Environmental Sustainability in Small BusinessesDocument Transcript
English Composition 2
10 July 2013
Sustainable Businesses: a Goal for the Future
There are many problems facing today’s society when it comes to the environment and
human health. We are constantly coming up with new ways to make the earth a more sustainable
place, while ensuring that the human population has their needs met as well. More specifically, with
the rapid growth of our population, our resources are being used at a faster rate than we have ever
seen before. Because of the heightened rate, our resources are being used faster than the
environment can replenish them. Not only that, but when we are done using the resources, we are
disposing of the waste in an irresponsible manner. Because of this, we are seeing rising prices of
foods and materials along with dangerous levels of waste in our landfills. We as a society do not
have the proper knowledge or education to make the changes to improve the all-around wellbeing
of the planet and the people. I believe that if homes and businesses were to be informed about the
impacts that they make on society and the earth, that they could make the proper improvements in
order to create a more sustainable and, in turn, healthier community. Not only that, but by having a
healthier and more knowledgeable society, our changes will make a more positive effect on the
environment, for a cleaner and healthier earth. By everyone making small changes at home and in
local businesses, we can make a huge difference when it comes to the amount of resources we are
using. This will also lower the amount of greenhouse gases being emitted into the atmosphere. In
addition, we can learn to properly dispose of our unneeded materials so that we can reduce the
demand for new products, which in turn will lower prices, along with reducing the amount of space
being taken up in landfills. In order to narrow the topic a bit, the business aspect will be focused on,
more specifically, the foodservice industry.
I chose the foodservice industry as my example for many reasons: the restaurant industry is
the most wasteful industry in the world ("A Vision for Sustainable Restaurants"). Not only is there a
waste of energy from lights and appliances, but there is waste of energy from processing food and
packaging as well. Another reason that I have decided to use this as an example is because it
pertains to my major. Being a Culinary graduate, I hope to one day own my own business, and I
would like to make my business as sustainable as possible. The last reason for choosing the
foodservice industry is because of my current job. I am interning at a bakery this summer, so in
order to get a better idea of costs and waste control, I conducted and interview with the owner,
which will be seen later in this essay.
Certain steps can be taken in order to achieve these goals. In an attempt to peak everyone’s
interests, I have a few various ideas, ranging from food and appliances, to recycling and composting.
I chose a variety of changes that can be made in order to show that it is possible, no matter what
kind of business, that it is possible to make a change.These changes can also be made in homes. I
hope that they are helpful and informational!
In a foodservice setting, appliances are usually left on throughout the day to avoid the need
to preheat the ovens multiple times in order to give their customers quality service. Because of the
constant use of energy in the business, many greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, nitrous
oxide, and methane are being released into the air ("Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions"). The
release of all these gases causes what is called The Greenhouse Effect, in which solar heat is
absorbed by the earth, and that which is not absorbed is reflected back towards outer space.
However, greenhouse gases trap some of this heat, which causes the earth’s temperature to
increase. We need only some greenhouse gases in order to maintain a warm enough temperature to
live, but with the excess use of energy, we are increasing the amount of greenhouse gases in the air,
which in turn, increases the earth’s temperature even more ("A Student's Guide to Global Climate
By learning simple tricks, you can save energy and better control costs. Not only that, but
switching to energy efficient appliances can save even more money and energy. First, the
convection oven: one of the most commonly seen appliances in a kitchen, typically because of its
faster cooking times and efficiency. Even if it is not energy efficient, there are things that can be
done to cut down on the amount of energy being used by it. Simple practices such as filling the oven
completely to avoid constant opening and closing, cutting back on idle time, and making sure seals
are tight can save money. Switching to an energy efficient oven can save up to $190-$360 annually,
depending on whether it is gas or electric. Next, one of the most cherished appliances in Wisconsin:
the deep fryer. The deep fryer is one of the biggest wasters of energy because it is typically left on
all day in order to avoid having to continuously reheat the oil over and over, which can be a painful
waste of time. In order to cut back on energy use, cut back on the time it is left idle, which can save
up to $250 dollars a year. By switching to an energy efficient fryer can save anywhere from $100-
$450 annually, depending on whether it is gas or electric. The last appliance that I will be talking
about is the walk-in refrigerator. Because it is constantly being opened in order to put in and take
out food, much of the coldness is being let out, which is causing the refrigerator to compensate for
the loss, which requires more energy. In order to help prevent this, strip curtains can be installed
behind the door so that more of the coldness can be maintained, which reduces the refrigerators
need to compensate for the lost temperature ("Putting Energy into Profit").
