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6 Things Restaurant Owners Can Do to Be More Environmentally Conscious




Restaurants in the United States generate between twenty and thirty billion pounds of food waste every year. This is on top of the plastic, paper, and other waste that they generate like any other business. The average restaurant produces around a hundred thousand pounds of garbage every year. And this waste has a massive impact on everything from the environment to your bottom line. Here are 6 things restaurant owners can do to be more environmentally conscious and minimize their environmental impact. 

Minimize Food Waste 

Depending on the restaurant, anywhere from four to ten percent of the food they produce is wasted before it reaches the consumer, while all the food left on the plate at the end of the meal is wasted, as well. Why is reducing food waste environmentally conscious? You aren’t contributing to the production, transport, storage and processing of food that is never consumed. And you have less food waste to dispose of. A good starting place is a study of what gets thrown away. If people are tossing thirty percent of their fries or chips, reduce the serving size to what people are actually eating. Lower the price so that customers don’t feel ripped off, and those who want more can easily order a second serving. 

One potential solution is streamlining your menu. Get rid of items that are rarely ordered. This simplifies your supply chain, and more importantly, you reduce the risk that you have to throw out half of that item in stock because it didn’t sell.

Another option is shifting to an inventory pull system instead of an inventory push system. Make items when they are ordered rather than making them in the hope that they’ll be purchased. If you make a dozen tuna sandwiches that don’t sell, your only option is to dispose of them. If you don’t make the food until it is ordered, then the bread and other ingredients can remain sealed and safe for future use. You may need to take people’s orders earlier in the drive through or via apps to ensure that you don’t increase customer wait time in the effort to reduce food waste. 

Encourage Recycling by Your Customers 

Your restaurant can start by encouraging customers to recycle. Buy serving utensils made from recycled materials, and label them as recyclable. Where possible, educate them about how to recycle their takeout boxes and disposable items. Ensure that the plastic takeaway boxes and cups are marked with the number or material identifying which bin to put it in. 

Recycle What You Can 

Provide recycling locations for the plastic containers along with anything else your customers bring with them. This reduces the amount of waste from restaurants that go into the trash. You could go one step farther by collecting food waste that is composted rather than simply disposed of.

It is easy to say that you’re going to recycle oily paper food wrappers, though paper recyclers cannot accept this type of mixed material. However, you can recycle your used cooking oil. Whether you’re frying chicken or French fries, the cooking oil can be collected. It can be turned into biodiesel and used in flex-fuel vehicles. Some organizations collect the cooking oil and add it to animal feed, increasing its protein content without adding potentially disease laden animal protein. 

Note that recycling can apply to unused items. Ask people to put unused single serve condiments in a collection basket as they return their tray. You can reuse single serve utensils if they’re still in the plastic, though used ones clearly can only be melted down or composted. 

Set Up Systems to Donate What You Can’t Use 

Food waste may still be edible, and there are many hungry people in the world. Consider setting up formal processes for disposing of food at the end of the day in socially and ecologically responsible ways. For example, day old donuts would be appreciated by those at the homeless shelter. Week old bread could be donated to homeless shelters or food banks. If you no longer offer an item on your menu, have a plan in place to donate the remaining inventory to charity where possible. While meat that sat in the freezer for a month may not be salvageable, there’s no point in throwing away the cans of olive or jars of relish. 

Minimize Material Use 

A lot of restaurant waste is inadvertent. You give customers three napkins. They use two and throw away all three. One solution is giving them one napkin along with the serving utensils and providing the option to take more from a self-serve dispenser if they need it.

You might need to streamline the standard set of items you give people when served. For example, what percentage of your customers actually use the knife in the plastic silverware set you give them? How many of the salt and pepper packets in the single serve packs are thrown away? 

You may need to assess your cleaning methods, too. Public safety and government regulations must be met. However, you might be able to use fewer cleaning wipes and paper towels in the process of cleaning tables, work surfaces and bathrooms. 

