As sustainability becomes a top concern for consumers, businesses of all varieties are making efforts to adopt eco-friendly practices. For those in the food industry, there is much that they can do in the name of sustainability. From examining their food production practices to considering the single-use items they give out with each order, establishments everywhere have some work to do.

At an ice cream shop or frozen yogurt store, this work can be simple but must be done consistently to be effective. Let's take a look at a few of the many ways your business can ditch unsustainable practices and swap them out for ones that will do some good for the environment.

Use Energy-Efficient Appliances

Any establishment that sells food uses a lot of energy. This usage is primarily through running appliances that cook the food, store it at the right temperatures, and clean equipment to ensure proper sanitary conditions.

A great way to cut down on your shop's energy consumption is to invest in energy-efficient appliances and equipment. Energy Star Qualified appliances are part of a program from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help businesses and individuals use products that are better for the environment. On top of helping our planet, using these appliances and equipment will also help save you money. After making the initial investment in Energy Star refrigerators, freezers, and dishwashers, your ice cream shop will see lower energy bills.

Outside of swapping out your major appliances for their energy-efficient counterparts, there are many small changes you can make to decrease your shop's energy consumption. The lighting in your establishment also has an impact on how much energy you use. Try switching to energy-efficient lightbulbs, such as halogen, LED, and CFL bulbs. You can also install motion sensor lights in lower-traffic areas, such as bathrooms and storage rooms, rather than keeping the lights on all day.

Regularly cleaning your major appliances can also make a difference in the energy they use. Remember to clean off the condenser coils on your refrigeration equipment, as more dust accumulating means that your fridges and freezers are working harder to stay cool. Rather than waste this electricity unnecessarily, stick to a regular maintenance schedule. Scheduled cleanings are also good for air conditioners and HVAC systems.

Switch To Eco-Friendly Disposables

An effort that individuals and businesses alike are making is swapping our single-use plastics for more sustainable options. Plastic utensils and cups are so commonplace in the to-go culture of food service that it often seems like there are no other options when it comes to disposables. Luckily, manufacturers have recognized this lack of eco-friendly choice and are now offering many alternatives to traditional plasticware.

The problem with single-use plastics is that they do not biodegrade. When humans throw their plastic utensils, straws, and cups in the trash, they end up in landfills, oceans, waterways, and the wider environment. Once there they break down into smaller pieces of plastics known as microplastics and pose a danger to the animals and plants in the area. Even materials that decompose, such as plastic bags and Styrofoam, take thousands of years to break down and release toxic chemicals into the environment while they do so.

By stocking your ice cream shop's counters with biodegradable or compostable options made out of renewable materials, you can avoid adding to the permanent waste in landfills and oceans. Rather than offering traditional plastic straws, invest in paper straws instead. Paper straws are just as strong as plastic ones, but they can decompose in landfills without harming the world around them. Now is a great time to switch to paper straws, as many cities are moving towards banning plastic straws.

To go with your eco-friendly paper straws, start using paper ice cream cups as well. Disposable ice cream cups are a staple of any frozen dessert shop. They allow customers to take their ice cream out of the store and on-the-go, providing the store with free advertising while they're at it. By choosing cups made out of an environmentally-conscious material like what the paper straws are made of, you can rest easy knowing that your shop's cups aren't clogging up the planet's finite space.

Cut Down On Water Usage

As a central tenet of foodservice is to keep all equipment and employees clean at all times, your ice cream shop likely uses a lot of water. Unfortunately, the world's freshwater sources are rapidly depleting. This makes it more important than ever that businesses and individuals conserve water whenever possible.

For an ice cream shop that constantly needs to wash scoops, containers, and other equipment while providing water for customers and employees to use the bathroom, conserving water can seem like an impossible task. A great way to achieve it, however, is to use low flow spray valves. These handy valves restrict the amount of water that comes through the faucet on which they're installed. Whether the valves are on handwashing sinks, dishwashing sinks, or dish machines, they allow you to use less water whenever you turn on the faucet.

You can also reduce water usage in your establishment by installing water-saving toilets and urinals. These models use less water per flush than standard toilets and urinals. With countless customers using your bathroom on a busy summer day, this small change can make a big difference in the amount of water your business uses.

Rethink Your Food Shipments

If you get your ice cream, frozen yogurt, and other treats or ingredients delivered to your shop every week, you're creating a higher carbon footprint. Although you may not be the one driving the vehicle and making your carbon footprint bigger, the delivery truck still has to drive to your establishment more frequently.

Rather than growing this footprint with frequent shipments, you can look into buying your products or ingredients from local sources. When the food products you would normally have shipped from far away instead come from nearby farms, they have a much shorter distance to travel and will spend less time on the truck. By partnering with local sources, you'll see the added benefit of helping families in your community. You can also boast that your goods are made locally, which is something that consumers are prioritizing more and more.

If you don't have easy access to local and fresh ingredients or products, you could try restructuring your food shipments so that they come less often but in bulk quantities. Consider which products you can store in your freezer for the longest time and try ordering those in bulk. While you'll still rely on delivery trucks to bring your products to you, they'll be making fewer trips and you'll still be reducing your environmental impact.

Going green takes time and effort. There's no quick and easy shortcut to suddenly have eco-friendly practices in your ice cream shop. By putting in a little time and effort, however, you can ensure that your shop is helping the environment rather than hurting it. Whether you start the process by purchasing paper straws or swapping your freezers for Energy Star models, you'll be making the right first step. From there, you'll be well on your way to achieving sustainability in your ice cream shop.