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Last updated: 04.09.18

Restaurants and the Environment - How can you help?

Virtually all businesses know that they could be doing better when it comes to doing their part for the environment, and restaurants are undoubtedly going to make a large proportion of those. If you’re one of them, then there’s probably two things that are preventing you; a combination of not having a plan, and not fully knowing how you can help. The former is something that really isn’t too difficult - you simply need to put policies in place that you and your staff can easily follow. The latter is what we’re going to help with in this article. We’re going to briefly go through a few of the main elements that can really make a difference.


This is the big one, and of course the most obvious one. But people still aren’t doing enough to reduce their electricity consumption and therefore their carbon footprint. As an owner or manager, you’ll know just how many appliances and lights that you’re running on the premises, and you really need to be aware of how much electricity this is all consuming. Sit down and work out what is essential - do the lights really need to be on when the restaurant is shut? Can some appliances be turned down? Are some of the older appliances much less efficient than a more modern alternative could be? Look round the whole restaurant and make a note of everything you see. It’ll save money, and you might also be able to look into a greener energy tariff too.


A far less obvious issue that lots of restaurants really need to think about is where their supplies come from. The transport industry, especially when it comes to shipping, is one of the biggest contributors to CO2 emissions around the world, and it’s driven by businesses buying supplies shipped from miles away. It may be the cheaper option, but you need to ask yourself if it’s really worth shipping food from distant parts of the world when there are sources far closer to home. Many restaurants pride themselves on their local sourcing of products; it actually turns out to be a more profitable business decision, because it can help to attract customers that are willing to pay a little more for the ethical decision. Food quality can be better too, with superior local food regulation and legislation.


Another one that people simply don’t do enough of is recycling. There are so very many opportunities for recycling that people don’t pursue, which is generally down to a lack of knowledge, lack of provision, and lack of time to sort out recyclable waste from landfill. The truth is that none of these are really an excuse. There’s plenty of education out there, and your local authority will be delighted to help you work out what is recyclable and what isn’t. Plastics are usually the biggest pain here, because not all are recyclable, but if you can establish exactly which types are, and have clear signage and help for staff, you should have no problem. Makes sure that you have dedicated bins for the right recycling - making things easy will ensure a culture of responsibility.


A combination of the two previous points - you need to think about how much you’re wasting that cannot be recycled. All of the food that you order from overseas that ends up in landfill is a huge waste of resources that will ultimately prove unsustainable. This is one of the trickiest things to remedy, because you need to strike a balance between not wasting too much and having all of the stock required, but that’s something you’ll simply have to work on. If you keep excellent waste records, as larger businesses do, you’ll be able to get a better idea and ensure that you have the right combination of plentiful stock and low waste.


Our final point to mention is that some chemicals used in the cleaning of kitchens and other food processing establishments can be harmful if they enter waterways, so you need to make sure that they are disposed of properly. In many cases, down the sink is perfectly fine, as the water will be treated, but this isn’t always true, and it isn’t true for all chemicals either. If you’re in doubt, contact your local authority and they’ll be able to tell you what can be disposed where, and where you need to go to get rid of any hazardous materials. For more information on hazards in food production environments, particularly in regards to the HACCP approach, consider taking our Level 2 or supervisory course on the subject.