• Hamish Sherlock

Zero or Hero... Looking into the Zero-waste Food Movement

Whether you’re a dedicated environmentalist or just hate throwing food away, there’s one word to ban from the kitchen next year - waste. From embracing a circular economy to transforming scraps into delightful dishes, some of the trendiest restaurants & hotels have turned zero-waste into a global food movement with the aim to reduce restaurants environmental impact by drastically cutting or even eliminating food waste.

An estimated one-third of the food produced in the world ends up as waste, which then contributes nearly 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The zero-waste philosophy calls for restaurants to not only avoid adding to this, by choosing ingredients that naturally generate less waste, for example — but also to embrace practices that help foster sustainability across the board, such as building closer relationships with committed producers. “Food waste has been gathering real momentum as an issue for restaurants over the last ten years or so,” says Andrew Stephen, CEO of the Sustainable Restaurant Association, a UK-based organization that helps food businesses become more environmentally responsible. “With…food waste globally accounting for 8 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, the environmental case is compelling.”

The current pandemic is certainly testing advocates and consumers commitment to this movement, but it resonates with growing public awareness of food’s environmental impact, and consumer demand is always the great driver of change. Pandemic priorities from coronavirus have thrown out even the most careful long-term plans. The pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on the restaurant industry, forcing shutdowns in most of the sector — now for a second time across much of Europe. There are questions about whether restaurants will continue to prioritise sustainability, many are now so focused on their immediate survivability, sustainability is dropping down the agenda. For instance, the hygiene concerns surrounding Covid-19 have already compelled many food businesses to revert back to single-use plastic packaging.

However, as with all elements of the Fifty Shades Greener method, the economic benefits of sustainable change are just as attractive as the environmental and social benefits. Cracking down on food waste is one of the best opportunities your restaurant has to boost profitability. As your food waste is lowered, your restaurant’s bottom line increases – and you and your customers both win. Sustainability can also be used as an effective marketing tool to attract a growing number of like-minded customers who want to eat at restaurants with sustainable practices and shared values. “It’s completely affordable because you are throwing nothing away and because you are getting a 100 per cent yield on everything you have,” explains Matthew Scott, Head Chef at Cub in Hoxton. “It is very achievable, it just requires a bit more thought and consideration.” Unlike traditional counterparts, zero-waste restaurants could find themselves positioned to remain more viable in the future. Their sheer cost-effectiveness, along with carefully nurtured supply chains and a committed culture in which environmental sustainability is built into a profitable business model, may actually make them more robust in the face of financial stress.

If becoming zero-waste is something you would like to look into with your restaurant or hospitality business it starts with weaving sustainable practices throughout all operations. Here are some ideas to get you started…

Zero-Waste Food Ideas

· Conduct a waste audit to find waste-generating areas

· Order perishable ingredients in small batches and dry ingredients in bulk

· Install water filters on taps

· Use every part of the vegetables and fruit you buy

· Provide easily accessible recycling and composting bins

· Shop seasonally and buy locally

· Offer smaller portion sizes to reduce food leftover on plates

· Advise customers on the right amount of food to order

· Promote taking leftovers home

· Offer compostable containers for takeaways and encourage customers to bring their own reusable containers

Zero-Waste Packaging Ideas

· Find vendors, distributors, and producers that will deliver ingredients in reusable or zero packaging

· Stop offering single-use items such as plastic straws, cutlery, and condiment sachets

· Print menus on durable paper that can be recycled

Zero-Waste Environmental Ideas

· Use organic, biodegradable, pH-neutral cleaning products

· Use refillable soap containers topped up from bulk containers

· Shop local and avoid air-freighting food

· Purchase all reusable or compostable tableware items such as napkins and cutlery

· Offer a plant-based menu to lower your carbon footprint

· Collect and upcycle cooking oil into soap or sell for biodiesel use

· Start a garden to grow herbs and vegetables to use in menu items

Reducing your waste is a great way to start your green journey, waste is one of the three pillars of sustainability in a hospitality business that the Fifty Shades Greener method focuses on. If you would like to continue your journey, Fifty Shades Greener South is currently offering FREE ACCESS to our online ‘Know Your Numbers’ course over the current lockdown (only a few days left!), an excellent chance to learn the basic principles of becoming a Green Leader including: - The three pillars of sustainability - How your business impacts the environment - How to measure and monitor that impact - Establish your carbon footprint and Green Key Performance Indicators This is a great chance for hospitality professionals and employees to upskill online at home, and be ready to build back stronger… and GREENER! Only available until 2 December. FOLLOW THE LINK to sign up today!

Hamish Sherlock Fifty Shades Greener South

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