Making it Easier to be Green
Green design includes energy conservation, but that's not what it's all about. It's about having good air quality both indoors and outdoors, making the environments in which we work, live, study and play healthier and more comfortable and conserving all of our natural resources.
This site will provide a balanced, holistic view that includes advice about saving energy, water and other natural resources, improving indoor air quality, using environmentally responsible design and construction techniques and minimizing waste.

I will be focusing on interiors for three reasons:

  • We spend about 90% of our time indoors.
  • Buildings in the United States annually consume about 30% of our total energy and 75% of our electricity.
  • As a New York State Certified Interior Designer and a LEED Accredited Professional, I want to share my knowledge and expertise with you.
Sustainable design and construction can be done in many different styles and using a wide variety of materials. There are examples of healthy, sustainable, comfortable and inviting interiors for commercial, not-for-profit and residential clients on the web site for Interior Design Solutions.
You can use the labels on the sidebar to locate entries that you want to read. For instance, most people might want to look at the entries for "Green Homes," but "Green Finance" would be of more interest to professionals involved in the design, construction, management, financing and marketing of buildings.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Cook Up Some Savings

Time sure flies when you're having fun!  It's been almost three years since I shared some practical tips for how environmentally sound practices can improve a restaurant's profit margin without raising prices or compromising quality. 

Saving energy, water and other natural resources can significantly reduce operating costs. For instance, the New York Restaurant Association estimates that a 10% decrease in energy costs has the same impact on operating income as a 1.26% increase in sales. In other words, many of us were told as children "a penny saved is a penny earned," but with a 5% profit margin "a penny saved is twenty cents earned" is more accurate.  

Some things have not changed since my last post. Restaurants still use five times more energy per square foot than other commercial buildings, and the vast majority of that energy is consumed in the kitchen. Wasted energy still doesn’t just disappear --- it turns to heat and makes everyone uncomfortable unless you crank up the air conditioner. I believe that the tips that I provided three years ago would still be helpful to anyone operating a restaurant, so I'm incorporating most of what I wrote at that time into this updated post.  


  • Make sure that all equipment is in good operating order, including heating and ventilating systems, appliances, and lighting controls. Filters should be changed and coils should be cleaned often, especially in a restaurant.
  • Only run equipment when you need to. During slower times, turn off things that are not in use. 
  • Don't let your profits go up in smoke. Demand response systems or variable speed motors in kitchen ventilation systems can save a lot of money, both by reducing the energy consumed by blowers and by reducing heating and cooling requirements. 
  • When purchasing new appliances, think in terms of life-cycle costs including purchase price, annual energy costs, and other long-term costs. Inefficient appliances make for an expensive double-whammy: in addition to having higher operating costs, they tend to emit more heat than their efficient counterparts, resulting in a hotter kitchen and potentially forcing you to spend more to cool the air. 
  • For a very modest cost you can change old fashioned fluorescent bulbs to more efficient T8s. You’ll not only save energy and money with this quick and easy change, the kitchen staff may feel more comfortable because more efficient lighting generates less heat and because the change in lighting will make the kitchen brighter and cheerier. Linear fluorescent bulbs dim with age, so long before they fail completely they stop providing adequate light. 
  • If you are investing in new lighting, consider engaging a lighting designer who is a LEED Accredited Professional. Good lighting design is an art and a science. And the technology involved is changing so rapidly that understanding it and deploying it properly is really a full-time job.
  • Turn off computers and other electronic devices when they are not in use. Electronic devices use some power even when they are off, so it’s best to plug them into a power strip and power that off.

  • Check for leaks. Everywhere.
  • Put aerators on faucets that you are not replacing.
  • Use low-flow pre-rinse spray valves in the kitchen. They are inexpensive, easy to install, and save a lot of money.
  • If you are purchasing restroom plumbing fixtures or fittings, chose models that save water. Low-flow faucets and dual-flush toilets are now widely accepted.

  • Insulate pipes and equipment.
  • Pay particular attention to your choice of appliances that use hot water. The less hot water they need to do the job, the more energy you'll save.   
  • Consider heat recovery. Some commercial dishwashers employ integrated energy recovery, using heat and steam they would otherwise exhaust to generate energy. Refrigerant heat-recovery systems use waste heat from walk-in refrigerators and freezers to preheat water for other appliances.
  • Think about the potential adverse impacts that poor air quality could have on the health of your employees, your customers, and your business. There's an increasing body of empirical evidence that supports the correlation between indoor environmental quality and productivity (as indicated by absenteeism) in both schools and workplaces.
  • Indoor air quality is, on the average, five times worse than outdoor air quality, and standard construction procedures can degrade air quality and increase health risks. Green design, construction and maintenance techniques can greatly improve indoor air quality at little or no additional cost.
  • This is a very big topic, and one that I am particularly passionate about. For more information, please click "Health Impacts" on the sidebar to read my previous posts. If you want more detailed information, email me to ask for a reprint of an article I wrote called "Strategic Planning for Healthier Environments" for Sustainability:The Journal of Record.        

  • Limit the use of disposable goods.
  • Recycle cooking oil.  Your cooking waste is someone else’s biodiesel fuel.
  • Track food waste and modify purchases accordingly.
  • Donate surplus food to food banks.  You're helping people who could really use a hand as well as reducing waste.
  • Avoid waste in the design and construction of your restaurant. You can save a significant amount of money while helping the environment.      
  • Consider all of the benefits of purchasing ingredients from nearby farms. The primary reasons to use locally-grown food are usually that it tastes better and is healthier. But additional reasons, like supporting your local economy and reducing your ecological footprint, apply to the design and construction of your restaurant as well as to the food you serve.
  • Give preference to suppliers who are relatively close by if there are none who are truly "local." Every mile saved on trucking distance helps reduce emissions and save fuel. And local suppliers are often more responsive to their customers if additional support is needed.
  • Consider the environmental impact of shipping methods for your purchases. For instance, trains (and, if you're close to a coast, ships) are environmentally preferable to trucks for long-haul transportation.                 

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