The Kutztown Tavern is celebrating its one-year anniversary of officially going Green this month.

Owner Matt Grider initially began researching green, environmentally-friendly technology last year as a way to save money.

'I needed to cut back on my energy costs and that was just the next logical step,' he said. 'Once we started investigating the benefits it provided, we just decided to continue to add more and more things onto the list to do what we can do to be more environmentally responsible.'

The project officially began in March of 2011 when new LED lighting systems were installed throughout the building.

'All the lighting has been replaced by LED lighting, which are all computer-controlled,' he said. 'We don't turn on any switches on ever.'

The lights also adjust according to the amount of light outside.

The largest parts of the project, solar panels, were installed in May of 2011. The panels, which sit on the building's roof, are visible from ground level.

'We've installed a solar thermal system that heats 95 percent of our hot water in the entire building, not just in the restaurant,' Grider said.

The 'entire building' includes the restaurant, Tavern Take-Out, Shorty's Bar and apartments above the restaurant.

'It also heats 100 percent of the water used in the brewery.'

When the final touches were being made on the new systems that May, the restaurant was forced to close.

'The restaurant had to be ripped apart... which you really can't do when the customers are in here,' Grider said.

'We have never closed,' Angela Saadi, general manager, said. 'Other than holidays, we have never closed for an extended period of time. That was the first time.'

Other Green changes include energy-efficient heating and air conditioning units, which, like the lights, are computer-controlled and automatically adjust the temperature of the air. Cooking equipment has been converted to high efficiency natural gas models and commercial dishwashers were replaced with three extremely efficient models that not only save money, but tremendous amounts of water as well. Grider said the restaurant's water usage has been cut in half.

All of the restaurant's paper products were switched over to recycled paper and all toilets in the building were replaced with low flush units. The televisions, which are on for 12 to 14 hours a day, were replaced with energy-efficient LED televisions.

Two LED computer screens were installed at both entrances of the restaurant that display how much energy is being saved on a minute-to-minute basis thanks to the solar thermal system and LED lighting. It then converts those numbers into barrels of oil and acres of forests saved.

Customers are often overwhelmed and intimidated when they learn about the scale of the project, Saadi said, but once everything is explained to them, they see that anyone can do it. The changes have been well-received by customers.

'It's always a positive response,' said Saadi. 'A lot of people appreciate what we're doing.'

'The next practical idea… is to install some solar electric panels, ones that actually generate electricity,' Grider said, adding that one of the drawbacks of solar electric power is the amount of space needed for the panels and the building doesn't have much roof space left. Grider said that even though installing solar electric panels would make a minimal impact on overall energy costs, it's still something to consider.

'We've talked about dedicating the solar electric just for the brewery so we could say that our beer is brewed 100 percent by the sun,' he said.

Moving forward and making more changes won't be as intimidating now that Grider and Saadi understand the technology.

'It's a win-win situation,' Saadi said. 'It's a money-saving project as well as an earth-saving project.'

Grider said that while at the end of the day it's about saving money, it also feels good to know that they're doing something positive for the environment. He encourages people to visit the Tavern and learn more about the Green initiatives they've taken.

'When the sun's out, you know that we're producing energy, which is a really good feeling,' he said. 'We really love sunny weather now because we know that we're producing energy and saving the environment.'

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