In recognition of Earth Day on April 22, the National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) Conserve program is encouraging restaurant operators to take simple sustainability steps that can have a significant impact on their environmental footprints and their bottom lines.

Conserve’s Earth Day action tips for restaurants:

  1. Create a startup and shutdown schedule
  2. Fix leaky sinks
  3. Donate leftover food

“The three solutions we’ve outlined for Earth Day really are simple ‘first steps’ that can help an operator to begin a longer sustainability journey,” says Laura Abshire, NRA director of sustainability policy.

To help restaurants reduce overall energy use, Conserve is offering a free startup and shutdown schedule, which helps operators ensure kitchen equipment and house lights are only used when necessary. Shari’s Café & Pies, a chain with 100 locations across the Pacific Northwest, recently implemented this similar strategy and has saved $4,145 per year per location.

“If you have a car, do you start it up and let it idle for hours before you drive it? That would be a senseless waste of gasoline and wear on your engine,” says Jeff Clark, Conserve Program director. “The same logic can and should be applied to kitchen equipment.”

In the area of water, Conserve is advising an even simpler solution: fix leaky sinks. A seemingly insignificant drip easily adds up to tens of thousands of gallons each year. Between heating, water, and sewage fees, that can cost an operator hundreds of dollars.

“If you have a dripping faucet, fix it—today. Otherwise, you’re pouring money down the drain—literally,” Clark says.  “While energy, water and sewer costs vary, a medium hot water drip can easily cost $300 per year.”

Finally, Conserve is encouraging operators to donate leftover food. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, more food reaches landfills than other type of municipal solid waste. It is estimated that 25–40 percent of the food that is grown, processed and transported in the United States will never be consumed.

The NRA has partnered with Food Donation Connection, a nonprofit that helps link restaurants with charitable organizations and offers tips for donating food.

“With millions of Americans receiving food assistance, donating food is a win-win by helping those in need and by helping the environment by diverting waste from landfills,” Abshire says.

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