Thursday, January 8, 2009

Steps toward sustainability at Eat'n Park

Sustainability…what does it mean for your neighborhood Eat’n Park? First off, let’s define sustainability. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, sustainability means “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Eat’n Park has been in business for almost 60 years, and we’ve come to realize that the natural resources we’ve been relying on all these years may not be around for future generations. So, we’ve been looking closely at how we are using these resources, and we continue to find ways in which we can reduce or change what we are using. In 2008, we formed a green committee that was made up of our CEO, VP of Operations, VP of Purchasing, VP of Marketing, VP of Facilities, and me. We spent a lot of time brainstorming areas of focus, to determine where we could make real and lasting changes.

Over the course of this year, we will be taking the following steps toward sustainability.
  • Light bulbs – the majority of light bulbs used in our restaurants have been switched over to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL).
    CFL’s emit the same light as classic incandescent bulbs but use 75% or 80% less electricity. To illustrate the impact of this, if every one of the 110 million American households bought just one CFL for their house and used it in the place of an ordinary 60-watt bulb, the energy saved would be enough to power a city of 1.5 million people.
  • Fryer oil – We use trans-fat-free canola oil in all of our locations, which is the preferred oil to be recycled into biodiesel fuel.  We are working with bio-fuel producers in an effort to convert 100% of our spent oil to biodiesel fuel.
    Biodiesel is a vegetable oil-based fuel that runs in unmodified diesel engines - cars, buses, trucks, construction equipment, boats, generators, and oil home heating units. Biodiesel is usually made from soy or canola oil, and can also be made from recycled fryer oil. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that Bio-diesel can reduce carbon emissions by 50%.
  • Placemats – While being an important tool for marketing, we have eliminated placemats, which will save a tremendous amount of paper as well as the landfill space they occupy once they’ve been used.
    Producing placemats required more than 325,000 pounds of paper every year, the equivalent of more than 250 trees. To make sure our tables are extra clean, we’ve enhanced our cleaning procedures to make our tables are spotless.
  • Paper Towels – We have been testing high-speed hand dryers in our restaurants to reduce the amount of paper towels that are used.
    Paper towels cannot be recycled. Once used, they must go to the landfill; therefore, hand dryers help reduce the need for landfill space, and they reduce the number of trees being cut to process paper towels.
  • Remodeling Materials – During renovations or new construction, we use recycled raw materials, including table laminates, carpet, ceiling tiles and wallpaper.
  • Local Sourcing – We developed our FarmSource program in 2002 to help reduce the miles food travels. Click here to read my other postings about some of the local farms we’ve partnered with.
    In the United States, food now travels between 1,500 and 2,500 miles from farm to table, as much as 25 percent farther than two decades ago.
We are proud of the steps we are taking toward sustainability, and we look forward to doing more in the coming year. So the next time you visit one of our restaurants, we hope that you notice some of these changes. If you have any suggestions for future green initiatives in our restaurants, please feel free to let me know by posting your comments here on the blog.
Until next time,
Jamie
Update: Thanks to the steps mentioned above, we were just recognized by Pittsburgh Magazine for having the "Best Green Operations". Check it out here: Pittsburgh's Best of Green Share

6 comments:

Karen said...

I really hate to say this but the efforts to produce "cleaner tables" without placemats seems to be a failure in the two ENPs that we USED to frequent. I have sat down to sticky tables, crumbed tables, and smeared tables. Sometimes I asked for a few extra napkins to put things on, which sort of defeats the purpose of your program. I have even cleaned the table with my own Purel which I carry in my purse. Now, I have just given up. I haven't been to an ENP in almost a month and we are going elsewhere for dinner and Sunday brunch. I applaud the efforts to go green but not when it detracts from the cleanliness of my dining table. Maybe this is something you need to revisit/reeducate in the restaurants.

Eat'n Park said...

Thank you for your applause in our efforts to go green by eliminating placemats.

