Going green means taking ecofriendly steps to decrease an operation’s carbon footprint, or the amount of energy produced to do just about everything: burning fuel for deliveries, cooling and heating, etc. But what does green talk really translate to for pizzeria owners? “The key characteristic of “going green” is that it is a continual process of improvement and is relative to where the individual pizzeria begins the process,” says Jerry Lawson, national manager of the ENERGY STAR Small Business and Congregations Network of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA.) “Customers care and want to be supportive of businesses who are striving to earn profits in an environmentally responsible manner, and business owners care as much about the environment as anyone, but they are also learning that many aspects of green are just good business.”
Consider this: every business has factors to consider regarding going green, especially budget-wise. Experts advise focusing on long-term effects, and not just upfront costs. “Restaurants and commercial kitchens are one of the highest energy consumers — using approximately 250,000 BTUs per square foot, which is roughly 2½ times more energy per square foot than other commercial buildings,” says Una Song, program manager of the EPA’s ENERGY STAR Program’s commercial food service equipment division. “Restaurants that invest strategically can cut utility costs while making significant contributions to a cleaner environment. Restaurateurs should consider total lifecycle costs in their decisions.”
When it comes to green, planning is everything. Check out www.energystar.gov for step-by-step green restaurant guides. “Decide your motivation, and your desired outcome, and start researching things you can do,” says Dan Simons, principal of Vucurevich- Simons Advisory Group (VSAG), a restaurant consulting organization specializing in green practices. “Pick an area: trash that goes to landfills — research composting, recycling, and reducing what you send to landfills — it’s not glamorous, but it can make a big impact.”
The EPA recommends installing compact fluorescent lamps in refrigerators and kitchen ventilation hoods, and high-efficiency pre-rinse spray valves in kitchens. Conduct refrigerator maintenance: check and replace door gaskets, clean evaporator and condenser coils and check refrigerant charge. Set water temperatures at about 120 F for hand washing and 140 F for dishwashing. “Fix water leaks immediately — especially hot water leaks: wasted water, sewer and water heating costs can add up to hundreds of dollars a year,” says Song.
Government tax credits are available for upgrading features such as heating and cooling units, lighting, windows, doors, etc., and some cover installation costs. Many states provide rebates for energy friendly appliances such as ovens and dishwashers. Check out EPA’s ENERGY STAR building upgrade manual, featuring a free online tool, Portfolio Manager (which estimates monthly energy usage from utility bills, and tracks these stats over time as compared with the national average), as well as calculators to estimate returns on product investments. (See www.energystar. gov)
A significant way to green a pizzeria is through LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certifi cation, granted to eco-friendly building or remodeling projects by a rating system of the U.S. Green Building Council. Certifi cation includes an application and approval process. (See www.usgbc.org/)
Last spring, owner/chef Edward Sylvia — bringing the established customer base from his Cer Té cafe and catering — transformed a 1,200 square foot former sub shop into Pizza by Cer Té, New York City’s fi rst green pizzeria. “Being a chef, I always believed in local being better, and I’ve always used local farmers markets, local cheeses and everything else,” says Sylvia. “I wanted to take it a step further and have the construction LEED (Gold) certified so everything was in sync with the philosophy of the food.” Challenges included a yearlong building process, versus about six months for a regular pizzeria, and finding local fresh sauce during the winter — Sylvia’s in talks to obtain sauce from a local greenhouse grower. Designed for delivery and takeout, the space features herbs grown onsite, rain water storage to water herbs and clean premises, converted heat energy, river rock fixtures, filtered and aerated water for drinks and options for hybrid and bicycle delivery.
Going green provides a unique opportunity to stand out from competitors. “There are a few thousand pizzerias in NYC, and if we were a regular pizzeria, we’d be just another one opening,” says Sylvia, who is planning a free-slice incentive for customers who bring in a Pizza by Cer Té reusable plate made of sugar and printed with edible ink. “Being green has become a PR and marketing dream … once you mention it, people are interested immediately.”
Zpizza, with 95 franchise locations throughout the U.S., is also offering an extra large pie for the price of a large for bringing in their reusable tray or handing it to delivery drivers.
Solidify your restaurant’s green position and plan for the future by joining a green restaurant organization. In conjunction with Earth Day 2010, VSAG launched the Leadership in Eco-Hospitality Advocacy Foundation (LEAF), a non-profit membership organization providing green info and networking for restaurants — Pizza Fusion is a potential founding member. The Green Restaurant Association (www. dinegreen.com) also provides green certification and resources.
“The future of the green movement belongs to entrepreneurs, because green is good for business and has become a business itself, with an exploding array of products and services demanded by consumers in the marketplace,” says Lawson. Sylvia agrees. “What I’m doing is for the next generation,” he says. “Whether I stay in the space or someone else takes it over, it will help the environment. It’s almost like planting a seed.” ?
‘The key characteristic of “going green” is that it is a continual process of improvement and is relative to where the individual pizzeria begins the process. Customers care and want to be supportive of businesses who are striving to earn profits in an environmentally responsible manner, and business owners care as much about the environment as anyone, but they are learning that many aspects of green are just good business.’ —Jerry Lawson, National Manager of the ENERGY STAR Small Business and Congregations Network of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Lee Erica Elder is a freelance writer in New York City.