Road Map to Zero Over Time for Restaurants

This road map demonstrates the steps that your restaurant can take to become more energy efficient, save money, and reduce your climate pollution to zero. It is a clear and simple way to understand where you are currently and what the major steps are on the journey. A second goal of this project is to share work restaurants are doing with the community to inspire other restaurants and individuals to take action, both locally and across the country.

A significant number of restaurants have become inspired and empowered to take action that demonstrate the benefits of converting to efficient lighting and equipment in addition to adding renewable energy. Many are also actively working with their own supply chain to inspire and empower their stakeholders to take similar action. Through making these efforts highly visible, this leadership inspires a larger movement that significantly accelerates the adoption of a sustainability lifestyle – first around energy, but also around other critical areas like food, use of resources, and relationship to the natural world.

Source: 2012 CBECS

Step 1: Assess, Measure & Plan

It is important to first understand what opportunities are appropriate for your business and what incentives are available. To determine success, you need to benchmark your energy use and calculate greenhouse gas emissions, repeating this annually. Building from the opportunities identified and the benchmarking data you can create a plan and set goals that drive your journey toward becoming a net zero business. Feel free to use the rest of the action steps in this document to help inform your action plan to addresses climate change.

Assess Opportunities

Committing to becoming a more sustainable business is a great place to start.

Partners for a Clean Environment (PACE) has worked with more than 2,000 businesses across Boulder County to access rebates, incentives, and financing that help them realize their sustainability goals and make smart investments in their business operations. Rebate amounts and availability vary and pre-approval may be required.

PACE offers information, rebates and incentives to transition to renewable electric opportunities.

PV Solar Rebates are offered at $1 per watt and is capped at $15,000. Rebates for solar do not count toward other parcel caps. As with other Boulder County rebates, funds must be reserved prior to purchase/installation.

Review 12 months of utility bills and determine your highest usage months. If you are on the secondary general rate, determine what changes you can make to try to get below 25kW; this will greatly reduce your utility bill.

Measure and Track

Enter your energy usage into Portfolio Manager to manage your energy use. EPA created the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager®, an online tool you can use to measure and track energy and water consumption, as well as greenhouse gas emissions.

The EPA Simplified GHG Emissions Calculator is designed as a simplified calculation tool you estimate and inventory your annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The calculator will determine the direct and indirect emissions from all sources at a company when activity data are entered into the various sections of the workbook for one annual period.

Set your greenhouse gas pollution reduction goals for 2025, 2030, and 2050. Setting goals gives you long-term vision and short-term motivation. It focuses your acquisition of knowledge, and helps you to organize your time and your resources.

Plan

When you join PACE, you will be paired with an expert Business Sustainability Advisor in Boulder County who will work one on one with you to pursue sustainability efficiencies in one or all of the following areas: energy, waste, water and transportation. An action plan will then be developed.

Solicit and conduct an energy efficiency assessment. This is a systematic way of assessing what energy resources are currently being used by your restaurant and evaluating ways to reduce energy consumption and costs. Typically, energy assessments identify numerous simple, no-cost/low-cost recommendations to reduce energy use.

Set your greenhouse gas pollution reduction goals for 2025, 2030, and 2050.

Step 2: Engage and Communicate

It is beneficial to begin engaging with your employees, customers and other stakeholders at the start of this process. However, you will need to engage with all these groups throughout your journey to minimize barriers and maximize impact. Engaging with customers and employees is great for business, many studies have shown that employees and customers both invest more in businesses that are value driven.  Additionally, by publicizing and sharing your success you can inspire others to support your action plan goals.

Employee Engagement

PACE provides expert advising services, assistance with rebates and incentives, and a certification program to help businesses measure and gain recognition for their achievements in energy, waste, water, and transportation.

Creating a forum for employees allows them to voice their opinion and give you new, fresh ideas you might have never thought of.

Make sure everyone is on the same page.

If everyone on your team is consistently educated on sustainability, there should be no disconnect in the efforts your restaurant is making to become more sustainable.

Stakeholder Engagement

Gauge their interest.

Incorporate sustainability into purchasing practices. Items that you buy or receive come with packaging that becomes waste that you have to deal with. Your Advisor can help your business build an environmental purchasing policy and connect you with additional helpful resources.

PACE allows you to connect with other restaurants to learn about their goals and active efforts in addressing sustainability.

Understanding current trends builds a platform where your restaurant can successfully address sustainability in a leadership position.

Communication & Recognition

Let everyone know about your commitment to being a sustainable business in the areas of energy, waste, water, and transportation.

Make sure everyone knows about your goals and how important it is for you to reach those goals.

To achieve sustainable business certification in the following areas, businesses must demonstrate:

  • Energy – EnergyStar Portfolio Manager score of 75 or better.
  • Waste – Diversion of at least 85 percent of waste stream away from the landfill.
  • Water – Water savings of 15 percent better than usage predicted by code.
  • Transportation – More employees take sustainable forms of transportation to work than the community average.
Step 3: Implement Energy Efficiency

The checklists of energy efficient measures below are an example of how you may list and prioritize measures according to your action plan. The first section are actions that make sense to implement regardless of whether you own or lease your space as they have quick paybacks and/or enhance the quality of your space. The second set of actions might require partnering with your property manager to implement if you lease your space.