Switching from large to small, a huge energy consumer: light bulbs. By using a Compact
Fluorescent Lamp (CFL) instead of an incandescent bulb, you can reduce the heat output by up to
75%. According to the EPA Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator, if 945,000 restaurants in the
United States replaced only one incandescent light bulb with a CFL, more than 630 million pounds
of CO2 emissions could be avoided each year (the annual greenhouse gas emissions from more than
52,000 passenger vehicles), and the restaurant industry could save about $42.5 million annually
("Putting Energy into Profit"). Just from a light bulb! Not that hard, right?
On the subject of reducing the amount of heat put into the business, there is a revolutionary
product that I hope to be able to put into my own business, which is called a Green Grid Roof. I first
heard about this product at the beginning of this year while watching a Ted Talk, where a woman
named Majora Carter talked about making the ghetto a more environmentally sustainable place.
She had mentioned that her company was getting involved with this product, and had described it
as an alternative to petroleum-based roofing, which is broke down under the heat, releasing
chemicals that we in turn breathe in. Intrigued by this product, I did some more research about it.
Green Grid Roofing Systems can be put on essentially any flat roofing surface, and vary in size and
types of plants that can be grown and harvested. Not only do they absorb solar heat to keep down
cooling costs, but they retain 75% of rainfall to cut down on watering costs, plus the plants help
remove contaminants from the atmosphere, which leads to cleaner air for breathing ("Green Grid
Roofing Systems"). Not only that, but you can grow your own produce for your business. By
growing your own ingredients, you are cutting down on your purchasing costs and reducing
demand for more products, which helps lower CO2 emissions from all the trucks that are needed to
carry the materials. And one of the most important effects of growing your own produce is that
when you use it in your menu items, you can be sure that what the customers are getting is healthy,
nutritious, and organically grown food rather than genetically modified foods, which are very
controversial, and can be unsafe to consume. Customers that eat your food will feel better and know
exactly what they are putting into their bodies. In a phone interview with Green Grid General
Manager, Kurt Fischer, we discussed the various designs of roofing that can be installed, types of
plants that can be planted, and pricing information. There are many factors that determine pricing,
but the average cost is usually about $15-$20 per square foot, depending on types of plants,
location, business size, etc. (Fischer) .
Along the lines of organic gardening, thetopic of discussion is compost, and the various
benefits that it has on your business and the community. There are so many benefits to compost, it
is hard to believe. Composting is easy, and does not require a lot of effort to make. It is especially
easy in a restaurant setting to make compost because there is so much leftover waste from food
preparation and disposal. Composting uses natural materials, such as coffee grounds, fruits,
vegetables, peels, seeds, shells, and skins ("Materials for Composting"). All of these are found in the
foodservice industry, and can be easily composted, rather than thrown in the garbage. Along with
these food items, other materials from your lawn can be used (if you have one at your business)
such as grass clippings, leaves, branches, pine cones and needles, and wood chips. Avoid putting
anything in the compost bin that may attract pests, such as meats, bones, dairy products, fats and
oils. These items do not decompose as fast, cause rancid smells, and may contaminate your
compost. When in doubt, always check various sources to make sure that what is being put into
the compost is safe and decomposable ("Composting for the Homeowner"). Compost eliminates the
need for chemical fertilizers, so you can use it on your Green Grid Roof, which will help increase the
yield of your produce, and eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers, all while eliminating the
excess waste put into landfills. And obtaining a bin for compost is no problem at all. One can be
purchased, or make your own out of wood or reusing a plastic bin that will not be used for anything
And finally, one of the most commonly misused practices: recycling. Recycling is extremely
important to us as a society, and how it can help the earth in many ways. Recycling is simply the
process of converting waste into a material that can be reused for other products. There are tons of
materials that can be recycled, such as plastic, glass, paper, metals, and cardboard. However, always
make sure that these materials are properly rinsed so that they do not contain contaminants that
may prevent them from being reused. There are also certain things that should not be recycled,
such as Styrofoam, trash bags, wax paper, pet food bags, dryer sheets, trash bags, Ziploc bags,
bubble wrap, and soiled materials like cardboard, napkins, and paper towels ("Non-Recyclable
The restaurant industry is responsible for a large portion of waste that is thrown away
improperly. Even though Wisconsin laws ban recyclable materials from entering the landfill ("What
is Required to Be Recycled in Wisconsin"), many businesses see it as more of a hassle, and
therefore, disposal laws are not properly followed, which leads to excess materials in our landfills.
