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Here’s How D.C.’s Eco-Friendliest Restaurants Save Tons of Money Every Year

Being energy efficient produces significant rewards

Right Proper Brewing Company’s solar array in Brookland.
Photo: Right Proper Brewing Company

Since 2014, dining incubator Union Kitchen has adopted energy-efficient measures that will result in $500,000 in lifetime energy cost savings and stop the lifetime carbon dioxide emissions of more than six million pounds — the equivalent of taking 583 cars off the road for one year.

It’s just one of several hospitality operations DC Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU) is working with to combat wastefulness. In exchange for incorporating energy efficiency into their daily workflow, participating restaurants receive various incentives and rebates.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, restaurants use about 2.5 times more energy per square foot than other commercial buildings. Most commercial kitchen appliances are typically energy hogs; the average deep fat fryer uses more than 11,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy per year — which can add up to $1,000 in electricity charges alone.

“As energy costs increase, investing in energy efficiency is the best way to protect your business against these rising prices,” says DCSEU managing director Ted Trabue.

District-based Right Proper Brewing Company, which utilizes a massive solar installation to trim energy costs, even sees sustainability opportunities in its holiday decorating; all the Christmas lights hung this year are energy-saving LED bulbs.

Here’s a list of other environmentally conscious local restaurants:

Ben’s Chili Bowl (Multiple locations)

Features: Upgrading to energy-efficient HPT8 bulbs at the iconic chili dog shop’s original U Street NW location reduced energy use by up to 50 percent over the old lighting. The bulbs last 4,000 to 10,000 hours longer, which means reduced maintenance costs. Its new H Street NE location debuted in 2015 with efficient lighting, HVAC, and Energy Star-certified appliances.

Impact: More than $100,000 in lifetime energy cost savings, preventing the lifetime emissions of more than one million pounds of carbon dioxide.

Ben’s Chili Bowl lighting retrofit in 2012 was one of the DCSEU’s first small business projects.
Photo: Ben’s Chili Bowl

Dcity Smokehouse

Features: The year-old barbecue restaurant has new LED lighting, HVAC systems, and Energy Star-certified equipment. The local eatery also recently renovated an outdoor seating area using green river-related materials such as absorbent pavers.

Impact: The restaurant is projected to save more than $3,000 in energy costs within the first year of implementation.

District Winery

Features: This 17,000-square-foot wine making facility debuted this summer on the Southeast waterfront with all LED lighting, energy efficient equipment, and a green roof for storm water control.


Features: Chef Matt Baker’s forthcoming Ivy City restaurant has an energy-efficient kitchen outfitted with Energy-Star certified appliances, an LED-lit dining room, and rooftop garden growing organic vegetables that will land on diners’ tables. The highly anticipated eatery is now scheduled to open in early 2018.

Right Proper Brewing Company

Features: This local producer installed solar rooftop and solar canopies in its beer garden, as well energy- and water-efficient measures, and new LED lights in its production facilities and tasting rooms. The owner also gives the spent grain away for free to local farmers.

Impact: Its solar rooftop array in Brookland helps meet more than 50 percent of the brewery’s energy needs. The brewery faces south, with no nearby high buildings or trees to provide shade. “We are literally baked in the sun during the summer, and that sent our utility bills through the roof,” says co-founder Thor Cheston.

Union Kitchen

Features: Since opening in 2015 in Ivy City, all of the cooking hub’s major appliances — including the lighting and its HVAC system — are now energy efficient, as are the new freezer and refrigerator installed this year. “Our energy consumption is very large — we essentially have 65 kitchens built into one big kitchen,” said Cullen Gilchrist, CEO and co-founder of Union Kitchen.

Impact: Installed measures will result in $500,000 dollars in lifetime energy cost savings.

DCity Smokehouse

8 Florida Ave NW, Washington, D.C. 20001 Visit Website

Ben's Chili Bowl

1725 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22209 (703) 649-5255 Visit Website

Union Kitchen

1100 Congress Pl, Washington, D.C. 20002

Right Proper Brewing Company

624 T Street Northwest, , DC 20001 (202) 607-2337 Visit Website

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