Interior Lighting Upgrades

Remove unnecessary lighting to reduce energy usage.

Replace T12 or T8 fixtures with LED technology, which can provide superior lighting quality, better dimming and occupancy sensing capability, lasts longer, and uses 40-60% less energy than fluorescent.

Occupancy sensors installed in areas of varying occupancy, such as bathrooms, break rooms, private offices, storage closets, and meeting rooms, are a great way to save energy by automatically turning lights off when the area is not in use.

Kitchen Equipment

As kitchen equipment is replaced, look for ENERGY STAR-rated models to provide the highest efficiency. When you are ready to purchase new kitchen equipment, contact your Advisor to explore a few different options and determine which rebates you may qualify for. The chart below outlines specific appliances and the corresponding rebates available.

Regular inspection should be done to ensure dampers are working properly, filters are replaced, and motors and coils are clean and keep supply and return air ducts clean.

HVAC Optimization and Envelope

There are several ways to increase efficiency in your building envelope without spending too much or spending nothing at all: Check window and door frames for leaks, caulk leaks to prevent the loss or gain of unwanted air, and replace door seals.

Air sealing is one of the most cost-effective efficiency measures. Even an eighth-of-an-inch gap around a seven-foot door is the same as a two-and-a-half-inch hole in the wall. Installing permanent weather seals is the best solution.

Water Heating Efficiency

High-efficiency storage hot water heaters can save 10-20% on energy versus the minimum standard.

Conventional pre-rinse spray valves could be upgraded to WaterSense-certified models to save both energy and water. According to the EPA, businesses can save more than $115 annually on energy and water costs by switching to a WaterSense labeled pre-rinse spray valve. At 1.5 gpm, you can reduce your water use without sacrificing water pressure. You can purchase high efficiency aerators at any local hardware store and install them yourself.

Outdoor Lighting Upgrades

Upgrading halogen or incandescent screw-in light bulbs to LEDs can reduce energy by 80%, reduce your cooling load, lower maintenance costs, and improve lighting quality in your space. PACE offers rebates. Xcel Energy now offers pre-discounted screw in LEDs

Enable power management settings on computers by putting them into hibernate or sleep mode when not in use. This can reduce energy up to 60% after hours and 45% during office hours. Reduce phantom power drains by turning off or unplugging equipment that not in use, or is used infrequently, such as personal printers and scanners. Use load or occupancy sensing power strips or electrical outlet timers.

HVAC Optimization

A Building Automation System (BAS) is a brain that regulates the performance of your facilities’ systems including: heating and cooling, lighting, air ventilation, security, and even food storage. When equipment malfunctions or a building condition is outside of normal parameters (e.g. the temperature in a room becomes extremely high), a BAS will trigger an alert. When the BAS operates correctly, it leads to cost and energy savings.

Building Envelope Improvements

Air Tightness Testing is the recognized method used to measure the total air lost through leaks in the building fabric.This is often referred to as uncontrolled ventilation. The test is important in establishing the energy efficiency of a new building and can identify poor build quality within new developments.

The energy efficiency could increase greatly in the building by adding insulation to increase the R-value of the existing conditions. This will reduce heat loss in the winter months and increase comfort levels during the summer months.

Energy can easily be lost through windows and doors, especially when they are left open or have leaks.

Step 4: Adopt Renewable Energy

The checklists of renewable actions below are an example of what you might include in your action plan. The first section looks at installing renewable energy on your building and might require you to partner with your property manager to implement if you lease your space. The second section provides alternative ways to purchase renewable energy if installing is not an option or if you cannot meet the load demands with self-generation.

Install Renewables

The City of Boulder provides grants for the installation of solar electric and solar thermal systems on: The facilities of site-based nonprofit organizations and nonprofit organizations that lease city-owned facilities, and low/moderate or middle income housing owned by nonprofit organizations. Discover your solar savings potential.

PV Solar Rebates are offered at $1 per watt and is capped at $15,000. Rebates for solar do not count toward other parcel caps. As with other Boulder County rebates, funds must be reserved prior to purchase/installation.

Community Solar

Look for opportunities locally. Community solar refers to local solar facilities shared by multiple community subscribers who receive credit on their electricity bills for their share of the power produced.

Renewable Energy Credits

Look for opportunities locally.  RECs are issued when one megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity is generated and delivered to the electricity grid from a renewable energy resource.

Renewable energy certificates (also known as renewable energy credits, or RECs) represent the energy generated by renewable energy sources, such as solar or wind power facilities. Buying RECs is not equivalent to buying electricity. Instead, RECs represent the clean energy attributes of renewable electricity.

Step 5: Pursue Electrification

The checklists below are an example of what you might include in your action plan. Electrification is a crucial step to becoming a net zero business, because regardless of how efficient you are, or how much energy you are produce with renewables, if you continue to use natural gas to power heating and/or equipment, you are still burning fossil fuel.

