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Earth Month Restaurant Promotions and Practices to Support a Sustainable Planet

On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets to demonstrate their concerns about the environment. They got together to begin educating, speaking out, and finding solutions for a healthy, more sustainable planet. This marked the very first Earth Day, an annual celebration of sustainability, bringing the health of the Earth to the forefront.

53 years later, consumers are more focused on sustainability than ever before. During the month of April, Americans celebrate “Earth Month” by sharing and comparing their environmentally-friendly practices to help preserve the planet.

For restaurants, Earth Day and Earth Month are good times to tap into what consumers are hungry for–eco-minded businesses that genuinely care about the earth. Today’s consumers are getting savvier by the minute, however, so it’s crucial that restaurants remain thoroughly transparent and not practice greenwashing in their marketing strategies.

Greenwashing is the practice of portraying an organization’s products, activities, or policies as environmentally friendly when they are not. In a world where environmental issues are increasing exponentially, businesses that mislead their customers by simply brushing up their image with fake “green” touches or false claims are becoming increasingly unacceptable.

So, if you’re going green, just be sure to be honest. No one’s expecting you to eliminate your carbon footprint overnight, but Earth Day is a good time to reflect upon ways you and your restaurant can make greater strides towards sustainability.

Throughout the year, and especially during the month of April, restaurants have the opportunity to be leaders in their communities and experiment with ways to put the planet first. Below are a few ideas for your restaurant to share some Earth-friendly fun.

Offer Discounts on Sustainable Meals

Earth Day menu items are a hit because they make consumers feel like they are using their dollars to make a difference. Create special dishes made up of eco-friendly foods that don’t require synthetic fertilizers, bioengineering, or conventional pesticides to attract earth-conscious customers. Here are a few ingredients to consider:

  • Beans have a long shelf life which reduces food waste

  • Mussels are highly sustainable because harvesting does not result in the destruction of coral reefs.

  • Broccoli produces compounds related to a class of industrial pesticides so it does not require excess pesticides to grow.

  • Potatoes pose a lower burden on the environment due to the minimal amount of water needed for growth.

  • Bison is a good option for those not ready to give up meat because these animals actually help to restore vegetation through trampling and grazing tactics, making it one of the most sustainable meat options.

Create “Ugly” Menu Specials

The beauty of ugly fruits and vegetables is becoming increasingly apparent to restaurants and customers alike. Create a fun menu item featuring some of the craziest shaped veggies and fruits you can find. This will not only grab the attention of your customers but taking some crazy-fun photos of your dishes could attract free publicity.

Be sure to send great images of your ugly masterpieces to local news outlets and blogs–and who knows, you just might find yourself being featured as the ugliest restaurant in town (in a good way!)

Create BYO Container Incentives

A common Earth Day promotion for businesses is to offer a recycling promotion. Create incentives for customers who bring their own to-go containers; offer a discounted drink to customers who bring in their own cups or reusable bottles; or make a game out of it by awarding bonus points to customers who use their own bags.

Promote Fair Trade or Locally-Made Products

By promoting products or menu items made with locally sourced ingredients, you’re helping protect the environment of the planet and your local community! By showcasing products that are made in fair and ethical ways in other parts of the world, you’re helping to raise awareness for the farmers and artisans that produce these products.

Organize a Local Park or Playground Clean-up

Gather your team and head to a local park or outdoor space to pick up trash and clean up the area. Be sure to wear t-shirts or other gear displaying your restaurant’s logo. Invite your customers on social media, and of course, don’t forget to let the local press know about your efforts. A park or playground clean-up is great during Earth Month, but it’s an effort that can be practiced – and recognized – throughout the year.

Start an Organic Community Garden

“Greenify'' your immediate surroundings, cost-effectively expand your inventory, and create an ongoing earth-friendly promotional opportunity by starting an organic community garden. Not only can you use the produce you grow in your own restaurant, but you could create a weekly co-op farmers’ market to sell your wares.

Reap even more benefits by inviting other businesses and members of the community to join in on the effort! See our upcoming post, How to start your own restaurant garden, more information.

Start a Recycling Center

Offering your customers a way to recycle household items is a great way to celebrate Earth Day all year round! Tie your recycling option into your business. If you sell wine, for example, recycle wine corks. If you sell your own sauces or spices, recycle jars. Pizza shops can accept boxes and other cardboard.

Offer customers store credit or discounts for bringing these goods in to be recycled too – a win, win! A recycling center at your restaurant also makes for an excellent PR story to share with your local media.

How to Practice Sustainability in Your Restaurant

April is a great month to get started on sustainable practices in your restaurant, but if you’re wondering how you can make an impact on the planet year-round, there are a few ways to start showing your customers that you care about a sustainable environment.

Reduce Food Waste

More food is sent to landfills in the U.S. than any other material, and a large portion of this waste is generated by restaurants. Food waste is not just bad for the environment, it can also negatively impact your restaurant’s bottom line. Since over 30% of a restaurant’s revenue is allocated to the cost of goods sold, letting those goods go to waste is like sending your profits straight to the dump.

