The National Restaurant Association (NRA) launched a new campaign--called the National Restaurant Association Conserve/EPA Energy Star Challenge--and is encouraging the nation's nearly 1 million restaurants, their 13 million employees, as well as their suppliers and guests to reduce energy and water use in establishments. Nearly 500 attendees signed up during the NRA Show in May to take the Conserve/EPA Energy Star Challenge. More information on how to participate is also available at

"Restaurants represent an important opportunity to reduce energy consumption across the nation since the average restaurant uses 2.5 times more energy per square foot than other commercial buildings," Anna Stark, program manager for Energy Star Commercial Markets, said in a press release. "Energy and water efficiency will improve a restaurant's bottom line, as well as help protect and preserve the environment for future generations."

Jerry Lawson, National Manager of the Energy Star Small Business & Congregations Network, said in a statement, "Restaurant profit margins are typically only 3 to 9 percent of total revenue. Controlling costs such as energy and water can make a big difference in a small business' profitability. Restaurants that follow the Conserve/EPA Energy Star Challenge and invest in energy efficiency could realize a 30 percent return on these investments over time."

By reducing their use of energy and water, restaurants save on utility costs. The association provides a free and easy checklist of energy- and water-saving tips to get Conserve/EPA Energy Star Challenge participants started. The checklist includes steps such as turning off lights and equipment when not in use, serving water upon request, and motivating employees to reinforce conservation efforts.

Another step encourages restaurant operators to benchmark their current energy and water consumption. By benchmarking, or measuring usage, operators can identify opportunities for savings, validate their efforts, and set goals for future reductions. One tool participants can utilize is EPA's free Energy Star Portfolio Manager, which allows users to set and measure energy- and water-reduction targets.

NRA research shows that environmentally sustainable practices are increasingly important to today’s consumers. Forty-four percent say they are likely to make a restaurant choice based on a restaurant’s efforts to conserve energy and water, and six out of 10 say they are more likely to visit a restaurant that offers food that was grown in an organic or environmentally friendly way.