Heat pump systems are an all-electric option for heating and cooling needs that offers many benefits, including options for zoning and heat exchange between spaces to improve comfort and efficiency. Paired with renewable energy, heat pump systems can achieve carbon neutral status, while providing space conditioning for many types of commercial facilities, such as office buildings, hotels, schools, houses of worship, and historical buildings.

As kitchen equipment is replaced, look for ENERGY STAR-rated models to provide the highest efficiency. When you are ready to purchase new kitchen equipment, contact your Advisor to explore a few different options and determine which rebates you may qualify for.

A feasibility study can help to identify if a given project should be undertaken by delineating costs and risks associated with various areas of the project’s development. PACE offers rebates on heating.

Replace old water heater with tankless ENERGY STAR model. ENERGY STAR rated models provide the highest efficiency, often using 25-50% less energy, and tankless water heaters can save 45-60% on energy, where appropriate.

Providing electric vehicle (EV) charging stations at work has been demonstrated to make employees 20 times more likely to purchase an EV even though 80% of charging typically happens at home. Grants are available from the Regional Air Quality Council up to $9000 for Level II charging stations.

Step 6: Execute Other Strategies

The impact you can have spans further than your buildings and the energy they consume. Below is a list of things you could consider adding to you plan that begin to address the broader climate impact of your business. The scope of what you address may vary and you likely will add additional actions.

Transportation Alternatives

Encouraging employees to bike is part education, part culture, and part infrastructure. Your Advisor is available to give trainings and presentations on how to motivate employees and create the right conditions at the office for a successful bike commuting program like adding bike storage or showers. Boulder County offers up to five free bike racks per business.

Encourage walkable neighborhoods. These are neighborhoods that create a safer and better place for pedestrians to walk. This can include auto-free zones, clear and continuous pedestrian access, and improving parking in these areas.

Encourage the use of public transportation. Post bus schedules and carpooling options in visible locations. The EcoPass smartcard is valid for unlimited rides on all regular RTD bus and light rail service. Employees with an EcoPass are five to nine times more likely to ride the bus than employees without one, reducing parking issues and emissions from commuting.

Landfill Waste Diversion

On average, over 60% of business waste can be diverted from trash as recycling or compost. It is recommended that recycling be added to help divert glass, plastic milk jugs, almond and soy milk containers, cardboard, and paper. This service could be potentially combined with one or several neighbors to help reduce any costs that may be associated with setting up the program.

Waste can be reduced by incorporating sustainability into purchasing practices. Items that you buy or receive come with packaging that becomes waste that you have to deal with. Your Advisor can help your business build an environmental purchasing policy and connect you with additional helpful resources.

Many cleaning products have been shown to degrade indoor air quality, pollute the water, and negatively impact the health of sensitive occupants. In effort to maintain a clean facility, service providers and facility managers often use harsh solutions that, while disinfecting the building, contaminate the indoor air.

Efficient Water Use

Drought-tolerant and native species landscaping preserves water, lowers maintenance on the plants, and brings a sense of beauty to the landscape.

Doing an irrigation assessment involves field observations of the irrigation system as well as taking pressure and water measurements.

The toilets in your building are usually 1.6 gallons per flush (gpf) tank-type toilets. Upgrading these fixtures to 1.28 or less gpf toilets can help your facility reduce water use. It is important to install WaterSense-labeled equipment when replacing these fixtures. WaterSense toilets are independently certified to have an effective flush volume and pass performance tests.

Congratulations! You are now Zero Net Carbon!

Create Impact Beyond Your Facilities
  • Research the causes and impacts of the climate crisis.
  • Deepen constituent knowledge of, and participation in, climate solutions, including the areas of energy efficiency, renewable energy, waste reduction, sustainable transportation, and public health and wellness.
  • Reduce pollution through effective implementation of this guide.
  • Incorporate climate-preparedness measures in anticipation of extreme weather and other climate-related impacts.
  • Define and describe local climate priorities, as well as report on the progress of your climate plans and the benefits of local climate solutions.
  • Promote local solutions throughout the community (climate impacts affect us all).
  • Share opportunities for the community to participate in climate solutions.
  • Support engagement efforts and boost public awareness.
  • Utilize the tools offered through Path to Positive Communities to support your engagement efforts.
  • Share successes, ideas, and best practices with other organizations throughout the community, and encourage them to join in taking a stand on climate.
  • Facilitate local or regional collaboration. This initiative will enhance local impact and magnify it.
  • Support policy across multiple levels of government.
  • Put pressure on local leaders, governors and state governments to act.
  • Call upon Congress and the president to pass legislation that will expand existing climate action efforts with fellow big-city mayors and mayoral coalitions.
  • Promote international climate solutions.
The Buff Restaurant Logo

When The Buff Restaurant in Boulder moved to its new location, the restaurant reused and repurposed many of the materials that were already there: the wood from the previous restaurant’s booths was made into new booths, and some of the new wood walls were created by turning around the existing beadboard. In 2014, the Buff received PACE certification in Zero Waste and earned recognition from Western Disposal for diverting more than 95 percent of its waste into compost and recycle. The Buff hopes that its waste consciousness extends far beyond its doors and compostable containers.