From the food we sell to the buildings in which our iconic brands are housed, our business affects the environment. In addition to complying with applicable laws and regulations, our teams work to promote compliance among our suppliers.
We believe in and support efforts within and outside of our industry to improve the welfare of farm animals. We also rely on experts in the field, such as Dr. Jeffrey Armstrong of the Michigan State University College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, to provide scientific guidance on animal welfare issues.
As big as we are, we account for only a small fraction of the animal-based products purchased each year in the U.S. Regardless, we will continue to explore opportunities to improve the treatment of farm animals within the context of our business and the industry.
We're regularly looking for new ways to reduce our impact on the environment through improvements in how we supply, design, build and maintain our restaurants. Our IHOP® and Applebee's® Restaurant Support Center is housed in a LEED-Certified building.
Our Restaurant Support Center is also engaged in a variety of recycling efforts. In fact, we have recycled nearly 49 tons of paper material over the years. This equates to:
Examples like this are encouraging and reinforce our belief that we are making progress. We gain valuable learning through various pilot programs and tests and will be expanding our learning in the coming years to many of our IHOP restaurants through a series of Green initiatives. Not all restaurants will be able to take advantage of every initiative, but we're excited about this important and broad-reaching step.
*Not all IHOP restaurants will implement all items
We source a large amount of paper and plastic goods for our restaurants. In choosing vendors, we not only consider quality and price, but we are also beginning to look at other factors including the amount of recycled content, the types of bleaches, inks or dyes used, and whether sustainable forestry and production practices were utilized. By working with vendors who share our interest in and commitment to good practices, we hope to -over time- improve the environmentally-friendly attributes of the goods we purchase.
We have removed 95% of all polystyrene packaging products used in our "to go" orders. We have replaced this with 100% recyclable packaging, allowing safe and clean transport and reducing our impact on local landfills. We are currently working on final products that will make us 100% polystyrene free.
We continue working to reduce the energy consumption in our restaurants and our Restaurant Support Center. For example, nearly all offices in our in non-restaurant facilities have motion-activated light switches that automatically lower or turn off the lights if no movement is detected after a period of time.
Many of our restaurants have late-night or 24-hour operations, so we are mindful about eliminating lighting for security reasons. However, we have been aggressive about replacing traditional lighting with compact florescent lighting wherever possible. Each light saves about $30 over its lifetime and pays for itself in about 6 months. It uses 75% less energy and lasts about 10 times longer than an incandescent bulb.
A number of our environmental programs focus on reducing waste generated by our operations. We continue to look for ways to eliminate, reuse or recycle potential waste. One example is the regular recycling of used cooking oil at most of our restaurants.