Darden uses water directly in our operations, primarily in our kitchens for preparing and cooking food, hand washing and cleaning, as well as in restaurant restrooms and for landscape irrigation. We also use water indirectly through our purchasing of a wide variety of foods that require inputs of water to produce and process.
We have been able to achieve dramatic progress by taking a variety of steps – some seemingly small, others more significant and most invisible to our guests. And many in partnership with our employee Green Teams, which are groups of employees in each of our restaurants that implement programs aimed at reducing waste, energy and water usage, as well as identify new ways to improve the sustainability performance of our restaurants. Collectively this has had a huge impact.
In FY2009, we set a corporate-wide goal to reduce our direct water usage by 15 percent per restaurant by 2015. By the end of FY2011, we had already exceeded our goal, having reduced on aggregate our per restaurant water use by approximately 17 percent. We are saving water in many ways such as installing low flow pre-rinse sprayers and hand-washing sink aerators. We have also saved almost 40 million gallons of water at our Restaurant Support Center since it opened in September 2009, mostly due to the use of reclaimed water for the toilets and irrigation system. As a result of these water-saving initiatives, we reduced and avoided using more than 1 billion gallons of water despite opening more than 200 additional restaurants.
Most of our Olive Garden restaurants have now implemented a "dipper well" alternative that significantly reduces the amount of water needed to keep the utensils we use to prepare food clean and safe, and in FY2012 we started rolling out a similar effort in our Red Lobster and LongHorn Steakhouse restaurants. At the end of FY2011, we finished converting most of the pasta cookers at our Olive Garden restaurants to low-flow. And in our Red Lobster restaurants, we changed our process for thawing shrimp to make it less water-intensive. In all these efforts, we have maintained our unwavering focus on food safety to ensure any new processes meet our strict standards.