This causes landfills to fill exponentially faster with unnecessary materials that could be disposed of
in a better way ("Recycling and Waste Reduction in the Restaurant Industry"). In a brief phone
interview with a Waste Management employee, we discussed different types of disposal programs
that they offer. I used my job as an example, because it is a small, local business. For weekly waste
pickup, the average monthly fee is around $90, and to include recycling only costs about $50 more a
month ("Communicating with Your Waste Hauler"). By enrolling in their recycling services, you can
put all of your recyclables into one container, and from there the company picks it up, brings it back
to their facility, where each product is sorted into their own category (metal, plastic, glass, etc.) and
then resold to companies who use the materials to make new products (Waste Management). When
it comes to recycling plastic, it can be reused and put into various types of products like carpet
fiber, t-shirt and jacket fabric, and fiberfill for sleeping bags, winter jackets, and pet beds. One of the
companies that I am more familiar that uses post-consumer materials is called Bottle Boxes. We use
these boxes at the bakery to package the sandwiches and salads that are then sold at an internet
café here in Eau Claire. I did some more research on them and discovered many interesting facts,
including how their containers are made, using anywhere from two and a half to five bottles
depending on the size container that they are producing. The boxes are made using PET plastic, or
polyethylene plastic, which is the most common, and most preferred because it is safe, strong,
durable, and of course, recyclable ("What is PET?"). Making a simple switch from Styrofoam
containers to something more ecofriendly, like Bottle Boxes, can reduce the amount of waste going
into landfills, and reduce the amount of CO2 emissions being released into the atmosphere
("Communicating the Benefits of Recycling").
My boss has recently been doing a small part to reduce the amount of waste going into the
landfills. Rather than throwing away old cupcakes and pastries, we now give them to hunters so
that they can be used as bear bait.While it is not the most orthodox method, we are actually
preventing pounds of unneeded waste from entering the landfill weekly, which adds up to about 50
pounds per month, depending on what is sold and used. In an interview with her, I asked her about
her average electricity costs, and if she had any plans to reduce this cost or any methods of being
more sustainable. She replied “My average electricity bill is about $400 a month, and I’d love to get
an energy efficient oven for the bakery, but being a small business makes it hard to be able to afford
those things outright. And while it always seems like a good idea to be green from an outside
perspective, it’s not always as easy as you’d think once you actually have your own
business”(Stafford). I can’t say that I disagree with her; I know that it can be difficult when you
don’t have the proper funding, but at least she is trying to do her part, which is important.
None of these practices are impossible, and while they may have slightly higher startup fees,
the end result will result in a greater profit in the future. Not only that, but you will be helping the
overall health of your community, creating more jobs, preventing toxic emissions, saving energy,
and reducing the demand for unnecessary products. When you think about it, the small difference
in money that you pay to accomplish all these goals actually ends up saving more money in the long
run. Not all of these changes can be made overnight, but with some effort and support of your
community, you can achieve every single one in order to make your business more sustainable,
your community more healthy, your earth more plentiful, and your future even brighter.
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