Finding our way!

One month into the project and things are starting to take shape.  Lauren has been working hard to create the blog that will chronicle our journey, as well as acting as a vehicle for communication with our partners and those that are interested in following our project.  We’ve created a project ‘timeline’, and we’ve reached out to a couple of key people in the University community that have already helped us in many ways.  Gillian Maurice is the University’s Sustainability Co-ordinator and a few meetings with her have been very helpful in getting a sense of how her department can be of support.  Gillian is a wealth of knowledge and we will definitely be using her as a resource throughout the life of the project.  One of the first things Gillian did was lend us a ‘kill a watt’ monitor so Lauren can start taking some ‘phantom load’ readings of our kitchen equipment when it is not in use.

Gillian also introduced us to Mark Britton who is the Energy Management Technologist  from Physical Resources at the University.   As one of our goals of this project is research we are very keen on establishing how we are going to measure our results.  As far as energy usage at PJ’s, it seems quite simple that we would look at the  past water, gas and electrical usage for the restaurant and use that as a baseline moving forward,  this is where Mark comes in.   After explaining our project to Mark he informed us of his willingness to help but he prefaced this with the fact that the University’s energy system is old and was not set up to monitor and meter individual buildings.  What this means is we currently have no access to past levels of usage at the restaurant.  Mark is currently looking into our ability to measure the use of energy and water in PJ’s which may include us having to install meters ourselves  $$$$$$$$.

Mark was also very kind in getting Lauren and I invited to a seminar on water he was attending so last Thursday Lauren and I accompanied Mark to OCETA’s Water Innovation Forum for Ontario’s Food and Beverage Industry.  This day long event was geared towards the processing side of the food and beverage industry but Lauren an I were still able to take a lot away from the day.  I took note of something that was said early on in the day.   One of the speakers , Helmi Ansari who is the Director of Sustainability and Productivity for Pepsico Food Frito-Lay Canada talked about companies going through phases in their adoption, or commitment to more sustainable practices.  He  spoke about this in two terms, the first one being that companies first adapt to attain ‘compliance’, then they shift to ‘conservation mode’, and eventually seek to become ‘sustainable’.   In drawing on his experiences Helmi  mentioned that  companies usually address things by first getting ‘people’ involved, then follow that up by addressing ‘process’.  Finally companies will incorporate new technology to the equation.   Helmi summed up this thinking stating the following:

“People , then process,  then technology….  It starts with people changing behaviour but this is low-lying fruit.  It eventually comes down to the capital commitment to technological improvements.””

Applying Helmi’s thoughts to our project I am starting to think that we will follow a similar path.  We will start by getting people involved and changing behaviours.  We will then look at our processes and systems and adjust them within our current means.  Lastly, in order to make big changes we will need to introduce new technologies like more energy-efficient kitchen equipment etc..   This idea of what I am calling ‘sustainable evolution’ in a business will be difficult for a restaurant.  In our instance (PJ’s) we have no money (funding) slated for kitchen equipment in our project so we may have to get to the point of looking for external funding from industry partners.  In more of a macro sense I think this idea of technological introduction as a final step in a companies sustainable evolution is something that does not fit in the current business model of the modern restaurant.  If restaurants do put aside monies for  ‘capital improvement’ it is typically needed to re-invest in the front of house as decor is often a critical point of differentiation in the marketplace.   This is not the case in manufacturing, or as we’ve been speaking about food and beverage processing.  The business models in these industries call for ‘capital investments’ to be put aside and be re-invested in upgrades of technologies that ensure the companies competitiveness in process.  We may be on to one of the ‘barriers’ to restaurants become more sustainably focused…

Perhaps the second most interesting point I took away from the day was a comment made by a Kraft Foods Plant General Manager, Doug Dittburner.  He had the following to say when asked what the key driver is in his companies motivation to become more sustainable. “Customers are the driving factor to us changing, they want products that are responsibly producted”.  Very interesting to hear this from a food processor, not sure if I have heard many restauranteurs echo the same sentiment…………yet!

Looking forward Simon, Lauren and I are excited to be attending a two-day workshop on Sustainable Leadership put on by The Natural Step.  (TNS)   This takes place next week in Toronto and we will make sure to report back on what we take away from the experience.  For those of you who are not familiar with TNS they are the group behind Whistler 20/20, one of the best sustainability projects I’ve come across, worth checking out at

Thanks for your interest!  Feel free to contact any of our Project Team member with questions or comments you may have.


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