By Pianpian Wang
One afternoon, while we were taking a break and looked out onto the street in SOHO through the big office glass window, something captured our attention.
There was a bright yellow street food vendor truck of Nathan’s Famous parked along Broadway with one solar panel installed on the top of the truck.
We decided to have a little talk to the vendor guy to learn more.
“I can roughly save $50 per day with solar energy”
Every day, winter or summer, Maged works from 9am to 9 pm to make and sell Nathan’s Famous hot dogs. During the day, the single solar panel on the top can power the whole food truck for 8 hours, and at night he needs to charge the food truck at the garage, which can provide his truck another 8 hours of power.
He told us that Nathan’s Famous (Nathan’s), the internationally acclaimed hot dog franchise with Coney Island, Brooklyn roots, has worked with MOVE Systems, an innovator in the mobile food industry, to deploy 100 Nathan’s food trucks throughout New York City. One of these 100 eco-friendly carts is run by Maged.
“MOVE Systems taught us how to use the truck, including how to get the cart charged, how to operate using the solar energy and so on. Nathan’s trains us how to make food and how to serve customers.” Maged said.
When we asked him if the solar energy saves money, Maged firmly answered “Oh, absolutely! I can roughly save around $50 per day, which is very important to small businesses like us.”
Vendors Use Clean Energy to Improve the Environment
New York City has had food vendors with a long history, and the food variety has also varied from oysters to hot dogs to halal goat. To promote the unique street food culture as well as develop job opportunities, in 2015 the City Council has advanced a bill to more than double the number of food vendors in New York from the current 3,100 within the following years.
Too many food trucks could create an unpleasant environment, which does not sound as attractive as the food. Their generators, plus charcoal, are the least efficient way to create power, heat and contribute to carbon emissions. Therefore, there is some room for green energy kicking in.
Besides Nathan’s, the government of New York City has been working on adopting cleaner carts elsewhere. Instead of using diesel and propane, the cart’s electricity and heating comes from a rectangular rooftop solar panel and a rechargeable battery pack. If needed, a generator filled with compressed natural gas can provide back-up power. Cities like Los Angeles, Chicago and Austin are also developing similar programs to promote green vendor food trucks.
Everyone’s Green Mission
Businesses, whether as small as independent street vendors or as big as Nathan’s, are going green. Yet remember, clean energy is only one of the ways to reduce carbon emissions. We can help customize a way to help your business, small or big, to mitigate your carbon footprint and build a stronger, environmentally-friendly brand.
While we were waiting for talking to Maged, we wanted to see if customers noticed this cool installation, so we asked several patrons who were lining up to buy Maged’s hot dogs. None of them noticed the cart is different from the traditional type. “I usually get my food, pay and leave,” one lady said to me with a surprised smile after we showed her the solar panel. “But it is very nice and I feel good when I buy the food,” she continued, and another customer next to her nodded.
It seems more food carts using renewable energy will hit the road in the near future. Next time when you go to a street vendor, you may want to look up and check if the cart has a solar panel on top, so that you know your favorite meal is prepared in a more sustainable way.