How to… equip your kitchen sustainably

20 January 2012
How to… equip your kitchen sustainably

Restaurants use a lot of energy. The flipside of that is that those businesses that look to address their energy usage head-on can not only do a great deal for the environment, but also save themselves considerable sums of money.

Cooking, ventilation, water heating and refrigeration account for very nearly half of all the energy used in restaurants. But the busy nature of a restaurant kitchen means energy efficiency can easily slip off the agenda.

With the common assumption that you can only make a difference by splashing out on some big ticket items, any change gets left on the back burner (which is not very sustainable).

It's true to say that energy-efficient kitchen equipment can require a major outlay, but more often than not these purchases will be a classic example of invest to save. In many kitchens straightforward maintenance of major appliances would make a huge difference. For instance, a fridge or freezer condenser blocked with dirt will use 25% more energy.

And if you do decide to take the plunge and buy some new equipment, help is at hand in the form of a number of financial incentives like the Enhanced Capital Allowance scheme, providing tax relief on energy efficient equipment and Carbon Trust Energy Efficient loans.

As with many sustainable actions it's often hard to know where to start, but a simple energy audit that will tell you which appliances are costing you the most could be a good first step towards helping you decide on which changes to make.

At the Michelin-starred Purnell's in Birmingham, sustainability has always been high on the agenda. The decision to switch to induction hobs produced a number of benefits over and above the positive environmental impact.

David Taylor, junior sous chef, says the hobs have proved much more reliable and easier to clean, as well as being considerably more energy efficient and cheaper to run than their gas predecessors.

He says: "They did take a bit of getting used to, but we've had them for about a year now and they have made an amazing difference to the working conditions in the kitchen, too. In the summer, the temperature in the kitchen used to get up to 36 or 37° with the burners on. Now because the induction hobs reflect the heat, it only gets up to about 28°. That also means we are saving electricity by using the extractors a lot less."

Purnell's have also put in LED lights throughout the kitchen and restaurant, cutting their carbon emissions by 90% in the process.

five ways to reduce energy use in the kitchen
1 Monitor and service your existing equipment. Ensure you regularly clean your fridge and freezer condenser
2 Carry out a simple energy audit and assess where you can make savings, then re-audit six to 12 months after you've implemented changes
3 Consider financial incentives if you need to invest in major new equipment
4 Identify if your dishwasher is the right size for your service and consider a water-efficient model if buying a new one
5 Enjoy a quick win by fitting energy-efficient LED light bulbs

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