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                                                 What's Green at Sysco?

                           As stewards of the Earth, it is our responsibility to protect,

                      nurture and build upon the natural resources provided to us. We

                     will continually seek out new ways to grow, harvest and distribute food in a manner that not only preserves and protects the environment, but strengthens our ability to deliver the best possible quality to our customers. In this way, we ensure a healthy future not just for our planet, but for our businesses and end users alike.         Click here to read more!


    Going Green

             Why Operators Should Go Green and Practical Steps for Doing It

Going green is not just the right thing to do; it can benefit your bottom line. In fact, conserving natural resources and reducing waste can reduce restaurant operating costs, which is critical in these challenging times, and being environmentally friendly can be a great way to bring more customers in your door. Sysco has reviewed foodservice industry publications, articles, and best practices in the area of sustainability. The collective wisdom of these sources has been distilled to provide actionable advice.

                                  What’s the Fuss about the Environment?

Certainly every operator has heard something about sustainability and “going green.” As operators are considering environmentally related steps they might take, many operators are asking, “Why should we go green? What are the benefits? How do we do it? What do we do? What resources are available to assist me?”


Why Go Green?

There are many compelling reasons to become more environmentally conscious and to make environmentally focused changes to your operations. The key reasons to go green include:

  • It’s the right thing to do. Our planet has a finite amount of natural resources and many of them are being rapidly consumed. The foodservice industry is a major user of these resources. Just a few examples include:

    • Restaurants account for 33% of all U.S. retail electricity used.

    • The average operation uses 300,000 gallons of water a year.

    • Approximately 100 billion pounds of food is wasted each year; food scraps alone make up almost 12% of all the municipal solid waste generated in the country.

So, reducing the resources that are used is simply the
right thing to do.

  • It can deliver significant cost savings. Reducing the amount of food, electricity, and water that are used can decrease operating expenses. For example, an operator profiled in a December article in the Boston Globe said that composting and recycling costs him 30% less than traditional trash service and replacing one conventional light bulb with a compact fluorescent one can save $35-$45 per year. Because operations often have numerous light bulbs, this savings can add up.

  • It can help attract customers. According to the National Restaurant Association, 62% of adults surveyed say they are likely to choose a restaurant based on how environmentally friendly it is. As a result, operators that go green and that promote their environmental activities can leverage this as a strategy to grow their traffic.

The bottom line is that going green can be good for operators’ bottom line. It is not just a strategy for ardent environmentalists; it is a strategy for savvy business people to decrease operating expenses, increase traffic, and differentiate their operation. As one operator said in a NRA publication, “This is the new way of business for restaurants.”

                                     How to Go Green—Areas of Focus

For new or renovated operations, it is possible to “build green.” For existing operations, it is possible to become greener through approaches that include conserving energy, reducing water usage, and decreasing food


Build Green

If you are opening a new restaurant, thinking about renovations, or just taking notes for future locations, there are several creative ways to keep the environment in mind.


To conserve energy, use natural light whenever possible. This will naturally warm the space and reduce electricity consumption. Kitchens should be designed around energy-efficient appliances and equipment. Rooftops can be painted to reflect sunlight and lower air conditioning costs. An upfront investment in high quality, efficient products will save significant cash down the road.


Also consider using products that contain recycled materials. There are numerous tiles, décors, centerpieces, and light fixtures made from recycled glass. Old wooden doors make great tabletops or hostess stands. Look for restaurant furniture auctions. These events often showcase retro materials, hard-to find novelties, and even antiques.


Finally, be sure to seek out sustainable building materials. Bamboo is harder than most woods and is fast-growing and rapidly renewable. Sisal fiber contains low or zero volatile organic compounds (VOCs). This product safeguards indoor air quality by reducing emissions from paints and adhesives, and minimizes sound transmission within the building. Granite alternatives that are made from recycled newsprint look great and make excellent countertops.

