More efficient lighting pays for itself in 10 days

ASHLAND — By recouping its investment in more efficient lighting in less than two weeks, the popular Deep Water Grille brew pub in Ashland may have set a record.

“We have our lights on 16 hours a day, every day of the week,” said restaurant manager James Clevette. “Switching just some of our lightbulbs to compact fluorescents gave us noticeable savings on our monthly electric bills.”

Clevette and other employees worked with Deep Water Grille owner Mark Gutteter to explore how the restaurant could reduce its impact on the environment. The employee “green team” looked at energy, water, waste, cleaning products and restaurant suppliers.

The easiest changes to make — and those with the greatest impact — were in energy efficiency and conservation. The restaurant put efficient compact fluorescent bulbs in its 90-some dining room lighting fixtures. After factoring in rebates from Focus on Energy, Wisconsin’s largest energy efficiency and renewable energy program, the new bulbs paid for themselves in just 10 days.

The savings allowed Deep Water Grille to fund other green initiatives, including printing menus that highlight local products, using biodegradable to-go containers and utensils instead of plastic or styrofoam, and switching to recycled-content paper towels and napkins.

“We thought we could have a big impact in the community, because of the volume of business Deep Water does,” explained Clevette.

Deep Water Grille is also conserving electricity by changing how it manages kitchen equipment. Employees used to start all the restaurant’s holding ovens and heat lamps each morning; now, the ovens and lamps are turned on as needed, based on the time of day and number of customers.

“Sometimes simple changes can provide significant energy savings,” said Diane Farsetta, energy efficiency coordinator at Clean Wisconsin, the state’s largest environmental advocacy group. “For businesses, greater energy efficiency means lower overhead costs, which then allow them to invest more in their operations and employees.”

Clevette offers a simple suggestion for other businesses seeking to reduce their impacts on the environment: “Start with the low-hanging fruit, turning off equipment and putting lights on timers. Do the easy things first. That will help the business owner see the potential and realize that people are serious about making a difference.”