Go Seasonal 

Every restaurant should have a core menu that is offered year-round. Additional menu items may be added to attract new customers or keep current customers from getting bored with the menu. Don’t add new menu items because they’re popular like the chipotle pepper and honey mustard fads. Try adding seasonal foods to the menu. For example, you can create smoothies or desserts based on seasonal fruits. Now you have a core item like smoothies or desserts, but one of the major ingredients is constantly changing. It may be peaches in July, apples in September, and pumpkins in October.

This approach has several benefits. One is that there is less complexity in your supply chain, since the food prep and most of the ingredients in the seasonal item are unchanged. Another benefit is that you’re encouraging use of a seasonal food. Buying fruit when it is out-of-season is more expensive, especially if is imported from the other side of the world. And while pumpkin flavored items may be popular during the late fall, you won’t end up with a large unsold inventory of artificially flavored items in December because the menu relies on fresh produce. 


The average restaurant is running on a one to five percent profit margin. If you can reduce the amount of wasted food, materials and labor, you’ll increase the profitability of your business without hurting customer service. And you’ll be helping the planet, too. 



Drive Electric USA — Electrifying 14 States




Electric vehicle leaders in 14 states have just launched a three-year effort to develop “Drive Electric” programs at the state level for these 14 states. The states do not include clear leader likes California and Oregon, but rather focus on places that need a boost or are just getting off the ground.

The initiative stemmed from a conversation between East Tennessee Clean Fuels (ETCF) staff and Clean Fuels Ohio (CFO) staff in early 2020, and they were awarded US Department of Energy (DOE) funding before the year was over. After several months of preparation, the core Drive Electric USA team pulled together a few dozens additional partners to help create these state-level programs.

One of those partners is CleanTechnica, and I’m sitting on 4 of the “Project Advisory Committee” working groups. The working groups are focused on 7 different priority areas the Drive Electric USA team determined were critical elements of state-level Drive Electric programs. Here is how Drive Electric USA summarizes these priority areas:

1) Statewide Branded EV Programs

The Project will create strong statewide branded EV programs, each guided by a committee of EV stakeholders and encompassing locally based chapters. These programs will attract support and resources, coordinate action across all other Priority Areas, and increase positive exposure.

2) Consumer Education & Local Chapter Development

Directly educate at least 14,000 consumers (average of 1,000+ per state) through direct participation in EV Ride-and-Drives (R&Ds) and other tactics. Develop and support local EV chapters (at least two per state) to coordinate R&Ds based on specific event models. Gather and analyze participant surveys.

3) Utility and Regulator Engagement

Educate state utility regulators, plus investor-owned, municipal, and cooperative utilities in 14 states. Base education on evolving best practices for utility EV programs and benefits of transportation electrification for all stakeholders, including non-EV owning utility customers. Conduct seminars, forums, R&Ds and other convenings for utilities, regulators and stakeholders in the sector.

4) EV Charging Infrastructure Planning

Conduct gap analyses and develop or update plans for EV charging infrastructure in each of the 14 Partnership states at statewide, regional and community levels. Use analyses to educate a wide range of stakeholders and plan deployment of EVSE at all levels and site types in each state.

5) State and Local Government Officials Education

Educate government officials in all 14 Partnership states. At the state level, focus on best practices for incentive programs for vehicles and infrastructure, state building codes, weights and measures issues for public EVSE, among others. At the local level, focus on guidance for charging in public rights of way, signage and parking enforcement, local building codes, and government fleet electrification.

6) Dealer Engagement — Develop Preferred Dealer Programs

Develop “preferred” EV dealer programs in 14 states, then secure forty or more preferred dealers total, with at least two per state. Build web-based platforms to help channel interested EV purchasers to preferred dealers. Partner with “low touch” Internet- based retailers that sell EVs, especially in portions of states still underserved by supportive dealers.

