Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Pots and pans against climate change - Santiago restaurant owner battles global warming

To minimize its impact on the climate, a restaurant in Santiago is making more efficient use of heat and energy, purchasing "clean" electricity and carbon certificates.

The vegetarian restaurant El Huerto, here in the Chilean capital, is the country's first to take steps to reduce its climate-changing emissions.

(Read more about the restaurant here: Restaurante El Huerto )

And now, thanks to an independent initiative, anyone can join the effort via the Internet.

El Huerto, with a seating capacity for 100 diners, opened its doors in 1980 in the wealthy neighborhood of Providencia and today enjoys fame among those who love healthy food and nature.

Faithful to their ecological conscience, owners José Fliman and Nicole Mintz decided in June to go beyond their famed artichoke pies and grilled vegetables to neutralizing their carbon footprint. They wanted to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide -- the main greenhouse gas -- produced by their kitchen and by the service to their customers.

"We wanted to reduce our energy consumption and compensate for what we couldn't save," Fliman, who left the process in the hands of the non-governmental Institute of Ecological Policy (IEP), told Tierramérica.

The IEP first conducted an energy analysis of El Huerto, which was found to emit 64.65 tons annually of carbon dioxide through its consumption of electricity generated from fossil fuels, and direct consumption of fossil fuels like natural gas, paraffin, coal and benzene.

Then IEP drew up an energy saving plan for 12 percent monthly, providing practical advice and workshops to change the habits of the more than 20 workers at the busy restaurant.

"The presentation that they gave us about climate change made us aware of the seriousness of the problem," server Isabel Carvajal told Tierramérica.

The standard light bulbs were replaced with more efficient bulbs, leaks in the building were sealed to reduce the need for heaters in the winter, and awnings were installed on the windows to keep out the sun's heat in the summer.

The kitchen staff now covers the pots to reduce the time needed to cook the food, hot water is stored in thermoses, and unnecessary lights are turned off.

The final evaluation of the process will be done in November 2008. Meanwhile, the restaurant's owners decided to compensate for all the carbon dioxide emitted in 2007 by purchasing "clean" electricity and carbon bonds, earmarked to finance projects with low or zero production of greenhouse gases.

El Huerto purchases electricity from El Rincón, a hydroelectric plant that makes use of the natural energy in the flow of the rivers, without using dams to store water in reservoirs.

In August, the IEP certified that El Rincón produces clean energy, respecting the environment and the population, according to the standards of the European Green Electricity Network.

El Huerto also purchases carbon bonds from Climate Care, which utilizes the revenue to implement clean development projects in the name of its clients.

The restaurant paid 770 dollars for the "carbon compensation" for 2007. On Nov. 30 it paid about 295 dollars to El Rincón, which generates 2.4 kilowatts per hour. Climate Care, which issues certificates or permits to emit one ton of carbon for the price of 15 dollars, is due around 475 dollars.

Here is the full article.