6 ways restaurants can reduce their environmental impact

The restaurant industry struggles to meet consumers’ sustainability standards because of conventional management patterns.


As eco-consciousness expands across the U.S., business owners search for emission and municipal solid waste (MSW) reduction methods. The restaurant industry struggles to meet consumers’ sustainability standards because of conventional management patterns. In the past, eateries used plastic containers, energy-intensive kitchen appliances and outsourced ingredients to meet customers’ needs.

Evolving demands move eateries towards an eco-friendlier path. Today, businesses invest in green appliances, plastic-free packages, compositing programs and more. There are six significant ways restaurants can reduce their environmental impact, improving conservation and climate change prevention efforts.

Environmental Challenges in the Restaurant Industry

Before exploring the different methods of sustainability, we must assess the environmental challenges within the restaurant industry. Lighting, heating, air conditioning, ventilation and electric cooking appliances powered by fossil fuels produce greenhouse gas emissions. Nearly 60% of the U.S. power supply derives from fossil fuels.

During combustion, fossil fuels release air pollutants into the atmosphere, altering its composition. Earth relies on the composition’s consistency to maintain life-sufficient temperatures on the surface. Naturally, the atmosphere collects solar radiation, generates heat, warms Earth’s surface, absorbs additional energy and sends it to space.

When greenhouse gases invade the environment, they trap excess energy for extended periods, producing more heat. They also have a higher sunlight-to-heat conversion rate, raising Earth’s temperature over time. Restaurant emissions also derive from plastic packages and containers.

A 0.53-quart plastic bottle releases roughly 82.8 grams of greenhouse gas emissions. When restaurants use plastic to-go containers, utensils, cups and more, they contribute to manufacturing emissions and MSW challenges. Poor waste management processes cause single-use plastics to reach landfills.

It takes a small plastic straw nearly 200 years to decompose. If a restaurant only provides single-use straws, they significantly decrease landfill space over time. They also contribute to microplastic pollution in aquatic ecosystems.

When straws, containers and other forms of plastic end up in the ocean, they degrade into tiny beads. Marine species mistake the beads for food, ingesting them and moving them up the food chain. Fortunately, sustainability enhancing measures limit plastic use within the industry, decreasing ecological degradation.  

1. Ditch the Straws

Restaurants can shrink their carbon footprints and minimize surface and marine waste pollution by ditching single-use plastic straws. Decreasing straw waste can significantly improve aquatic ecosystem conservation because they are one of the ten most frequently found pollution items.

Companies can reduce their MSW pollution by offering paper straws instead of plastic versions. They can also provide reusable straws, cleaning them and using them over again. When eateries eliminate their use of straws, they improve their sustainability and eco-consumer appeal.  

2. Compost

Another significant ecological challenge in the industry derives from food waste. It takes a large quantity of energy, water and resources to develop a sufficient food supply. When produce expires before consumption, all of the resources go to waste.

Restaurants can minimize waste by building a compost on-site or signing up for a scrap collection program. Composting minimizes landfill waste and emissions, reducing surface-level and atmospheric pollution. Scraps additionally increase soil nutrient levels, promoting agricultural development.

3. Use the Yard to Table Method

Businesses can further reduce food and plastic waste when using the yard-to-table method. Owners can plant a vegetable garden or herbs on-site, helping chefs access fresh ingredients without packaging pollution. Individuals can also take the produce they need based on real-time demands, limiting expiration-derived waste.

The yard-to-table method also decreases transportation emissions. When ingredients are available on-site, individuals can gather them on foot. Eliminating container pollution, food waste and emissions can significantly reduce an eatery’s ecological impacts.

4. Install a Rainwater Harvesting System

Outside of food and packaging waste, restaurants contribute to a large quantity of water exploitation. Businesses can enhance their eco-consciousness by installing a rainwater harvesting system. Instead of relying on the conventional water supply, they can regulate their source and uses with the system.

It collects rainwater and snowmelt in barrels, transferring them to a non-potable device or a purification system. After filtration, employees can use the water for cleaning, drinking and more. Reducing resource exploitation may limit a restaurant’s environmental impact.

5. Purchase Energy Efficient Appliances

Eateries can additionally decrease their atmospheric pollution by installing energy-efficient appliances. Energy Star rated devices pull less electricity than conventional versions, helping businesses reduce their emissions and utility costs.

Before installing new appliances, owners can also conduct an energy audit, identifying major loss regions. After assessing the results, they can purchase the more efficient and necessary devices.

6. Practice Meatless Mondays

Restaurants may also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by practicing Meatless Mondays. The development of beef releases high counts of methane into the atmosphere, altering its composition. Methane is a potent gas with 80 times higher heat conversion rate than carbon dioxide.

Business owners can switch meat-filled entrees with plant-based alternatives once a week to lower emissions. They may also invest in fake meat products, offering them as a substitute during the remaining days of the week. Eventually, a restaurant can shrink its carbon footprint by reducing meat sales, enhancing its sustainability.

Voting with Your Dollars

Consumer habits impact the restaurant industry’s practices. Individuals can promote eco-conscious change by demanding sustainable options. You may increase the industry’s eco-friendliness by eating at plastic-free establishments over their less sustainable competitors.

Additionally, consumers can make an impact by bringing their own reusable to-go containers, minimizing their contribution to plastic waste. As more individuals use their containers, they decrease the demand for single-use versions. Over time, small changes can create significant effects. 


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