Conserve Energy
Conserving energy is a great way to help the environment and reduce costs. Virtually every restaurant can employ numerous free or inexpensive techniques for cutting back on electricity use. A few examples:

  • Unplug and turn off. When devices that run on electricity are not in use, unplug them. This includes computers, electronics, coffee machines, the POS system, and any small appliance. Turn off lights and cooking hoods when they are not in use. Consider installing motion detectors in storerooms, offices, and restrooms, and set lights on timers.

  • Replace lighting. Replace incandescent light bulbs with longer lasting CFL or LED lights. Don’t forget exit signs—traditional signage can be replaced with LED exit lighting.

  • Clean and maintain. Clean equipment uses energy more efficiently. Regularly dust all appliances, top to bottom. Also perform routine preventive maintenance on HVAC, plumbing, appliances, and major equipment.

Decrease Water Usage
Water usage is another area where restaurants can do their part to help the environment while saving money. Tips include only serving customers water upon request and running dishwashers only when they are full. Opportunities for water conservation exist in all areas of the operation:

  • Kitchen. Turn off the continuous flow used to clean drain trays of the beverage island. Clean the trays only as needed. Reuse water from steam tables to wash down the cooking area. Recycle water where feasible, consistent with state and county requirements. For example, consider recirculating rinse water from the dishwasher to the garbage disposal.

  • Bar. Don’t use running water to melt ice in the sink strainers. Investigate installing automatic shut-off faucets for the bar sink.

  • Maintenance. Check for leaks and turn off any unnecessary flows. Repair dripping faucets and leaking toilets. (A leaky toilet can waste more than 50 gallons of water a day.) Reduce the water used in toilet flushing by adjusting the vacuum flush mechanism or installing toilet tank displacement devices. Switch from wet or steam carpet cleaning methods to dry powder methods and instruct the clean-up crew to use less water for mopping.

Reduce Waste

Today, food waste losses account for up to $30 to $40 billion per year in restaurants and convenience stores. Less than 3% of food waste is currently recovered. Other types of waste occur as well, including waste in beverages, paper products, chemicals, and more. Programs to reduce waste, particularly food waste, can result in both economic and societal benefits.

  • Economic benefits. From an economic perspective, developing a food waste reduction program candecrease disposal fees, lower sewer treatment and electricity costs, and decrease purchasing costs because the restaurant only buys what is needed. The extra food that is present at the end of a shift contributes greatly to the amount of food waste and affects an operation’s food cost percentage.

Using prep sheets that base production on actual sales history and projections, instead of “well, we’ve always made this much,” will help decrease the amount of food leftover, thereby lowering food costs.

  • Societal benefits. Donating food can assist people and animals in need. It can also be used for industrial purposes and composting. (In addition, donations can result in tax deductions).

A good first step in developing a food waste reduction program is conducting a food waste audit. Track and collect data on the types and amounts of each food scrap item. The quality of the food scraps and the estimated generation rate will help determine how to reduce the amount of food waste and divert it for useful purposes.


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has created the Food Waste Recovery Hierarchy to prioritize different methods for reducing surplus food. The levels of this hierarchy are:

  • Source reduction. Based on the outcome of the food waste audit, operators can change their operations to reduce unused food. Operators can also talk with their Sysco Marketing Associate about products that are packaged in ways that can reduce the amount of material being disposed. For example, consider buying products in concentrate form, using refillable condiment bottles, buying shelf-stable food in bulk, or purchasing recycled paper products.

  • Feed people. Unsold or excess food that meets quality and safety standards can be donated to food banks. Many national and local food recovery programs offer free pickups and containers. The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act (Public Law 104-210) protects food donors from legal liability.

  • Feed animals. Determine if local farmers or zoos use food scraps as animal feed. There may also be nearby companies that convert food scraps into animal food products.

  • Industrial uses. Waste oils, fat, and grease can be rendered into a raw material to make biodiesel, soaps, and cosmetics.

  • Composting. Food scraps can be composted either at a composting facility or on-site. Contact your local or state environmental agency to find out more about composting options in your area.