And food is not the only component of restaurant waste. Products such as paper napkins, plastic straws, food containers, and aluminum foil are piling onto the problem too. Follow these simple steps to control waste in your restaurant:

  • Adopt the FIFO Method. To reduce the amount of spoilage in your restaurant, use the first-in / first-out method. In a FIFO-compliant kitchen, inventory will be well-organized and rotated regularly so the oldest items will be used first. This will cut down on food waste tremendously as the spoilage percentage is reduced.

  • Repurpose ingredients. Finding creative ways to use a food item in multiple dishes will not only save money through buying in bulk; it will also help you reduce wasted inventory and cut down on waste.

  • Compost. Turning organic waste into compost lets that waste return to the environment in the form of nutrients for the soil.

  • Donate unused food and ingredients. Restaurants can reduce waste and simultaneously help ease food insecurity in the community by donating food to local soup kitchens, shelters, or distribution centers.

See our post, Wasted: Managing Restaurant Waste for Sustainability and Profitability, for more tips on lowering waste in your restaurant.

Use Green Packaging Alternatives

While the use of disposables helps to reduce food waste, they are inherently designed to be thrown away, thus causing waste of another kind. Green delivery containers are more than just the packaging for your food – they’re an important part of the customer’s experience with your business.

To eliminate trading one wasteful item for another, start to think about ways around using them whenever possible.

  • Use Compostable Products

  • Replace paper with cloth

  • Eliminate paper menus

  • Replace plasticware

If you haven’t already made the leap to eliminate non-reusable products in your restaurant, Earth Day is a great time to start. Do away with one-time-use styrofoam containers and consider a recyclable or reusable product that won’t immediately get tossed in the trash. For more information about green packaging, see our post, Easy Being Green: Simple Solutions to Sustainable Packaging.

Create a Sustainable Menu

Sustainable foods are types of foods that are grown or reared in a manner that limits their negative impact on the environment and the communities that produce them.

Besides environmental factors, sustainable eating also focuses on the way animals are raised and slaughtered and how farmers are treated and paid. Creating a sustainable restaurant menu is one of the best things you can do for the planet and for your bottom line.

But while going green is more popular than ever before, and even more popular during Earth Month, a sustainable restaurant is more than just pretty pictures and green vegetables – it’s one that makes a meaningful effort to reduce its impact on the environment through waste reduction, energy conservation, and sustainable sourcing throughout the year.

Restaurants like Avo in Miami’s downtown area, offering fresh, tasty meals made from sustainably sourced foods in an eco-friendly setting, are practicing earth day all year round by creating a healthy environment for the body, mind, and the planet.

If you want to go green, here are a few tips for creating a menu that’s more sustainable.

Localize Your Supply Chain

One of the simplest ways to practice sustainability is to source your produce locally. If you don’t always source your produce from local farms, Earth Day is an excellent opportunity to shine some light on the hardworking farmers in your community by sourcing at least some menu items from local crops.

Cutting down on the number of products you have shipped from farms across the country will cut down on carbon emissions.

Update Your Menu Seasonally

Sync your menu with seasonal produce to better adapt your menu to the flow of nature by purchasing food at its peak supply. In-season produce is generally grown closer to where it’s sold, meaning it won’t travel across the world or spoil on its way to your kitchen.

In-House Production. If you really want to separate your restaurant and menu offerings from every other restaurant in the neighborhood while going green, make some of your own items in-house. You could pickle your own vegetables or make your pasta sauces or salsas from fresh ingredients.

Go plant-based. Green eating is becoming one of the simplest ways customers and businesses alike can make an impact on the environment.

Reducing the amount of meat (or eliminating it altogether) is a great way to decrease your restaurant’s carbon footprint.

Restaurants across the nation are jumping onto the plant-based bandwagon for a multitude of reasons.

The Krazy Vegan is Miami is leading the earth-friendly charge in South Florida by offering a new take on fast-plant-based foods, combining comfort food with eco and health consciousness.

Use Ugly Produce

With an increasing awareness that seconds are not only just as nutritionally packed and delicious as more physically pleasing alternatives, ugly produce is becoming an increasingly wise and earth-friendly choice.

The use of less-than-perfect produce helps restaurants and has a trickle-down benefit to farmers, grocers, suppliers, and the environment.

Go Organic. Unlike conventional farming, organic farming has a number of benefits for the environment. With so many benefits for the environment, choosing organic ingredients can be a great way to make your restaurant more sustainable.

Buy in Bulk

While less is usually more when it comes to sustainability, that isn’t always the case. For some ingredients, it can be less wasteful to buy in bulk – think dry pasta, nuts, and spices.

Earth day is only one day out of the year when we, in the food business, can become part of a larger effort to decrease our carbon footprint and show customers that we keep sustainability at the top of our minds.

But taking small steps every day of the year can assure that we are having a positive impact on the planet — it’s a winning sustainable solution that will last long after April has come and gone.

By Eileen Strauss


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