How to Make a Restaurant Environmentally Friendly: 10 Tips & Secrets

The sustainability movement is not just a fad; it’s here to stay. Everyone is getting impacted by it, from private citizens to businesses. As a restaurateur wondering how to make a restaurant environmentally friendly, you’ve come to the right place.

In the article below, I will present the positives of becoming an eco-friendly restaurant and how you can do that both short and long term.

Environmental Sustainability in Restaurants: Why Should Restaurants Go Green?

A green restaurant menu can reduce costs

Implementing green practices in restaurants doesn’t just help the environment – it also helps the restaurant directly. A big part of the impact restaurants have on the environment is related to food waste. Minimizing your food waste also boosts your profits because you’re no longer pouring money down the drain.

Moreover, restaurant sustainability practices like buying eco-friendly restaurant supplies and equipment may seem more expensive at first. Still, they will pay off in the end. They will reduce your electricity, water, and gas bills, making the initial investment worth it.

Customers love the green restaurant concept

In recent years, customers have started to embrace sustainability in restaurants. According to the 2014 Cone Communications Food Issues Trend Tracker, 77% of American consumers agree that sustainability is an essential factor when purchasing food.

Moreover, a 2015 study from the Public Affairs Council quotes customers saying businesses should support the public good. If you are serious about your sustainability practices and you advertise them to your restaurant customers, they’re more likely to want to dine with you.

Green restaurants help save the planet

Ultimately, why should you learn how to make a restaurant environmentally friendly? For the planet we all live on. There are more than 1 million restaurants in the United States alone. Each year, these restaurants consume thousands of gallons of water, produce tons of carbon dioxide and thousands of pounds of waste.

At this rate, and with more restaurants opening every year, the impact they have on the environment is impossible to neglect. However, by implementing a green restaurant concept, you can help make a difference in the world.

How to Make a Restaurant Environmentally Friendly: 10 Sustainable Practices in Restaurants

1. Introduce seasonal menus

An eco-friendly restaurant needs to learn the value of seasonal menus and buying local ingredients. The best way to create a sustainable restaurant menu is to use produce only when they’re in season.

The benefits of a seasonal restaurant menu are countless. You will constantly offer customers something new. Plus, the ingredients will be cheaper, fresher, and tastier, and you will spend less money on them.

Moreover, if you buy all your ingredients locally, you help reduce carbon emissions from transporting produce from across the country, thus lowering your carbon footprint.

You can even try to grow your own ingredients if you have a back garden or make your own sauces using fresh, organic ingredients you buy from local producers. Customers love authenticity when it comes to food.

2. Implement eco-friendly restaurant design ideas

Believe it or not, design is also a big part of sustainability for businesses like restaurants. When you’re designing or redesigning your restaurant, there are a few things you can do to ensure a more eco-friendly design:

  • Use LED lights as much as possible;
  • Use motion sensor lights in the bathrooms;
  • Take out the TVs if they’re not 100% necessary (if you own a sports bar, for instance, that is not an option);
  • Add big windows that let in sunlight and air to reduce lightning and cooling costs;
  • Install awnings outside the building to keep heat out during the summer;
  • Buy furniture made of recycled materials, especially wood;
  • Print your menu on recycled paper;
  • Use paper napkins that can be recycled.

3. Use eco-friendly food containers

If you’re also doing takeout and delivery, eco-friendly takeout containers are a must-have. Foam containers are not the best for the environment, but luckily there are options. One such option is containers made from bagasse, which are compostable, biodegradable, and microwave-safe.

Containers made of wood or polylactic acid (PLA) are also an option. The latter is more similar to plastic, except it’s compostable and biodegradable. Some restaurants also prefer to-go containers made of lined or bamboo paper. The choice is up to you.

If you’re using plastic straws for takeaway or in-restaurant, consider switching to eco-friendly alternatives like paper or PLA. This is the trend anyway, as there is talk of banning plastic straws altogether in some cities.

4. Buy energy-efficient equipment

You can learn how to make a restaurant environmentally friendly by looking up energy-efficient appliances and equipment. They are more expensive initially, but they consume less. They help you reduce energy consumption in the long run.

Also, when you have to replace something, consider purchasing it second-hand. You will find plenty of restaurant equipment that was barely used but is still considerably less expensive than a brand-new one.

