Sunday, May 17, 2009

Goading green

There was a passing mention here, a quick aside there, an oh-by-the-way tangent to a speaker’s larger point. But the five or six references, coming on a single day of the restaurant show, suggest the industry may soon have to contend with a new dose of government agita, this time dealing with conservation.

At least two of the day’s presenters mentioned a growing interest among public officials in obliging restaurants to operate in a greener fashion. A representative of Energy Star, a federal resource for cutting energy consumption, advised restaurants to benchmark their demand on utilities in part to protect themselves from heightened government scrutiny. You want to be able to show what you’d done to conserve, just in case, she explained. But she didn’t specify why regulators or lawmakers might be gauging restaurants’ efforts to cut their power consumption, or what actions they may be contemplating.

A representative of IPC Subway, an independent purchasing cooperative for the chain, was far more explicit. Tina Fitzgerald, director of produce and social responsibility for IPC, cited interest by some nations, states and counties in outlawing certain types of containers or packaging materials, like plastic bags or plastifoam boxes. She noted that Canada is already levying a tax based on “how much packaging goes out the door,” a spur to cutting how many containers or wraps come in through the back.

Fitzgerald also recounted how Subway sent an energy-saving CFL bulb to every franchisee to encourage the replacement of less-efficient incandescent bulbs. She indicated that the franchisees have found religion, so to speak, and then commented that mandates might soon force the non-believers to make the changeover in any case.

I don’t think she meant the franchisor would levy that demand. The aside seemed to fit her point that governments are becoming more active in regulating green.

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