EnviroStars offers restaurateurs access to a Washington state program that provides FREE in-person support, green rebates, resources, and tools and also recognizes and promotes you for your good work! 

Not sure where to get started? EnviroStars provides FREE assistance, rebates, and resources to help businesses go green – like these top 5 tips for restaurants. Whether you’re a seasoned sustainability veteran or daunted by where to begin, these five tips from EnviroStars will help you protect your staff, your customers, your bottom line and, of course, the environment.

Want help implementing these tips at your restaurant? Sign up with EnviroStars today or visit their website for more resources!


1. Clean up your waste stream

It’s no secret that restaurants produce a lot of solid waste, but it doesn’t all have to be trash. The first two steps of the three R’s are Reduce and Reuse to eliminate waste before it starts. One of the biggest waste drivers at restaurants, as well as a huge opportunity for cost savings, is food waste. As the adage goes, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it,” so start monitoring waste using a software tool like Leanpath and look for ways to change kitchen prep and ordering routines to drive it down.


Here are a few other ways to avoid waste:

  1. Ditch polystyrene foam containers and switch to approved compostable or recyclable products.
  2. For dine-in customers, use reusable dishware, silverware, and cups and provide straws only by request. 
  3. For takeout orders, train staff to ask customers if they need single-use items like utensils and plastic bags rather than packing them automatically. 
  4. Quick serve restaurant? Consider switching to compostable food wrap and providing durable, reusable items like baskets and trays.

The third R is, of course, Recycling. Help both your staff and your customers recycle all paper, cans, bottles, jars, and cardboard with clear labels and signage showing what’s allowed in your area. Position all bins near each other to minimize trash and contamination. Lastly, get paper towels from restrooms into the compost bin or install high-efficiency hand dryers. 

2. Keep drains clear

Living near Puget Sound, most of us are pretty familiar with fog, but do you know about F.O.G.? That’s fats, oils, and grease, which can wreak havoc on utility systems, impact water quality, and lead to costly backups and plumbing issues. To protect your indoor drains and prevent sewer backups, follow these tips: 

  1. Scrape dishes and pans into the trash bin (or better yet the compost bin if available!) before placing them in the dishwasher.
  2. Use strainer baskets in sinks to catch remaining food particles, and install and maintain a grease trap/interceptor. 
  3. Always clean kitchen hoods and mats in an indoor utility sink or dishwasher rather than outside where F.O.G. pollution can enter the stormwater system. 
  4. For the front-of-house, post signage in restroom stalls to indicate that only toilet paper should be flushed, and help customers keep trash out of toilets by placing trash cans in stalls.
  5. Check your local storage requirements for used cooking oil and recycle and properly store it outside your restaurant. 
  6. Have a spill kit on site and a spill plan in place. Check out our EnviroStars application for links to order free spill kits. 

3. Monitor water and energy bills

The last thing anyone wants from a utility bill is a surprise. Monitor your water and energy bills to keep tabs on usage and identify any unexplained spikes. You can even contact your utility to discuss advice and available incentives to help you save or request an energy assessment.

Here are a few other strategies to reduce water and energy bills:

  1. Pre-program schedules for large appliances and thermostats consistent with open hours, so they aren’t always kept on. 
  2. Switch to LED bulbs in lamps, fixtures, and lighted signage.
  3. Use occupancy sensors or timers for lighting in offices, restrooms, and storage rooms.
  4. Check for and repair leaks and consider installing sink aerators and WasterSense toilets to reduce your water use.
  5. Thaw meat in advance in a refrigerator instead of under running water.

4. Review your supply chain

Take a look at the ingredients, cleaning supplies, and other products you purchase and use often. Are there ways to reduce their environmental impact? For example, when you purchase local products, they don’t have to travel as far to reach you. Consolidating deliveries, requesting low-emissions transport, or asking delivery trucks not to idle at your site are other ways to reduce transport impacts.

Now, what about the meat, seafood, and produce you serve? Is it grown in a sustainable way? Third-party certifications like USDA OrganicSalmon SafeRainforest Alliance, or Seafood Watch offer a good guide for purchasing. Plant-based menu options also have a lower overall carbon footprint than those with seafood or meat.

To make these changes easier for staff to stick to, write them down as part of an environmentally-preferable purchasing plan to support decisions across your organization. 

5. Activate your employees

Going green works best when everyone is on board and pitches in. That’s why EnviroStars offers training tools to get employees involved and ready to do their part. Set a goal to hold annual employee trainings on your sustainability best practices – like the items in this list – and incorporate them into a manual for onboarding all new staff.

Creating a green team is another way to harness the energy of engaged employees and get support implementing changes. You can also get employees involved by encouraging green commutes – like walking, biking, busing and carpooling – and offering a guaranteed ride home policy for people who don’t drive alone to work. EnviroStars can also help you find employee transportation programs in your area. 

Last but not least, communicate what you’re doing to customers – 70% of Puget Sound consumers think it’s important to buy from environmentally-minded businesses – so be sure to share your good work! 




Thanks once again for joining for Seattle Restaurant Week. We hope these tips help you get started going green!