Salsa a la Salsa Restaurant in Minneapolis

Latino-owned restaurants in Minneapolis save energy and money with efficiency measures

For restaurant owners like Lorenzo Ariza, energy costs can make the difference between profit and loss any given month. “Every time I looked at my expenses, I wondered how I could reduce them,” says Ariza, who has owned Salsa a la Salsa Restaurant in Minneapolis since 2002. “I thought that energy expenses were impossible to lower.”

Now, Ariza is one of the first Latino business owners using the services of the new Green Initiative of the Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC), where he is learning about ways to operate his business more efficiently and ecologically-friendly. LEDC has identified a high demand among business owners for information about how they can make their businesses more “green” and save energy and money. With support from the City of Minneapolis’s Great Streets Program, the staff of LEDC has been conducting a survey of Latino business owners on Lake Street, and found that more than 80% of business owners interviewed have asked for resources and support to make their business environmentally responsible.

Investigating

Ariza’s first action in the Green Initiative was to sign up for an energy audit from the Food Service Energy Leadership Program, a program hosted by Eureka Recycling that focuses on helping food-related businesses make low-cost or no-cost changes to cut their energy bills. According to Carl Samuelson, Energy Efficiency Program Coordinator, restaurants use 250% more energy on average than a normal business of a similar size. A month after his energy audit, Ariza received a customized report that explained what steps he could take to reduce his energy bill by up to 18%. Many of the recommended actions were free or were affordable enough that it would take less than a year for the energy savings to compensate for the initial costs. Before the initial report meeting was completed, Ariza had already turned down the temperature on his water boiler, which would save him an estimated $1,000 in 2012.

Maria and Primativo Morales, owners of Tortilleria La Poblanita Maria and Primativo Morales, owners of Tortilleria La Poblanita restaurant and grocery in Minneapolis, have also benefitted from the services of LEDC’s Green Initiative and the Food Service Energy Leadership Program. Their report indicated that they could save 21% of their energy bill by taking the recommended steps. Those savings would cut nearly 70,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions in one year, the equivalent of taking 5.5 cars off the road. “It’s comforting to know what we can do,” Mr. Morales says. “I’m thinking a lot about the opportunities.”

For Ariza, who has been interested in sustainability for many years, this energy report is only the beginning. He has full recycling service at his two restaurant locations, each of which he chose to decorate using recycled materials. Now, he says, he sees new opportunities to “be responsible, and see what works and what doesn’t work” for making Salsa a la Salsa a greener business.

For more information on how your business can save money on your energy, gas, water, or waste bills, contact Matt Kazinka, LEDC’s Green Initiative Coordinator, at matt@ledc-mn.org or at 651-395-4033. You can also find out more information about LEDC at http://www.ledc-mn.org

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