BY KATHLEEN SEELYE, FFCSI
One of the points stressed in the opening article of this series was that applying "green" practices to foodservice planning, construction, equipment selection and operations can deliver a diverse array of benefits.
For example, green facilities will typically feature extensive natural light, clear and comfortable acoustics, better indoor air quality and more comfortable temperature and humidity levels.
Fortunately, there are now new ways for operators to acquire financial support to introduce green facilities and operations. Sources include their own organizations, local government agencies and public utility companies. In the college segment, for example, growing numbers of administrators are allocating monies specifically to initiate green planning and facility operations.
State and municipal governments in Pennsylvania, California and Illinois, among others, are now establishing energy-efficiency and water-usage standards for kitchen equipment, and offering cash re-bates to foodservice operators who switch to the most cost-effective (often Energy Star-rated) models.
In addition, many water, gas and electric utility companies nationwide are looking to offer payments to foodservices that replace high resource users with more efficient examples. This sort of financial support has not been available until very recently but is becoming more common even as you read this.
There are other kinds of incentives as well, and many foodservices will also find it beneficial to initiate sustainable practices for the savings they result in directly. One example of this is the age-old practice of composting.
Today, operators can cut garbage disposal fees by up to 50% by composting both pre-and post-consumer food waste. In particular, vermicomposting, which involves enriching farm fields with compost infused with red worm castings, produces growing conditions favorable to sustainable organic agriculture.
Other benefits include reducing the amount of solid-waste land-fill required in the U.S. every year and cutting your own garbage and haulage costs substantially. Increased employee morale (caused by making a positive contribution to the quality of community life) and an enhanced reputation for social responsibility among customers and colleagues are further desirable "byproducts" created by the initiation of composting programs.
One way to initiate such a program is to engage the services of a commercial composting company. That way, you can limit your staff's involvement to separating out compostable waste into compostable garbage bags. Once that's done, compost companies will arrange pick-up schedules of the bagged waste for a fixed fee.
A more ambitious approach, feasible where open green-and brown-field spaces are available, is for a foodservice to create and maintain its own composting program.
At Middlebury College in Vermont, for instance, some half-dozen passive-aerated composting systems are now generating recycled organic matter that is being used for soil amendment and fertilizer. Each composting system takes only 60 to 75 days to produce useful materials and the program is now saving Middlebury several hundred thousand dollars a year.
Because compost-enriched fields require little or no chemical fertilizers and tend to resist nutrient depletion longer, they are particularly well-suited to organic farming. As evidenced by sales at supermarkets, gourmet shops and restaurants across the nation, organically grown items are finding growing acceptance among consumers. This, in turn, is creating a market for more organic "micro-farms" seeking to sell their products to local operations and food retailers.
Composting programs give food-service operators a chance to develop symbiotic relationships with such growers by providing them with a source of compost and in turn purchasing items from their harvests.
If an operation chooses to take this route, it will usually need to install additional dry and refrigerated storage to accommodate farmers' or brokers' shipments and dedicate more staff hours to cleaning and prepping organically grown greens.
As our firm has become more involved in helping operators implement green foodservice operation practices, we have compiled a short list of guidelines we call "Ricca's Green Thumb."
Our first recommendation is to start green program implementations by identifying and replacing energy-guzzling equipment with more efficient models. That move leads to our second recommendation— that operators insist on Energy Star ratings for all new equipment.
Our third suggestion is to invest in "cool" technologies that integrate foodservice operations with data and building management systems. Our fourth recommendation is that operators consider equipment's life-cycle costs as a simultaneous way to control long-term operating expenses and limit environmental impacts.
Finally, we advise the inclusion of re-used and recycled materials in all applicable areas of facility construction and décor. We'll take a final look at some of these issues in the final article of this series.
Kathleen Seelye, FFCSI, is President of Denver-based Ricca-Newmark Design. You can reach her at email@example.com