7) Fleet Engagement & EV Adoption

Meet with personnel from 560 fleets across all Partnership states, then drive EV adoption in an average of at least 10 fleets per state.

State population data came from the U.S. Census. Registered EV data is in flux — current data is from Atlas EV HUB; we expect to update this in March 2021. DC Fast Charger and Level 2 station data is from the U.S. DOE Alternative Fuel Station Locator state results, and refers to the number of “stations” or locations where one or more DCFC/Level 2 units can be found (added in Feb. 2021).

The Project Advisory Committee members are a mixture of private sector, nonprofit, and governmental entities. It is diverse and should cover all the bases necessary to help create high-quality state Drive Electric programs. Here are the 34 current Project Advisory Committee members:

  1. Argonne National Laboratory | ANL
  2. Association for Energy Services Professionals
  3. Atlas Public Policy
  4. Black & Veatch
  6. Center for Sustainable Energy
  7. ChargEVC
  8. ChargePoint
  9. CleanTechnica
  10. Clipper Creek
  11. Edison Electric Institute
  12. Electric Power Research Institute | EPRI
  13. EVNoire
  14. Fermata Energy
  15. FORTH
  16. Generation 180
  17. Greenlots
  18. Green Energy Consumers
  19. Lipschultz Energy and Communications Consulting LLC
  20. National Association of State Energy Officials | NASEO
  21. National Automobile Dealers Association
  22. National Conference of State Legislatures
  23. National Rural Electric Cooperative Association
  24. North American Council for Freight Efficiency | NACFE
  25. Orange EV
  26. Plug In America
  27. RMI
  28. San Diego Clean Cities Coalition
  29. Shift2Electric
  30. Sierra Club
  31. Slipstream
  32. Southern Company
  33. Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance | SEEA
  34. Xcel Energy

We have a long way to go to electrify transport in the United States, but I am hopeful this initiative will speed up the transition. If you have any special feedback to provide on any of the topics above, feel free to pass it along, but I especially invite you to brainstorm and comment on the 4 focus areas of the working groups I’m on:

  • Statewide Branded EV Programs
  • Consumer Education & Local Chapter Development
  • EV Charging Infrastructure Planning
  • Dealer Engagement — Develop Preferred Dealer Programs

If you have something to share on any of these topics, pass it along. As the programs are develop, I expect to bring highlights of some of the conversations here to CleanTechnica, where I expect we can also gather some thoughtful feedback from engaged readers.

If you want to get involved in Drive Electric USA directly yourself, you can contact the administrative team here. You could also get involved through one of several Clean Cities Coalitions groups involved in the initiative.

Last but not least, the Drive Electric USA website includes a resources section that is sure to grow over time. For now, it includes the following plans or roadmaps as well as the Atlas EV Hub. Here are the exact documents that are listed at the moment:

  • Colorado EV Plan
  • Florida EV Roadmap
  • NC ZEV Plan
  • Tennessee EV Roadmap



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With New FERC Office of Public Participation, You Can Help Shape Energy in Your Community




Courtesy of Union Of Concerned Scientists.
By Mike Jacobs, Senior energy analyst

Gather in and read the news! Prepare yourselves for sights never before seen!

Ok, I’m no carnival sideshow barker, but this also isn’t a sideshow. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is creating an Office of Public Participation after 35 years of dodging the issue. This truly is a once in a lifetime chance for reform in a very important government agency.

FERC is the government agency that supervises, approves, and sometimes punishes companies that build gas pipelines (plus compressor stations and LNG terminals) and hydropower dams on rivers. It also oversees the electric grid’s reliability, operations, and prices.

Getting this new office going in the right direction could be a great change for communities and organizations that are fighting for energy justice, or better prices, or a say in what happens in their communities.

This office could allow people who might have to live with pipelines or community groups fighting to be heard about compressor stations get a chance to speak. Communities of people would be able to navigate FERC’s regulatory processes.