Use of landfills and incineration, which is common today, is the last resort for food, only after the other options have been exhausted.


Become “Certified Green”

One way that operators can demonstrate their environmental commitment is by becoming a Certified Green RestaurantTM. This is a certification offered by the Green Restaurant Association (GRA), a non-profit, national environmental organization.


The GRA has developed environmental standards for restaurants, a points system where operations can earn points in hundreds of different ways for reducing their environmental impact, and a suggested process for becoming Certified Green.


A key step in this process is securing support for going green from an operation’s key financial, marketing, and operational stakeholders. Their support is based on understanding the benefits of having a more environmentally friendly operation.

  • Financial. The key financial issue is understanding the short- and long-term financial impact of operating a more sustainable business. The GRA can help demonstrate how restaurants are saving money through lower gas, oil, water, electricity, and garbage costs.

  • Marketing. Becoming a Certified Green RestaurantTM provides an opportunity for an operator to project a positive image and to appeal to the large segment of society that cares about the environment.

  • Operations and Purchasing. Those with operational and purchasing responsibilities may be concerned that going green will compromise quality or causes purchasing headaches. But once the GRA explains its 18-year- old system of working with vendors to create a smooth change process, fears of operational concerns usually disappear. Those in operations and purchasing can be confident that instead of being a burden to staff, the process of environmental improvement will contribute to positive employee
    morale and higher productivity.

Once a restaurant has the necessary buy-in and support to proceed with becoming green certified, the next step is to develop a strategy for certification. The GRA works with each restaurant to conduct an environmental assessment, and then environmental consulting, implementation, education, certification, and communications.

Involve Employees

In implementing each of these environmental strategies, operators should include their staff in the discussion of what to do and the implementation plans. Ask for their input and assistance in reducing waste and reducing consumption of electricity and water. Involving staff in the decision-making process and rewarding them for good ideas can pay dividends with higher productivity, better morale, lower costs, and less waste.


                                     Resources to Assist You in Going Green

There is a wealth of information and resources to assist operators in the efforts to become more environmentally friendly, and to save money in doing so.


Sysco Can Help
As you work to reduce your restaurant’s carbon footprint, Sysco can provide valuable assistance. Sysco iCare partners offer solutions that help environmentally minded business owners. These partners include:

  • Green Restaurant Association (www.dinegreen.com). The Green Restaurant Association (GRA), which is described in more detail in the previous section, uses environmental consulting, education, certification, public relations, and marketing to help restaurants implement credible environmental change.

  • Tradition Energy (www.traditionenergy.com). Tradition Energy offers Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) and Green Power to restaurants. RECs represent the environmental, social, or other positive attributes of power generated by renewable resources. RECs are purchased separately from, and in addition to, conventional commodity energy supplies. Green Power is conventional fossil fuel generated electricity bundled with RECs.

  • NorthWrite (www.northwrite.com). NorthWrite energy monitoring solutions help create sustainability through decreased energy use, reduced waste, and a streamlined flow of information that helps an operator measure and manage energy consumption. DegreeGuardTM monitors temperatures of coolers and freezers, ensuring equipment is operating correctly, doors are properly closed, and energy is not wasted. EnergyGuardTM helps benchmark energy use to see if significant opportunities for savings exist.

Another way that Sysco can help is through electronic billing and payments. Sysco operating companies offer customers the ability to receive their billing statements via email, and in the first quarter of 2009 Sysco plans to roll out web payment capabilities. Electronic billing and payment reduces mailing expenses and administrative time while also decreasing the amount of paper used and the energy required to deliver a piece of mail. The United States Postal Service recently released a study which showed that every first class piece of mail generates 87 grams of CO2. A Sysco customer receiving bills and paying electronically can reduce its carbon footprint by 22.5 pounds per year. If 50,000 customers use electronic billing and payments, Sysco will eliminate about 1.3 million pounds of CO2 each year.


Additional resources include: