Counting Calories and Restaurant Waste

Last year in December TED published a video of legendary chef and restaurateur Arthur Potts Dawson talking about his efforts at creating a sustainable restaurant.  This has to have been one of the most illuminating talks that no restaurant owner can afford to miss.  From learning about how many different ways a potato gets handled all the way to using the elements (wind, water, sun) to power restaurants the short (less that 10 minute) talk is packed with information and thought provoking commetary.

Dawson starts out by informing us that for every calorie consumed in a restaurant 10 calories go into creating it! That is highly inefficient. Dawson goes on to take the example of  the “humble potato” and describes the various (8 according to him) stages that it goes through from ‘cradle to grave’. A lot of these stages say growth, transportation, cooking etc involve expenditure of energy.  An important concept that underlies this piece of the conversation is our inability to look at the full system components – the cradle to grave lifecycle if you will, and to take into consideration all avenues where energy is wasted.  Point being that the final product or end point in isolation while important needs to take into account the journey to get there.

Waste as per Dawson could be anything, time, material, space, ‘waste-waste’.  In this context Dawson goes on to describe his vision of a sustainable restaurant next.  The Acorn House has floors that are sustainable and recyclable, chairs that are recycled and recyclable, walls with shelves to eliminate wasted space.  The restaurant is run on sustainable energy (wind in this case), all the bulbs are daylight bulbs, reuses a lot such as a reconditioned coffee machine.  Reuse is also a practice as in filtering their own water, filling up bottles and refrigerating them and using them over and over and over again!

Some other innovative ideas in Mr. Dawson’s restaurant are around portion sizes.  As a patron you can not only specify what you want, but also how much you want.  That is a novel idea indeed and worth emulating elsewhere.   Wasted food has to be the biggest concern for anyone looking at the sustainability aspects of running a restaurant.  In this regard his restaurant composts food, has a wormery,  and then uses the post-compost to grow vegetables on premise.   When it comes to water the restaurant is equipped with (and tastefully done if I may add) with a step wise water filtration system that takes reuse water and irrigates the garden.  They also have plans to take this water and use it as flush water in the restrooms.

Dawson talks about his crusade to create sustainable restaurants.  In this regard he introduces ‘The Waterhouse’ where thee is absolutely no gas energy.  Everything is run on electricity – hydro electricity that is.  The restaurant is “cooled and heated by water, filters its own water and is powered by water”.   Heat exchangers and a convenient canal nearby provide for natural airconditioning.

Dawson sure is changing the world view of what a sustainable restaurant ought to be.  Concepts based on wood (the acorn house), and water (the waterhouse) are to be followed by others such as one based on fire.  If this were not enough to keep him busy, he is also responsible for the people’s supermarket.  Of course I dont want to give everything away in this blog.  Go to the video and enjoy the rest of it. It will be 8 minutes well spent.

Mr. Dawson, Greenmachan salutes you!

To my readers, as promised this is a shorter blog article.   I will soon be evaluating some cool technologies.  If you are interested in reading about specific innovations send me a note at

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