7/18/2011 - Asheville restaurants going greener with help of grant money
by Jason Sandford - Asheville Citizen Times
AREA BUSINESSES CAN GO GREEN, TOO! The Green / Healthy Built lifestyle doesn't have to be limited to just new construction homes! These restaurants are using resources to make their businesses reflect their healthy philosophies!
ASHEVILLE -- Seventeen restaurants will install dozens of new light bulbs, solar panels and low-flow spray nozzles in coming months to cut energy use and enhance the city's reputation as home to earth-conscious, independent restaurants.
The Blue Ridge Sustainability Institute won a $258,000 grant to work with the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association on the project.
The money, funneled through the federal government's stimulus program, will be used with thousands more dollars from the individual restaurants. The total investment will reach about $400,000.
"I think this is going to give our community the facelift that we believe is right for us," said Randy Talley, president of Green Sage Coffeehouse and Café and head of the restaurant group's "green team."
"We'll see solar panels going up everywhere, and this is just the beginning," he said.
The bulk of the money will be used to install solar panels to heat water and change incandescent light bulbs to high-efficiency fluorescent ones.
Money also will be spent to install plastic strip curtains in walk-in refrigerator coolers, weather-stripping and low-flow spray nozzles used to rinse dirty dishes.
"The average restaurant will save $1,000 a year from the solar piece and about another $1,000 a year on the other measures," said Tim Ballard, who is overseeing the project for the sustainability institute, an Asheville nonprofit.
With the average restaurant paying $20,000 to $30,000 in utility costs, that's a 10 percent annual savings, said Ballard, "and those savings stay until the next upgrade."
The energy-saving moves are expected to save nearly 3.4 billion BTUs of energy each year, said Ballard. That's roughly the equivalent of unplugging 110,000 televisions.
Restaurant owners say the improvements will help further define Asheville as a destination for people seeking unique, socially co nscious eateries.
It also will move them closer to achieving a unique certification through the Green Restaurant Association. The rigorous review, similar to the well-known LEED certification process for building construction, is a point-based system cataloguing a restaurant's energy conservation measures.
"We want to continue to promote Asheville as the greenest restaurant city in the country," Talley said. "We're not a green-washed town. We have real projects."
Steve Frabitore, owner of Tupelo Honey Café, said his estimated investment of about $40,000 at his downtown and South Asheville locations will be paid back in the form of a federal grant, incentive money from Progress Energy and the long-term cuts in energy bills.
But the investment has an even bigger payoff, according to Frabitore, who also serves as president of the restaurant association.
"This grant provides a sense of leadership. That's what I'm most proud of -- that this is demonstrated leadership," he said.