Restaurants of all types are conserving resources, reducing waste and connecting with environmentally aware guests. How do they do it?

The National Restaurant Association surveyed restaurant owners and operators about their environmental efforts and sustainability challenges. We also surveyed consumers about how restaurants could best promote sustainability practices to guests.

Energy-saving equipment and practices are common.

• Eight in 10 restaurant operators use energy-efficient lighting.

• Six in 10 use programmable thermostats.

• More than four in 10 use Energy Star-rated refrigerators, freezers and icemakers.

• Six in 10 restaurant kitchens use start-up/shut-down schedules to reduce the energy drain of kitchen equipment.

Reducing food waste is emerging as a key activity for operators.

• About half of restaurant operators track the amount of food waste their restaurant generates.

• One in five donate edible leftovers to charities.

• More than one in ten compost food waste.

Many operators source packaging and supplies made from materials with a smaller environmental footprint.

• Seventy-two percent of operators buy some packaging and supplies that contain recyclable material.

• Fifty-six percent buy supplies certified as compostable.

A restaurant's sustainability effort can influence guests' restaurant choices.

• About half of consumers say that a restaurant's efforts to recycle, donate food or reduce food waste can be factors in where they choose to dine.

• The best way to promote restaurant sustainability efforts is on the menu.

The National Restaurant Association continues to educate its members and increase awareness about environmental best practices across the industry, including the steps restaurateurs are taking to conserve resources, minimize waste and communicate the industry’s efforts to consumers. Starting the sustainability journey has become easier than ever, as there are many companies and associations that offer incentives and resources. For example, PowerShift by NV Energy helps their customers save energy and money through various incentive programs and bringing new technology to the forefront. For those restaurants looking to become a Certified Green Restaurant, Green Restaurant Associations, a national non-profit with a mission to help restaurant save money and go green, is a great resource for providing operators and owners with tips and tools.