If the Office of Public Participation was set up with intervenor funding, it could provide money to those organizations so they could hire the lawyers and expert witnesses needed to sway commission decisions. Cities and towns that have been stuck with raw deals to buy overpriced power from power companies could better match the legal and technical power that utility companies bring to FERC proceedings.

FERC is unique for a federal agency because it is entirely self-funded. The money that keeps the office going comes from fees on developers and fines from companies that engage in harmful activities like market manipulation.

This agency has grown and evolved over almost 100 years, but it has always been opaque and difficult for all but the specialists in the energy industry.

Where it comes from

In the mid-1970’s, as part of a sweeping government shift to increase openness and environmental awareness, Congress passed an energy reform law that authorized FERC to establish the Office of Public Participation. While many of the consumer and environmental protection laws created in that decade are well-known, this new branch was never set up inside FERC. Until now. In December 2020 Congress ordered FERC to do something about this and to report on the plan by June 25, 2021.

What it could do

For a change, this office could help people and communities. Engaging with FERC is complicated and can be expensive. Making a concern heard can require understanding the legal and technical issues at work. Without this office helping the public on the process, a community’s concerns could go unheard. Until the Office of Public Participation is up and staffed, the obstacles for engagement remain.

The new leadership at FERC has made clear what they want this new office to do. FERC Chairman Richard Glick is elevating environmental justice and equity. His pick to get this started, Commissioner Allison Clements, announced: “My priorities are to listen to stakeholders and to incorporate EJ and frontline communities who’ve lacked representation before FERC.”

Public engagement at FERC is important because FERC makes decisions that impact people’s lives. FERC sets the rules and costs that utilities and power plant owners will collect from consumers. With nearly 1/3 of Americans struggling to pay their electric bills, keeping an eye on energy affordability is important.

What YOU can do  

  • Prepare for April 16 workshop by nominating speakers by March 10. People usually nominate themselves. Send your name and organization or community to
  • Get started between now and April on some comments about how this office should work. Anyone can send written comments to FERC. Here’s a general look at the process. I’m adding more specific areas below.
  • Plan for another round of comments when details become more clear. FERC is pushing up against the deadline Congress set to write a progress report to Congress in June. Once that report sets out some details, FERC will have more workshops and more questions to decide about the workings of this office and thus more opportunities for the public to comment.

How can we shape it

There are more ways to look at this change at FERC and respond to it. I’m offering one set of advice to help people understand what speakers and comment writers can talk about in comments:

  1. Ensure that the June report written by the current leadership sets down a strong foundation. Define how FERC will report on how this new Public Participation Office fills its mission so future leaders at FERC can’t easily gut those requirements
  2. Define the ways the Commission can enhance public participation and engagement, the ability to investigate problematic procedures and issue reports.

Questions that need answers

What should the Office do for the public?

  1. Tell FERC about the need for technical and financial assistance related to proposals that come up; who qualifies and who does not qualify for assistance; what kind of assistance is needed.
  2. Provide access, education, assistance to the public on the role of FERC and utilities that seek FERC approvals for the people impacted. Help individuals or groups who would be interested in learning more about FERC actions, commenting or perhaps formally intervening.
  3. Tell FERC what should be included in successful public outreach programs. What lessons can be learned from other outreach efforts?

What power should the Office have, and how should it be accountable?

  1. Should this office be able to act on failures of the regulated industry to comply with commitments to the public?
  2. Should this office provide rules with regard to public access to information?
  3. What are good metrics for OPP to track to objectively assess its success?

This is your chance, gentlefolks. Tell the federal government to see that the law established in the 1970s is put into service for the people it was intended to help. Speak up about what changes will help. There’s a lot the FERC is seeking to learn. Let’s help them help us.



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International Code Council Votes To Restrict City Involvement In New Building Codes




This week the International Code Council (ICC) announced that it would effectively limit the input of states and cities in the development of new building codes that can help cut energy use and emissions. The ICC decision goes against numerous local leaders, members of Congress, and the US Department of Energy and caves to industry groups like the American Gas Association and National Association of Home Builders.

