Blog : Old-Fashioned Durham Restaurant Shows New-fangled Ingenuity with Extensive Energy Audit and Improvements
Don’t let the name mislead you; Young’s Restaurant is not immature when it comes to green business practices. Owners Ken and Cathy Young have been dreaming in green since the inception of the Durham eatery almost forty-two years ago. Their most recent initiative is that of energy efficiency. Although Young’s has been making small changes to reduce energy use and costs for years, this year they leapt ahead and underwent an energy audit inspired and facilitated by their membership in the Green Alliance – a unique green business union that pushes businesses and consumers to go greener.
Introduced to The Retail Merchant’s Association by their participation in the Green Alliance, Young’s learned that this association, in tandem with the Jordan Institute was offering select businesses extensive energy audits and conservation consulting at a very low cost – Young’s applied and was awarded the audit. The Jordan Institute gathered the information and performed the audit for Young’s earlier this winter, producing a vast and extremely helpful treasure trove of results that will now aide the restaurant in moving toward increased energy efficiency. “This audit and working with the Jordan Institute has truly been an eye opener. First they evaluate your facility, then give you an analysis of energy efficiency measures and along with that a financial analysis. We were given about 24 changes in efficiency to choose from. We’re looking into about 12 of those projects right now. Then we will be able to work with the Retail Merchants Association which will help us to off set approximately 25% of the cost with grant money and also any possible energy saving rebate programs we may qualify for, on top of that,” explains Ken Young.
In fact, as a result of this audit, Young’s has already committed to offsetting some of the restaurant’s electricity use with Glacial Energy, a small, local off-set company. Young’s will give two-percent of his energy bill to Glacial Energy to support wind energy. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Being total powered by wind energy is just the right thing to do. It’s my little statement that we are committed to having a cleaner environment. If a lot of little companies can see the advantage to run on alternative energy sources then we can start changing the world’s image on using oil and coal use. The next step is figuring out how we can switch to natural gas because this audit has helped us determine that natural gas is the way we will get the biggest efficiency bang for our buck. Again we will run the numbers and see if it’s affordable,” adds Young.
Ken Young is unique in that he is quite independent about his green initiatives. He explains, “Going green, buying and eating local is just the right thing to do to improve our local economy. Searching out the Green Alliance has helped me to network within a community that is committed to furthering green initiatives. But I realize with small businesses that are struggling in this economy that improvements come in baby steps. Networking with the Green Alliance members, local farmers, and companies that are committed to saving our environment can help small businesses save time and money. But ultimately each business has to do the research and see what is right for them”.
Young makes time to research painstakingly each prospective green project and implement many of them, all while running a booming downtown Durham restaurant. He believes that every building owner should do what is affordable and in their power to make their buildings greener. Young’s sentiments about new buildings are similar, “I think if new construction is not as green as it can be you’re making a huge mistake.” He sees first hand the difficulties of green retro-fits on an older pre-existing building.
Young’s is a proud and active member of the Green Alliance, a “green business union” dedicated to growing sustainable businesses. Over the years, Young’s has adopted many sustainability initiatives and small energy efficiency projects. From the basics like replacing incandescent light bulbs with LEDs and CFLs, to larger steps like using a short-cycle dishwasher. Young’s uses a remote compressor to run their large kitchen appliances, and one summer decided to move it to the basement so that it would not overheat the ice machine. Now, the ice machine can run all day without fighting the heat of the kitchen, a common-sense step which saves the restaurant money and energy used on air conditioning.
Young’s also does its part with extensive recycling programs and uses only compostable, plant-based to-go containers. Sustainability is also applied to any renovation or remodeling move in the restaurant. A 2007 dining room renovation saw the installation of a new, recycled wood pulp floor.
But the cornerstone of Young’s sustainability initiatives rest on their commitment to serving local food. “Considering New England as our local market we spend 40% of all our dollars with local vendors such as North Country Meats, Stonyfield Farms, Pineland Farms Cheese, Jessica’s Brick Oven Breads and New Hampshire Coffee, just to name a few. We have also partnered with Stout Oak Farms out of Epping last year and hope to do more with them this year to give a boost to the “farm to table” movement. At our front counter we feature a local vender each week to make customers aware of who we do business with,” Young explains. The restaurant has switched to a food vendor that runs its trucks on biodiesel and has recently begun offering all customers organic meal options.
Owner Ken Young says that most of his customers are highly “sustainability-aware”; something not surprising for a restaurant located in a town that is some ninety percent University of New Hampshire related. “Our customers are always looking to learn more and we appreciate their input to help us be as green as we can be; we know they care.”
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