People, planet, profit, plate – your restaurant sustainability checklist

By Linda Jackson on 11 October 2017

Almost everywhere we go, we hear the same message: small changes and efforts can make a big difference! Here are 15 to inspire you!

  1. Go local. It’s not possible for everyone all the time. But when it is possible, support your local farmers. You could even grow your own:consider a roof-top garden or interior/exterior window boxes for small plants and herbs. Sponsoring a community garden project is a win-win for both.
  2. Take your team to visit a farmer – it’s a good exercise in remembering that each piece of food has a story, and a person behind it. (And you can bring back extra produce for a special family meal.)
  3. Know your seafood.The criteria for evaluating the sustainability of seafood differ from those for agriculture. Check the SASSI website.
  4. Not all bottled water is created equal – some companies are working to reduce and offset their carbon footprint through a number of innovative measures. And some of the biggest names in the restaurant world are moving away from water bottled out of house. In-house filtration systems offer a number of options – including in-house sparkling water! 
  5. Choose 1 day per quarter, or 1 per month, to devote a morning to community service:send staff to a soup kitchen, bring local kids into the kitchen, teach the kitchen staff of the local school a few tricks, or spend a few hours working in the sun at a community garden.
  1. The kitchen equipment of the future is green!Major equipment producers, are developing special initiatives to investigate and develop greener, cleaner, energy-smart machines (that also save you money in the long run).
  2. Shut down the computer and POS systems when you leave at night.When the computer system is on, the juice keeps flowing – shutting it down can save significant energy over the course of a year. 
  3. Check the seals on your walk-in– if they’re not kept clean and tight, warm air can seep in, making the fridge work harder to stay cool. 
  4. Compact fluorescent bulbs use 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs – and CFLs last 10 times longer, giving them the environmental and economic advantage.  
  5. Look into solar thermal panels to heat your water.It’s worth the admin effort to collect your rebate.
  1. Recycle your fryer oil– there are biofuel companies across the country that will pick it up and convert it. Make sure you use a reputable collector to avoid it getting back into the food industry.
  2. Swap white toilet paper, c-folds, and restroom paper towels for products made of chlorine-free unbleached, recycled paper.
  3. Compost food waste– even high-volume establishments can make this happen. Keep separate cans for all food-based waste, and dump it in a compost bin out back. A common misconception about compost is that it smells bad – not true! 
  4. Recycle! Be strict about kitchen and bar staff recycling glass and plastic receptacles.Recycle cardboard and wood boxes used for produce, and any newspapers or magazines sent to the restaurant. 
  5. Ice = water + energy. Don’t waste it! Don’t automatically refill ice bins – wait until they truly get low, and only add as much as you need to get through the crush. Ice is expensive to produce, both in terms of money and resources. 


Go on - you can do it. Every little bit is a bit more than before.