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4 ways restaurants are growing greener

A recent survey from the National Restaurant Association examines operators' sustainable practices.

Restaurant operators across the industry are increasingly implementing sustainable practices, whether that means energy-efficient equipment, recycling packaging and composting kitchen waste, and designing menus with ingredients that leave a lighter footprint.

A recent survey by the National Restaurant Association examines just how operators are working towards a greener planet. Here are four key points:

Energy-efficient equipment is standard. About eight in 10 surveyed operators said they use energy-efficient lighting, six in 10 said they use programmable HVAC thermostats, four in 10 reported using refrigerators and freezers with an Energy Star rating, and six in 10 use on/off scheduling for kitchen equipment. Also gaining ground is water savings through the installation of low-flow toilets, for instance.

Recycling and packaging are priorities. Most of the surveyed operators source some packaging made from recycled or compostable materials. Two-thirds said they recycle cardboard and paper, as well as fats, oils and grease. Independent operators reported higher rates of recycling than restaurant chains or franchises.

Keeping an eye on food waste. Half of surveyed operators track how much food waste they create, and about one in five donates leftover food to charities. However, concerns over liability hamper some would-be donators: More than half of those who don’t donate leftover food cited liability as the reason. More than 10 percent compost food waste.

Sustainability is on the menu. Local sourcing and sustainability are on chefs’ minds. The NRA’s latest “What’s Hot” report, which surveyed 700 chefs, cited sustainability and local sourcing as top menu trends. It all goes hand in hand with greater consumer demand for transparency in sourcing ingredients.

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