Model codes developed by the ICC set the benchmark for building standards and can be adopted by states and cities looking to construct more comfortable, efficient, and cost-effective buildings. In late 2019, state and local leaders voted in favor of increased efficiency standards and making new buildings ready for electric vehicles and appliances.

Mike Henchen, principal on RMI’s Carbon-Free Buildings team, issued the following statement in response to this week’s announcement:

“States and cities are eager to lead in combating climate change, and building codes are an important tool for reducing emissions. The ICC chose to limit the input of local leaders in favor of industry groups resistant to change. The climate crisis won’t wait for these opposing forces to come around, so the federal government and local leaders must work together to accelerate modern, healthy, zero-emissions buildings.

“RMI will continue to support policymakers in multiple states who are committed to tackling the health, economic and climate impacts of burning fossil fuels in buildings. The ICC’s decision is disappointing, but states and cities can take matters into their own hands by setting more ambitious standards for zero-emissions buildings.”


  • Recent RMI analysis found that it is cheaper to build a new all-electric home, compared to building with gas, in all seven US cities we studied. Additional analysis found that switching from a gas furnace to an efficient, electric heat pump saves carbon emissions in 99% of US households.
  • The New Buildings Institute and Natural Resources Defense Council wrote their own Building Decarbonization Code, which states and cities can adopt to move toward a zero-emissions building sector.

Article courtesy of RMI.

Related story: Washington Clean Buildings Bill Raises The Bar For Every State



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Volvo Autonomous Solutions Forms Joint Venture With Foretellix




From its groundbreaking use of LiDAR to its award-winning City Safety systems, Volvo has been leading the charge in electrification and autonomization for some time. And that includes heavy-duty constriction equipment, too! Now, the company hopes to advance the state of the art even further through a partnership with the verification technology experts at Fortellix to jointly create a Coverage Driven Verification Solution for autonomous vehicles operating both public roads and in geographically confined areas.

Open roads present a number of challenges that one might reasonably expect to present a greater number of unknowns that, for example, a geographically confined space might. But a job site isn’t exactly free from variables, either, and operating in extremely tight conditions– like underground, in a mine, in close proximity to walls, other equipment, and human beings operating with limited visibility and very little margin for error — well, that’s not nothing. With that in mind, it becomes obvious that the ability of autonomous solutions to orchestrate large scale operations down to the finest detail will be critical in helping autonomous vehicles and machines to deal with anything they might encounter within their specified Operational Design Domains (ODDs).

Image courtesy Volvo CE

The only way to really get a sense of what all that is going to take is to run simulations — and lots of them! That’s where Fortellix comes in. Foretellix is a pioneer in methodologies for automated driving system verification, and its platform uses novel AI and big data analytical tools that coordinate and monitor millions of driving scenarios to expose bugs and edge cases. Those edge cases, way out on the edge of the probability curve, are what need to be planned for, especially when a 30-ton Volvo track loader starts throwing its weight around. Underground. In a potentially explosive mine.

So, yeah — seems like the kind of thing you’d want to take planning for seriously. And, for their part, Foretellix seems to be taking this project very seriously. “We are very proud to partner with Volvo Group. This partnership is a significant milestone for the industry as it is the first time that large scale Coverage Driven Verification will be used for verification of ADS in confined areas,” explains Ziv Binyamini, the CEO co-founder of Foretellix and all-around smart guy. “Our partnership will combine the expertise of the two companies and set a new standard in the verification of automated driving systems, boosting both safety and productivity.”

The new joint program will enable massive scale testing of millions of different job site scenarios, which will validate autonomous vehicle AIs and help the machines adapt within their ODDs. It’s hard to say when the first large-scale deployment of Volvo CE’s autonomous vehicles will happen, yet, but projects like this one means it will probably be somewhat sooner than later.



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