Local businesses rewarded for eco-friendly efforts

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On Sept. 11, the Capital Regional District (CRD) held its EcoStar awards ceremony celebrating businesses, organizations and individuals who have led the way in environmentally conscious initiatives. Eight awards, including categories such as Climate Action, Water Stewardship and Waste Reduction, were given out to various local recipients.

The 2012 winner for Climate Action (business) was local coffee producer Oughtred Coffee and Tea. 

Owner J.P. Oughtred explains that he and his employees have adopted numerous green initiatives, but what helped them clinch the award was their strategy to reduce excess heat produced at their roasting facility in Delta.

“There’s no smoke that comes out of our roasting facility, but it’s almost a catch-22, because it generates a massive amount of heat, and it takes an awful lot of natural gas to heat that afterburner to burn off the smoke so it’s a smokeless exhaust,” explains Oughtred. “So we were looking at ways to do something with that wasted heat, and what we ended up doing was piping off of the afterburner system and heating the roasting facility with the excess heat.”

Oughtred says the company’s eco-conscious attitude has not only reduced operating costs, but has also had a positive effect on employees as well as companies they interact with.

“Our staff and clients have really noticed, and it really made positive changes in their lives, just through the experience that they’ve had with us,” says Oughtred. “Some of our customers [have] really started to notice what we’re doing and then started to think about their business and started to make some wholesale changes to the way they operate as well.”

Another winner this year was Superior Restaurant Services in Victoria, which took home the Water Stewardship award. The company won the award for its invention called the Exhaust Fan Interceptor (EFI), which reduces excess grease and water from kitchen exhaust vents.

Company president James MacDougall says the EFI, which uses a unique method of separating precipitation and kitchen grease, came about thanks to an urgent need in his years of working in the restaurant steam-cleaning business. Kitchen grease normally accumulates in an exhaust vent, mixes with excess rainwater and leaks out, causing damage to the roof. Periodic cleaning of the water/grease build-up also has a nasty effect on the environment, as it produces a large volume of wastewater. The EFI prevents that process from happening.

“Each device that we install deflects hundreds and hundreds of litres of waste water away from the storm [sewer] system,” says MacDougall.

The company has been educating key players in the restaurant business across the country, including the larger vent-cleaning companies, about the benefits of the product.

“We think that we’ve created a new standard, and we believe that it is not going to take long for everybody to adopt it,” explains MacDougall. “It’s in the interest of the vent-cleaning companies to install it, because it streamlines the process. It makes it more professional. It eliminates some hazards.”

While MacDougall wants to make the EFI as big a success as possible, he’s equally concerned with using the invention to lessen the environmental impact of restaurant steam-cleaning.

He conservatively estimates that prior to the 2007 implementation of the CRD’s Kitchen Equipment Cleaning Regulation as part of the Sewer Use Bylaw, approximately 6 000 litres of high-pH, grease-laden water were entering the storm sewer system in Greater Victoria per day.

“Capturing the waste from these exhaust fans was time-consuming and tedious before the EFI. If we’re able to implement this, we can ensure close to 100 per cent wastewater recovery,” says MacDougall.

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