The National Restaurant Association reports that in 2010, the average American household spent $2,505 on food consumed outside of the home. That’s 48% of their yearly food budget spent at more than 945,000 restaurants, accounting for 4% of the U.S. gross domestic product. In order to respond to such a demand, the average restaurant uses 300,000 gallons of water per year — gaining the notice of the Green Restaurant Association (GRA).
The GRA works to create an environmentally sustainable restaurant industry by educating restaurants and their customers on the environmental challenges facing restaurants as well as the solution to these issues. To become GRA certified, restaurants are put through a rigorous and comprehensive environmental assessment and certification process. Candidates are evaluated in areas such as water and energy efficiency, waste reduction and recycling, and food and building sustainability. Moreover, restaurants must continue their sustainability efforts after becoming GRA certified. Each year, restaurants must have improved their previous year’s GRA score to remain certified.
In what first began as a restaurant that believed in the value of local, sustainable food, Tayst Restaurant & Wine Bar in Nashville, Tennessee, took sustainability to the next level when it became Nashville’s first and only GRA certified restaurant. For owner Jeremy Barlow, sustainable food wasn’t enough. He wanted sustainable everything: from the beeswax candles in the dining room to the high-efficiency lighting throughout the restaurant, Tayst has worked hard to earn GRA certification.
“The restaurant industry is the largest consumer of energy and generator of waste in our country,” Barlow says. “We can make a difference by trying to conserve.”
The GRA’s model provides a convenient way for restaurants like Tayst to conserve and become more environmentally sustainable, in part by endorsing high-efficiency products to help restaurant owners know where to turn when it comes to purchasing new appliances.
Barlow’s passion for sustainability and conservation motivated him to install two high efficiency commercial gas water heaters to make his restaurant even more environmentally friendly.
“I know the amount of time, effort, checks and even double checks that Tayst had to go through to become GRA certified,” says Barlow. “So for the GRA to endorse this water heater, I know that this product had to go through the same type of scrutiny and rigorous application process that we had to follow.”
The GRA certified line of water heaters operates with up to 96% thermal efficiency to dramatically decrease operating costs and inputs up to 500,000 BTU. Up to four units can be manifolded to provide a total storage of 520 gallons and a total input of 2 million BTU, making it an ideal system for restaurants and hotels.
“The thing that really drew me to the water heater was the energy savings and the benefits we get out of it,” Barlow says. “There are a lot of benefits compared to a regular water heater, primarily, of course, the energy and gas savings.”
Specifically for the restaurant industry, the unit provides substantial hot water output with significant savings on operating costs compared with conventional water heaters with 80% efficiency. This efficiency is achieved through the helical coil heat exchanger, which allows for better heat transfer than a standard model.
“When you’re looking at going green, anything you can do to cut back and conserve will help. Water heaters are such a large part of our overall energy consumption, so these high efficiency water heaters are really going to allow us to reduce the amount of gas we use for water heating,” Barlow says.
“The green endorsement — in addition to the green that it keeps in my pocket — makes the water heater the perfect addition to my restaurant.”