As public and private pressure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions increases across industries, restaurants face several challenges to create more sustainable operations. Gas equipment is the norm in many kitchens and cannot easily be replaced with a cleaner energy source, razor-thin margins don’t allow for major capital investment projects, and many restaurants are still recouping from the impact Covid-19 had on their business. Improving indoor air quality and airflow to get customers back while keeping staff and guests experience a top priority.
But it’s critical to get a handle on your sustainability goals and develop a realistic plan to achieve them. This blog is meant to be used as a guide to help restaurant owners and facility managers get on the right path to creating a decarbonization (decarb) plan that will help to meet the goals of today and set the restaurant up for long-term energy and cost savings, as well as increased operational resiliency, well into the future.
Let’s start with some definitions
When it comes to the sustainability space there are a ton of terms and acronyms that can get confusing. Word choice and clarity matter to ensure everyone is aligned with what you’d like to accomplish.
- Greenhouse gasses (GHG) are the gasses that trap heat in the atmosphere, for example, methane, CFCs, and H2O.
- Carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) includes CO2 and other greenhouse gasses.
- Decarbonization is any process that removes carbon from the atmosphere or prevents carbon from being emitted.
- Carbon neutral is when GHG released into the atmosphere is equal to GHG removed from the atmosphere.
- Global warming potential (GWP) is the degree to which a gas traps heat in the atmosphere, indexed relative to Co2, which has a GWP of 1.
Generally speaking, there are two types of emission sources:
Direct emissions are related to onsite processes, i.e. fossil fuels used for heating and cooling or refrigerant management.
Indirect emissions are related to off-site electricity production.
By looking at efficiency options that impact both direct and indirect emissions, you’ll identify the various levers you can pull to develop a decarbonization plan best suited for your facility.
3 Steps to Successfully Decarbonize your Restaurant
Step 1: Understand where the decarb initiative is coming from to determine appropriate goals for each location in your portfolio
You’re likely feeling the pressure to become a more sustainable operation from multiple sources. And it’s important to understand the nuances of each so that you know what emission reduction goals you’re accountable to meet.
Policy & Regulatory
There is no shortage of regulations aiming to help achieve a more sustainable future. From overarching policies like the Paris Agreement to nationwide goals like the Department of Energy’s 2023 efficiency requirements for residential and commercial HVAC equipment to varying local policies and regulations across the U.S. Making sense of the complex weave of regulations that impact each of your restaurant facilities can be overwhelming. Coordinate with experts to help you navigate the regulatory landscape, so you have clear guidance on emissions requirements across your portfolio of restaurants.
With climate change growing in importance in the minds of everyday Americans, people increasingly expect businesses to operate responsibly and ethically. More and more customers consider the environmental practices of their favorite brands and employees are demanding responsibility from their employers.
Because of this increase in public pressure, investors are also under the microscope to ensure that the businesses they invest in have emission reduction plans in place. In addition, franchisee restaurants have a unique stakeholder in that the corporate brand will often make emission reduction goals that the franchisees are then responsible for meeting.
Step 2: Determine your current emissions baseline
To understand where you want to take your business in the future, you must first get a baseline understanding of your current energy and emissions landscape. Getting honest about your current carbon footprint provides a realistic view of how to build a realistic and effective decarbonization strategy.