Interested in working towards a greener future, but don't know your CFLs from your biomass heating? To conclude our Green Month, we've asked four leading environmental bodies for some practical short- and long-term ways that hospitality operators can make ecological progress. Rosie Birkett reports
Caterer‘s exclusive research at the start of Green Month initially seemed promising: 44% of our readers felt that their businesses were already as green as they could be.
But other answers painted a different picture. More than 30% of respondents admitted that they had never had an energy audit a meagre 17% recycle food waste and 30% of hospitality businesses still have no sustainability policy.
While green considerations may not top your priority list as we battle with recession, running your business more efficiently in terms of waste, energy and ethical sourcing could save your business money as well as earning you green street cred.
But what can be done in practical terms? What short-term action can be taken, and how can the hospitality industry work towards a greener future in the medium to long term?
To give you some ideas, and to mark the end of our Green Month, we've put those questions to four of the UK's leading environmental bodies. Here's what they said:
- Don't rinse or defrost food under running water. Use a two-sink system for rinsing, and defrost at room temperature or in a fridge. This will use less water.
- Turn off unnecessary lighting overnight and in bar areas, conference areas and on whole floors that are used intermittently. Turn off TVs and PC monitors when not in use.
- Replace your light bulbs. Every 100W incandescent light replaced with an 18W energy-efficient compact fluorescent light (CFL) will save you £10 a year, including the cost of the light bulb.
- Serve iced water in jugs, rather than bottled water.
- Install water-saving devices in cisterns. These can save up to 1.5 litres each time the toilet is flushed and can be installed at very low cost - with instant payback.
- Think about the goods you are using. Ask your suppliers for products that come with less packaging buy materials with recycled content and order minimally packaged products.
- Dispose of waste carefully. Install separate bin systems in offices, kitchens and bars to segregate your waste for recycling.
- Train your staff to be greener. Organise training and brain-storming sessions. Some hotels have achieved savings of 10% on their energy bills after implementing proper staff training.
- Record and then display water and energy information on staff notice boards, and compare consumption with the same period for the previous year. Donating a percentage of savings to a social fund or charity is a great way to encourage participation.
- Develop more seasonal menus and support local food suppliers to promote local produce and reduce food miles. Request that produce is delivered in returnable crates to reduce packaging and waste.
Considerate Hoteliers Association
- If you have achieved great things on the environmental front, then shout about it. Turn your hard work into a marketing tool and unique selling point for your business.
- Reduce your waste. It's not just about recycling the waste you have already accumulated. Much of it is created by excessive packaging, so make more considered purchases.
- Lobby the Government and your local MP about supporting domestic tourism. There is much work to be done in this area - especially in the lead-up to the 2012 Olympics.
- Work with other local hoteliers to improve your corporate social responsibility (CSR) and make your destination more attractive.
- Enter for the Considerate Hotel of the Year award (entry closing date, 31 January 2009).
- Lobby the Government about improving waste disposal with clear and universal regulations. There are good and bad authorities when it comes to collecting domestic and commercial waste.
- Invest in renewable energy. The huge price rises we're experiencing aren't going to go away, and adopting renewable energy facilities will have a direct effect on your business. The Low Carbon Building Programme is a useful Government-funded scheme.
- If you are extending, use sustainable building practices. Installing eco-friendly and renewable energy systems at this stage will save money, rather than doing it later as an afterthought. Grants are available for this, and planners look upon it favourably.
- Invest in your local area. With the 2012 Olympics just around the corner, the UK will benefit from increased visitor numbers for some time. If people like what they experience, then they are likely to return.
- Join the Considerate Hoteliers Association. www.consideratehoteliers.com
The Carbon Trust
- Investigate your heating systems. Walk around your building at different times of day and each season, to see how and when the heating and cooling systems work.
- Don't waste energy on lighting. Switch off all non-essential lighting out of hours, and install timers to help with this.
- Ensure room and building thermostats are set correctly increase the set temperature for cooling and reduce it for heating.
- Make the most of your available lighting. Establish a basic lighting maintenance programme to keep lights and windows clean.
- Raise kitchen staff awareness by appointing "energy champions". Label equipment with minimum warm-up times, keep fridge and freezer doors shut, and use correctly sized equipment. Check that your refrigeration equipment does not obstruct air flow and that its ventilation grills are kept free of dust and dirt.
- Develop a company policy that links mid- to long-term emission-reduction targets with operations, procurement and maintenance departments.
- Monitor your energy consumption data by installing a low-cost meter, and make changes based on that information.
- Install or improve controls to ensure the best use of heating, ventilation and air-con systems. A building management system could also enable zoning of areas to fit in with changing occupancy requirements.
- Try to include low-carbon solutions in refurbishment and fit-out specifications. Occupancy sensors and low-energy light fittings are key, as are double-glazing, insulation, natural daylighting and passive ventilation.
- Look at alternative methods of sourcing heat and hot water, such as biomass heating, ground-source heat pumps and solar thermal options. Consider other types of on-site low-carbon electricity supply, such as solar photovoltaic or micro-wind.
Catering for a Sustainable Future
- Make a senior member of the managerial staff responsible for energy efficiency and sustainability, and train staff, suppliers and customers about green issues.
- Get waste generated by the food service operation under control via a "reduce, reuse, recycle" policy. On average, 75% of waste can now be recycled, including food waste.
- Monitor energy and waste usage by instigating a usage-reduction policy.
- Consider the equipment and energy being used to deliver diners' requirements. For example, if you require 100 chops, chips and peas, think about whether you use a salamander, fryer and boiling table, or the combination oven.
- Keep equipment clean and well maintained so that it operates to its maximum efficiency.
- When buying equipment, don't look only at price, but also take into account the cleaning, energy, water and labour consumables alongside the potential maintenance costs for its expected life span.
- Consider a secondary refrigeration system. This creates energy savings of, on average, more than 25% through improving performance and life expectancy of equipment.
- Use demand-based ventilation systems in the kitchen areas, which increase and decrease in line with kitchen usage. Use natural ventilation systems in public areas to conserve energy.
- Use heat recovery from ventilation extraction, refrigeration and dishwashing systems to supplement the hot water.
- Apply value engineering with whole-life-cycle costs to green technologies when building or refurbishing.