The latest release of the government’s Resources and Waste Strategy, released in December outlined plans to increase sustainable production and lower food waste. Consumers are increasingly citing environmental impact as a fundamental factor in determining their purchasing choices, indicating that companies must now, more than ever, look towards sustainable ways to conduct business.
Whether it’s the recent move against plastic straws, increased pressure to recycle and reuse, or initiatives to lower energy consumption, becoming more sustainable is set to have a considerable impact on the catering industry, and those that are ahead of the curve are set to benefit the most.
With that in mind, here are some top tips to make your catering business greener.
The choice of where your food comes from has a significant effect on the planet. Ingredients grown in the UK have a much smaller carbon footprint than those shipped from across the globe. Switching to local produce is, therefore, a simple yet effective way to reduce the environmental impact of your menu.
That said, not all locally-sourced ingredients are better for the planet. If you’re buying locally grown produce out of season, it could have been stored in refrigerators for months, creating a much higher carbon footprint than buying fresh in-season ingredients from abroad.
Summary: The best way to ensure that your ingredients are as eco-friendly as possible is to buy as much locally-grown, in-season produce as possible.
Rethink food waste
The hospitality industry creates an estimate of more than two million tonnes of waste each year, with 25% of that being food waste (Open Access Government).
Research by Biffa revealed that 83% of food businesses – such as caterers, restaurants, and hotels – think waste management is important, but few have processes in place to manage their waste effectively. However, businesses might not be aware that opting for food waste collections
can be as much as 70% cheaper than general waste and in some instances, food waste can be turned into green, renewable energy.
It’s not just better food waste management that could improve your carbon footprint. There are lots of different ways you can significantly reduce business waste. Here are just a few:
- Use the first in, first out (FIFO) food storage system to minimise the risk of food going out of date.
- Add food waste to your menus (use vegetable peels to make stocks, use up ingredients in specials).
- Reduce portion sizes if customers are not finishing meals and reflect this in the price.
Summary: Though it is important to minimise food waste from a financial and environmental standpoint, not all food waste is avoidable such as plate scrapings. For unavoidable food waste consider a food waste collection from Biffa to reduce your waste management costs.
Keep an eye on energy usage
How much energy you use could be a big factor in your carbon footprint. Not only that, but energy consumption is also a considerable financial cost for catering businesses, so reducing your usage can both increase profits and lower your carbon footprint.
Switching your appliances for energy-efficient alternatives will reduce your consumption, but there are also smaller changes you can make with little investment.
- Switch off lights and equipment when they’re not in use.
- Use a close down checklist for staff to ensure everything is turned off at the end of service.
- Regularly maintain appliances and equipment for efficient performance.
- Keep heating and cooling appliances away from each other where possible.
- Switch to a renewable energy supplier.
Summary: Being more energy conscious can make a big difference to the environment and your wallet. Ensure all non-necessary appliances are switched off and the end of service and regularly maintain your equipment.
Upgrade to energy efficient alternatives
Your appliances account for a substantial amount of your energy usage, so upgrading to energy-efficient alternatives is a great way to lower your carbon footprint. The initial investment can be high but, in the long run, you will save money and contributing to vast environmental benefits, which could lead to greater customer loyalty and recognition.
The appliances to upgrade first are fridges, freezers, washing machines, tumble dryers, and induction cookers, though be aware of how to dispose of appliances legally and responsibly
. A great quick win is to replace your incandescent bulbs with LED alternatives, reducing your carbon footprint and saving money.
Summary: The initial cost of upgrading your appliances to energy-efficient alternatives will lower your carbon footprint but also save you money in the long run.
While thinking about the environment is vital for the future of the planet, as well as your long-term finances and your reputation, it’s important that you can also sustain your business. Start small, with realistic changes, and slowly ramp up your efforts to continuously reap the benefits of going green.