By Kelly Zonderwyk, Energy Program Specialist
and Sarah E. O’Connell, Energy Outreach Coordinator
Consumers are increasingly making purchasing decisions based on the sustainability of businesses.
The National Restaurant Association is no exception. The nearly 1,800 professional chefs surveyed in its What’s Hot in 2012 survey say healthful kids’ meals and locally sourced ingredients are the top trends in restaurants this year.
It’s a challenge that restaurants nationwide are taking, and that’s good news for those who love to eat healthy around the country.
Arlington County is also offering a challenge to the owners of area restaurants and retail shops.
Starting this October, the AIRE Team in Arlington County Department of Environmental Services is launching the second year of its program to help county businesses save energy and be more environmentally sustainable.
In this good-natured competition called the Arlington Green Games, local businesses are pitted against each other to see who can improve their sustainability practices, reduce energy consumption, and limit greenhouse gas emissions the most.
In the 2011 inaugural season of the Green Games, which focused on the office-space sector, more than 100 office buildings were engaged. Tenants participated in the competition to help them improve their bottom line. They made tremendous strides:
- They reduced the more than 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions produced by the commercial office sector annually (based on the county’s 2007 greenhouse gas emissions inventory).
- Competitor-reported energy and water savings combined represent over $2 million in avoided costs.
- These savings equate to over 10,000 tons of CO2 equivalent avoided over one year. This is the equivalent of taking 1,996 passenger vehicles off the road for one year.
To celebrate their success, office competitors received awards commissioned from local artists to display in their buildings. In addition, the ceremony garnered a significant amount of local press coverage.
The 2012 Green Games
The hope is that the focus this year on restaurants and retail stores will be as successful as the 2011 inaugural Green Games competition.
The highly interactive programs will run simultaneously from October 2012 to October 2013 and incorporate trainings, best practices, and technical assistance along the way.
To ensure the competitor’s success, AIRE will guide each business and provide ongoing support to reduce building emissions and their operating costs, including:
- an initial environmental awareness analysis,
- an energy-efficiency improvement checklist, and
- a robust, interactive training program.
To play the game:
1. Restaurants and retailers submit a baseline green action scorecard, which will help assess their current sustainability practices.
2. With resources and assistance from the county, businesses then work over the course of one year to identify and implement a range of actions, from no- or low-cost changes to full-scale retrofits.
3. Each sector has its own scorecard with tailored resources and its own training events, so the resources are personalized to the unique challenges restaurants and retail stores face.
4. The topics covered on the scorecards include energy, water, waste and recycling, products and supplies, transportation, outreach and education, and innovation.
5. The restaurant scorecard also covers food and fats, oils and grease (FOG). At the end of one year, final scorecards are submitted and retailers and restaurants that achieve specific milestones are recognized by the county (see award designations in the charts below).
About the Authors
Kelly Zonderwyk is the Energy Program ppecialist for the AIRE team at the Arlington County Department of Environmental Services (DES).
Prior to her current position, she worked for the National Association of Counties.
With Sarah O’Connell, she manages the Arlington Green Games Program.
Sarah E. O’Connell is the Energy Outreach coordinator for the AIRE team.
Previously, she worked as a senior associate for ICF International.
For more information, visit Arlington County Department of Environmental Services.