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National Restaurant Association - Restaurateurs find purpose in using repurposed materials

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Restaurateurs find purpose in using repurposed materials


There are several innovative and cost-effective ways restaurateurs can implement sustainable actions into the building and operation of their foodservice businesses, according to Christopher Moyer, subject matter expert for the National Restaurant Association's Conserve Sustainability Education Program.

Operators interested in going beyond recycling and composting, who want to incorporate more out-of-the-box eco-friendly methods at their establishments, can do so easily, effectively and without spending tons of money, Moyer asserted.

"Many restaurateurs know of or are at least familiar with the three 'R's of sustainability: reduce, reuse and recycle," he said, "but even more of them are starting to employ a fourth R - repurpose."

Using repurposed materials to furnish and decorate a restaurant's interior is one way to achieve those sustainable goals, Moyer offered.

"A growing number of businesses are finding new and creative ways to repurpose items in and around their establishments," he said.

Following are some ideas for incorporating repurposed materials into your restaurant's décor:

  • Turn empty beer bottles into table centerpieces or vases. According to Moyer, "You can stock some flowers in an empty Grolsh bottle, for example, and place it on a bar high top or in a 4-seat booth. It's a great alternative, especially if you're located in an area that doesn't offer glass recycling. Instead of wondering what to do with that bottle, you can find new ways to use it."
  • Transform buckets into compost storage containers. Said Moyer: "A 5-gallon pickle bucket can easily be transformed into a food waste container for use on the line and can be used to store perishable organics that are destined to be used for compost."
  • Use old jeans as wall insulation. "This is one of my favorite examples of repurposing," Moyer said. "There are companies that take beat-up, old, used jeans and turn them into insulation for the walls. Not only are they great insulators, they can even point you towards a LEED certification."
  • Christmas trees are not just for the holidays. "Come Dec. 26, a Christmas tree is just another item that sits at the curb next to bags of ripped-apart wrapping paper, unless you own a chipper," Moyer said. "If that is the case, it can become the new bedding for your restaurant."


Moyer said that in the last year alone, he has seen a chandelier made of old wine bottles, an entire coffee shop decorated with used furniture from a thrift shop, and a rooftop garden that used pallets to make plant boxes.

"Restaurateurs have creatively repurposed so many things, it's kind of second nature to them now," he said, "especially for independent operators."


Pictured top, right: Christopher Moyer, subject matter expert, Conserve Sustainability Education Program

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