If you want to make sure you’re buying energy-efficient appliances, check whether they have the Energy Star logo. This is proof that they use less energy but still perform excellently.

5. Recycle and compost

Recycling is one of the most popular and widespread ways of being more environmentally conscious. Whether you are recycling things yourself or sorting your waste and sending it to be recycled, you are still making a difference.

Not to mention recycling increases efficiency, decreases energy consumption, and actually saves you money. Learn how to recycle glass bottles, wooden crates, cardboard boxes, and any other materials you’re using in your day-to-day operations.

Composting is another sustainable strategy you can use as a restaurant owner. Create a composting barrel where you dump all your food waste and then use that to feed the soil. It may sound complicated for a beginner, but it’s really not. 

6. Purchase eco-friendly cleaning products

If you own a sustainable cafe or restaurant, you probably know better than to use cleaning products that damage the environment. It’s true, most eco-friendly cleaning products are more expensive than regular ones, but you can find some gems if you look closely enough.

First, you need to understand that regular cleaning products contain harsh and harmful chemicals that pollute the water and air. On the other end, environmentally friendly cleaning products are free of chemicals, and they’re also better for your health.

But how can you know a cleaning product is eco-friendly? Look for labels like Greenguard, Green Seal, Design for the Environment, Chlorine Free Products Association, or Environmental Choice Program.

7. Get a green restaurant certification

Did you know there is such a thing as the Green Restaurant Association? In fact, they’ve been around since 1990. They are an international nonprofit organization that helps restaurants turn their business green. They also offer a certification that will make you an official green restaurant.

Consider joining them if you feel like you need help with your sustainability practices. Not to mention, having a green certification will go a long way in persuading your customers that you are doing the right thing for the planet.

8. Use digital solutions

Digital solutions are already slowly replacing paper in the foodservice sector. For example, you can use POS systems that provide digital receipts now or QR codes for dine-in instead of traditional menus.

You can also switch your loyalty program to digital-only through an app or a digital card instead of the traditional punch cards or plastic cards.

Nowadays, most marketing efforts are online too. Instead of advertising on paper, do it through your website and social media.

9. Reduce water usage

Water conservation is another thing you should pay attention to when learning how to make a restaurant environmentally friendly. Even a leaky faucet can cause you to lose a ton of money in the long run.

There are other tricks you can use to reduce the amount of water you consume:

  • Wait and run the dishwasher when it’s full;
  • Use water-saving toilets;
  • Install low-flow faucets or motion-sensor taps;
  • Replace bottled water with a filtration system;
  • Only bring water to customers who specifically request it;
  • Use solar panels for water heating;
  • Capture rainwater for your garden.

10. Minimize food waste

Last but definitely not least, another way to make your restaurant more environmentally friendly is to minimize your food waste. Monitor expiration dates of perishable items and use them first using the FIFO (first-in, first-out) method.

Consider using an automated inventory system to keep track of these things more easily. And when food waste starts to become inevitable, and you know you can’t use all the ingredients before they go bad, donate that surplus to local shelters.

To avoid food waste even further, consider shrinking your portions if you notice most customers leave a lot of food on their plates.

How to Let People Know Your Restaurant is Environmentally Friendly

Now that you’ve learned how to make a restaurant environmentally friendly, it’s time to start telling people about yours. Having an eco-friendly restaurant is excellent press, so don’t be shy about advertising it:

  • Announce it on your website: add an eco-friendly badge to your website cover photo and create a page dedicated to talking about your green initiatives.
  • Share your progress on social media: social media is excellent for keeping customers updated on small green steps you are taking, like installing a composting bin or switching to LED lighting.
  • Display any certifications on your front door: let passersby know your restaurant is green-certified by proudly displaying your certificate.
  • Train your staff to inform customers about this: people who casually visit your restaurant and don’t know a lot about it might be happy to find out you are eco-friendly. A simple “Have you heard our establishment has been paper-free for six months?” can do the trick.
  • Participate in local environmental events: inquire about events with an environmental cause happening in your area and see if you can participate. That would be excellent publicity for you.

Final Words

Learning how to make a restaurant environmentally friendly can be an uphill battle if you don’t know anything about the process. Luckily, the tips and tricks above can help you get started on a solid basis. Implement them, and you will notice a difference in your day-to-day operations and how customers will react to your business.