To me, green means friendly, and energy efficient means it's going to save me money.
The terms are closely related, but I think it's important to understand the differences in order to implement them effectively in your establishment, and to determine which avenue is the most important to you.
According to the Business and Media Institute, businesses can spend thousands of dollars "going green," often waiting years to see any payoff. And CNN said HSBC spent $900,000 installing energy efficient lighting.
For restaurants and institutions already struggling with rising food and fuel costs, saving the planet may not be their #1 priority.
So what are some resources that we can start using right now?
The easiest way to conserve energy in the kitchen is to control your appliances-- don't let them control you! Schedule startups and shutdowns, and use timers. If you only use the fryer during your lunch rush, turn it off between meals. If a piece of equipment takes only a few minutes to preheat, it probably doesn't need to be on and consuming energy all day.
According to the Foodservice Technology Center, you can save an average of $75 a year if you turn off the door heaters on your reach-ins. Generally, door heaters only need to be on if you see condensation on the doors.
Another "free" way to save energy is to set the water heaters on your dish machines only to the temperature required for specific tasks. Your dish machine's water only needs to be at either 110°F or 140°F. A heater set even 10°F too high can cost more than $600 a year!
When you are ready to start making a financial investment toward a more efficient kitchen, it's okay to start slowly. Most of us don't have the resources to go all-out on a futuristic, multimillion dollar, state-of-the-art kitchen. FE&S says the best pieces of equipment to start with are fryers and dishwashers.
Fryers that are Energy Star certified are generally much more efficient than conventional fryers because they allow the operator to recycle the oil they're using instead of paying someone to come get it and haul it away.
Likewise, energy efficient dishwashers are a plus because they save on energy and water.
Last, start with the biggest pieces of equipment that consume the most energy, like refrigerators and freezers, and, if you're cooking in bulk, broilers and steamers.