You are right. The last thing we wanted to do was to have our guests' experiences compromised in our efforts to go green. When we removed placemats from our tables, we did a lot of training with our team members on the proper procedures for cleaning and sanitizing our tables.

It sounds by your experience we need to reeducate some of our team members in our restaurants. To help us follow up on this problem, we would appreciate it if you took a few moments to fill out our comments form on the "Contact Us" page.

Thanks for passing along your comments and we hope you reconsider and come back and visit us soon.

Anonymous said...

I too like the idea of going green but I do not like the idea of spreading germs. There must be a better way of going green than making people ill. I've watched the tables being cleaned...yes, the busboy wears gloves to protect himself but he uses the same "rag" to clean the chairs first and then the tables. He then puts this "rag" into the bin with the dirty dishes and food, goes to the next table removes this same "rag" and starts to clean the next set of tables and chairs. While you may be saving lots of trees, I think in the end you are losing lots of customers. In order for this to work you would need to invest in paper towels and a spray bottle of cleaner with a disenfectant. The sanitizers I've seen must be sprayed and left for 5 minutes before wiping. The paper towels would need to be discarded after each use.....what are you saving...you may as well just use and discard the placemats.

Anonymous said...

I work @ Eat n Park & I have to say their "green initiative" is actually a thin veil for "reducing overhead spending". Eat n Park has absolutely NO recycling program & I can't even tell you how many plastic & metal containers I throw into the garbage cans (while looking @ the recycling triangle on the bottom!) every time I work. Eat n Park would be doing WAY more good for the Earth if they initiated a recycling program like they do @ Mad Mex & several other restaurants in town. Furthermore, education on how & what to recycle @ work would definitely filter over into the homes of many, many employees. EnP, if you want to go green, that's great, but replacing light bulbs & eliminating placemats isn't the biggest issue. Furthermore, it's MANDATORY for all businesses inside the city to recycle...you wouldn't want to get slapped w/ a fine would you? That would negate all of your "green efforts" (i.e. overhead cost reduction)

Eat'n Park said...

Thanks for your feedback. The decision to eliminate placemats was not made lightly, and we certainly did not want to compromise our guests’ health or dining experiences. When we removed placemats from our restaurants, we did a lot of training with our team members on the proper procedures for cleaning and sanitizing our tables. Our cleaning policy dictates that our bus persons must carry two separate towels – one for cleaning the tabletops, and one for the seats. When not in use, the tabletop towels are stored in sanitizing solution that is changed every 30 minutes. These procedures go above and beyond FDA guidelines, because we want to ensure that we meet the highest standards of cleanliness.

It sounds by your experience we need to reeducate some of our team members in our restaurants. To help us follow up on this problem, we would appreciate it if you took a few moments to fill out our comments form on the "Contact Us" page, so we know which restaurant to follow up with.

Eat'n Park said...

Thanks for your feedback regarding recycling. I’m glad to hear that you are looking for ways for us to further enhance our sustainability initiatives. However, I’d like to correct some of the facts in your posting.

All of our locations within the City of Pittsburgh are currently recycling; in fact, we started to recycle bottles and cans at these locations almost 2 months before the mandatory requirement went into effect. Also, our Harrisburg and Lancaster locations have been recycling since we opened them in the mid-80’s. All of our restaurants recycle cardboard, and our sustainability committee is currently working on a recycling program for bottles and cans for over 30 more of our locations.

There are many things we can do to improve our impact on our environment, but we can’t do all of them all at once. Steps like these can take time to execute properly, but we feel that thoughtful planning is essential to the long-term success of the program. We want to continually take steps in the right direction, but we also want to make sure that our primary focus continues to be on serving great tasting food at a great value.

If you have more ideas or feedback you’d like to share with us, please feel free to email me directly at jmoore@eatnpark.com. I’d also be happy to give you further explanation on the steps we are taking to go green.

Jamie Moore


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