Environmentally friendly and sustainable practices have become all the rage in industries across the U.S. and around the world. With an increasing number of customers and patrons demanding a smaller carbon footprint from their favorite culinary organizations, individuals in food service management have been looking to incorporate eco-conscious products and methods into their own operations. Hospital food service personnel should also consider this green trend in order to improve efficiency as well as patient satisfaction scores.
Identifying green problem areas
But how can hospitals and healthcare facilities reduce their negative impact on the environment while still providing high quality meals and service for patients? Environmental Leader reported that a study released in 2009 by the IMFA Foundation and ARAMARK titled “Sustainability in the Food Service Environment” investigated the best ways food service operators can improve sustainable operations.
The greatest level of energy consumption was attributed to food preparation, which account for 35 percent of energy usage. Heating, ventilation and air conditioning placed second with 28 percent of energy consumption. Rounding out the list are sanitation at 18 percent, lighting at 13 percent and refrigeration at 6 percent of energy costs.
Furthermore, the report estimates that of the $10 billion spent on energy at restaurants across the nation, as much as 80 percent of energy is used inefficiently or wasted completely. Hospital food service operators may want to call in an energy professional to inspect their facilities for problem areas.
Simple ways to go green
While incorporating eco-friendly practices and appliances into a healthcare facility’s food service area certainly requires an investment of time and money, it can save the organization big money on energy waste in the long run – not to mention helping to clean up Mother Nature. Luckily, there are simple ways operators can improve green practices within their kitchen and cafeteria – especially when it comes to water usage.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy program, one of the best things to do is inform staff members about why it is important to employ sustainable kitchen operations. Without a proper explanation, workers may be less inclined to follow suit with the hospitals’ requests for greener operations. For example, cooks or cleaning crews should immediately convey issues with a broken or malfunctioning appliance to ensure optimal energy efficiency when in use.
Kitchen and cleaning staff should only use dishwashers when they are completely full to save water. Similarly, scraping plates and dishes before putting them in the dishwasher is a great way to improve cleaning efficiency. Running appliances that use water at night during off-peak hours can also help keep energy bills down.
Consider Energy Star appliances
If a kitchen is relying on old or outdated equipment, there’s a good chance that its energy usage and overall carbon footprint is going to be much higher than necessary. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency noted that an ideal way to go green is by purchasing products certified through its Energy Star program.
This is particularly important when working with inefficient cooking and refrigeration equipment, which both use and waste an immense amount of energy when they have fallen out of repair. Not only do these appliances run more efficiently, but they are durable enough to last for many years with minimal maintenance requirements. This makes Energy Star-qualified equipment a wise investment that can keep energy usage and expenses low well into the future.