So far 2018 has seen many environmental issues in the media spotlight, many of them directly linked to the catering industry. So how are forward-thinking caterers tackling these issues in a bid to reduce their carbon footprint?

1. Reducing Waste Food

National food and hospitality sectors generate almost a million tonnes of food waste every year. How this can be practically reduced was addressed by TUCO in their project entitled ‘Fighting Food Waste One Step at a Time’ which describes steps which can be taken by university or indeed many caterers. Practical and effective ideas include:

  • Reducing plate sizes and offering a variety of portion to reduce customers over-selecting
  • Customers scraping their own plates into a food-only bin – possibly even a transparent one!

2. Offering More Meat-free Options

Recent data has shown that 70% of the world’s population is reducing its meat consumption and since 2010, the number of new vegan products has increased by over 250%! Partly fuelled by the success of campaigns such as #meatfreemonday, launched by Paul, Mary and Stella McCartney in 2009, is it a trend which seems currently unstoppable.

Forward thinking caterers are responding by introducing an increased number of meat-free options and even whole outlets dedicated to vegetarian and vegan food. Success is only being achieved through imaginative choices however. Gone are the days when macaroni cheese or tomato flan is enough to impress them!

3. Serving Ethically-sourced Ingredients

YouGov survey data shows a dramatic increase in people changing their diet for ethical reasons, and this is likely to continue in 2018 and beyond. According to Ethical Consumer, Fairtrade also returned to growth in 2017 after two years of decline.

It is therefore vital that caterers make maximum use of ingredients which are ethically accredited, through schemes such as;

Just as important is making sure that customers know the kinder credentials of the food on offer. In December 2017, the National Union of Students carried out a national survey with students in higher and further education which found that:

While 90% say they want to buy more products that don’t harm the people that produce them…
… 40% say a lack of awareness and availability of information about ethical credentials prevents them from buying such products.

4. Offering Greener Packaging

The world’s first plastic-free supermarket aisle has been launched by Ekoplaza in Amsterdam. Campaigners are calling for UK shops to follow the Dutch chain where 700 products will be available without plastic packaging. If this happens there will be even more pressure on caterers to keep up.

This isn’t always easy however. Eleanor Laura Davan Mills, who exploded into the limelight in 2012 with her natural, plant-based recipe blog Deliciously Ella, was asked by The Caterer in February; ‘What is something you want to see happen in the next five years in the industry?’ She stated “A bigger focus on sustainability. Almost all of our take-away packaging is compostable and non-plastic, but it’s tough to find, it’s not beautiful and it’s incredibly expensive.”

Luckily help is at hand in May, when three leading industry bodies are holding the first event dedicated to this subject, stating; “by working throughout the length of the supply chain, industry can make a huge impact.”

Many caterers have also been inspired by the work of Luke Holder, joint head chef of Hartnett Holder & Co at Lime Wood hotel in Lyndhurst, Hampshire who set the incredibly popular #chefsagainstplastic campaign into motion.

5. Providing Increased Cycling Facilities

It is claimed that currently a staggering 700,000 plastic bottles are littered every day in the UK. In a bid to reverse this, the Government has recently announced all drinks containers in England will be covered by a deposit return scheme. Similar schemes operate in 38 countries, where fees vary depending on the size of the bottle or can and many use ‘reverse vending machines’ to automate the return.

Caterers should sign up to be part of the scheme as early as possible, not least because many customers may use the opportunity to buy something else. According to Zero Waste Europe, anyone doubting the impact the scheme will have can be reassured that deposit return schemes (DRS) have increased recycling rates; in Germany, where one began in 2003, an incredible 99% of plastic bottles are now recycled!