks well with workers and they are happy to be part of any program that improves their surroundings. Education is the key to getting buy-in and buy-in is the key to getting results. That includes all levels of staff from the dishwashers to the managers. Sometimes the lowest job-level staffers show the most enthusiasm.
How do you suggest training DSRs? Because that's how most independent operators learn things like this.
Richard: The most direct conduits for this information to reach DSRs are magazine articles, webinars, websites, and especially utility rebate programs.
What are some ways to reuse pasta water?
Greg: Pasta water is something that many operators use only one time. I would use it twice. This reduces water consumption, the amount of energy used to heat new water and lowers sewer costs. So not only is it good for the environment this also can lower operating costs.
You guys talked a little about "green" to go food containers. I am still at a loss: What kinds are really sustainable? You have the to-go ware made from corn, but is that product more environmentally friendly to make compared to the time it takes to breakdown via composting?
Greg: At some point in the future we will put to-go food into people’s own containers. In the meantime, use compostable to-go food containers and educate customers as to where they should dispose of them so these items ultimately get composted. This is a first step toward all ‘real’ food containers.
Joe: In fact, some non-commercial operators, specifically colleges, have a program where customers get a re-usable to-go container when ordering their meal. On their next visit they bring the container back and place it in a special bin, where staff collect them for cleaning and sanitizing. In return, the customer gets a token that allows them to repeat the process. Now this may not be for everyone.
If I am designing for a LEED platinum project, are there products or systems that will contribute to the architect's building certification process?
Richard: Different LEED standards (NC or CI) will treat the kitchen loads differently but there are credits to be gained in the Energy and Atmosphere category for each type of certification. If the project is a commercial interior (CI) then you can gain credits by choosing Energy Star qualified equipment. If the project is a new construction (NC) then you can augment the overall building energy savings with the additional energy savings from efficiency kitchen equipment. Here is a page with some LEED resources.
As a foodservice consultant, is there a way to become LEED certified?
Richard: You can become a LEED AP in one of three categories: new construction (BD&C), commercial interiors (ID&C) and existing buildings (O&M). You can also become a LEED Green Associate, which is a more general category.
Is there a resource/web site that can be used to compare Energy Star equipment with non-Energy Star-rated equipment? You mentioned your website I believe. Where on your site can this information be accessed?
Richard: The life-cycle calculators on the Fishnick.com website are a good way to make that comparison. Most of the calculators have a “base” column, which is the non-efficient appliance and an “Energy Star” column along with a “user input” column. Simply hitting “calculate” and using the default values will give you a good overall idea of energy and dollar savings.
(Editor’s Note: NAFEM also offers a sustainability calculator.)
Sustainable Foodservice Resources