Waste 2 Wealth: Sustainable Practices for Commercial Kitchen

Ripe carrots inside white picking sack

In today’s world, sustainability is more important than ever.

As consumers become more conscious of the environmental impact of their choices, businesses must adapt to meet their expectations. This is especially true in the food industry, where commercial kitchens have a significant impact on the environment.

Fortunately, there are many sustainable practices that food businesses can implement to reduce their impact while also saving money and improving their bottom line. In this article, we’ll explore sustainable practices for professional commercial kitchens that can help reduce waste, save energy, and benefit the environment.

Whether you’re a restaurant owner, a food truck operator, or any other type of food business, these tips will help you create a more sustainable food brand.

How to become a sustainable brand

While vegan meals are an excellent means of lowering carbon footprint and being eco-friendly, sustainability is much more than that.

To be truly sustainable, a food company must scrutinise both its social and environmental responsibilities, considering policies and practices that affect communities, employees and customers, as well as the planet. Without exploring all justice issues, a business won’t be entirely sustainable.

Environmental factors to consider:

Looking after our planet will be at the heart of your journey to become a sustainable food business; this is where you will consider your environmental impact and factors.

Here are some sustainable practices for your commercial kitchen

Reduce food waste

Food waste is a major problem in the food industry, accounting for billions of pounds in losses yearly and contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to its environmental impact, food waste has a significant financial impact on food businesses. Fortunately, there are many simple and effective ways to reduce food waste in commercial kitchens.

One of the easiest ways to reduce food waste is to accurately measure ingredients and portion sizes, which prevents overproduction and ensures you only prepare the necessary amount of food.

Another way to reduce food waste is repurposing ingredients, such as using leftover vegetables in soups or stews. Additionally, food businesses can donate excess food to food banks or other organizations to help reduce waste while giving back to the community.

Implementing a composting programme can help reduce food waste while benefiting the environment. Composting food waste can create nutrient-rich soil for plants, reducing the need for chemical fertilizers and promoting healthy soil.

By reducing food waste, food businesses can not only reduce their environmental impact, but save money and improve their bottom line. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Use local and seasonal ingredients

Using local and seasonal ingredients is good for the environment, but also for the local economy and the taste and quality of your food.

By using locally grown and harvested ingredients, food businesses can reduce the carbon footprint associated with transporting food long distances. Using seasonal ingredients reduces the environmental impact of food production. For example, tomatoes that are grown locally and in season require less energy to grow and transport than tomatoes that are grown in greenhouses or shipped from another country.

Using local and seasonal ingredients can also help food businesses create more unique and flavourful dishes. Seasonal ingredients are often at their peak flavour and can add variety to the menu. Fresh produce from smaller, independent suppliers and family farms tends to be of much higher quality. They are more conscious of holistic agriculture, growing organic fruits and vegetables and even using natural pest control instead of toxic pesticides and fertilisers.

But one of our favourite benefits of partnering with local farms and independent suppliers is, of course, supporting family-run businesses, supporting local farmers and pumping money back into the local community.

Grow your ingredients if possible

Growing your own ingredients can be a great way to ensure that your food is fresh, healthy, and sustainable. Whether it’s a small herb garden or a larger vegetable plot, growing your own ingredients reduces your carbon footprint by eliminating the need for transportation and packaging.

Growing ingredients can also save you money on ingredient costs. For example, fresh herbs can be expensive to purchase, but they are relatively easy to grow in small containers.

If space is limited, consider using hydroponic or vertical farming methods. These methods allow for large amounts of fresh produce in a small amount of space, making them ideal for urban environments.

Many food and beverage businesses, such as restaurants, food delivery boxes and even cocktail bars, have started to grow their ingredients. Having a garden kitchen brings an exciting challenge to the team, gives a new appreciation for produce, and of course, it’s an incredible way for a food business to lower its carbon footprint.

Audit your supply chain

Auditing your supply chain is crucial to ensuring your food business is as sustainable as possible. By reviewing your suppliers and their practices, you can identify areas where you can make sustainability improvements.

When auditing your supply chain, consider:

  • The distance your ingredients travel to reach your kitchen 
  • The environmental practices of suppliers – Are they using sustainable farming practices? Are they reducing waste and using environmentally-friendly packaging?
  • The social impact of your supply chain. Are your suppliers treating their workers fairly and ethically? Are they using safe and ethical labor practices?

By auditing your supply chain, you can identify areas where you can make improvements in sustainability and social responsibility. This can help you build a more sustainable business while also supporting environmentally and socially responsible suppliers.

Create tantalising plant-based options

Plant-based diets are soaring in popularity for many reasons, but mainly environmental concerns and health benefits. By creating compelling plant-based options, food businesses can appeal to a wider range of customers while promoting sustainability by reducing the environmental impact of meat production.

One way to create irresistible plant-based options is to focus on the flavors and textures that are unique to plant-based ingredients.

Another approach is to create plant-based versions of popular meat-based dishes. For example, a veggie burger made with mushrooms and black beans can be just as satisfying as a traditional beef burger.
Incorporating plant-based options into the menu can also help to reduce ingredient costs and increase the variety of dishes offered.

Implement Zero Waste Cooking

Zero waste cooking is a philosophy that emphasises the use of all parts of the ingredients to minimise waste. By implementing zero waste cooking practices, food businesses can reduce their environmental impact while also saving money on ingredient costs.

Some easy ways to implement zero waste cooking are to use vegetable scraps to make broth or use leftover ingredients in creative ways. For example, leftover bread can be turned into croutons or breadcrumbs, or vegetables can be used in stir-fries or soups.

Reducing food waste can also be achieved by accurately portioning meals and minimising leftovers. By monitoring food waste and adjusting portion sizes, food businesses can ensure that they are not overproducing food, which can result in unnecessary waste.

Consider Composting

Composting is a sustainable practice that can significantly reduce the amount of food waste that ends up in landfills. When food waste is composted, it is broken down into nutrient-rich soil that can be used to fertilise plants and gardens. Composting also reduces greenhouse gas emissions that are associated with landfilling food waste.

In a commercial kitchen composting can reduce food waste and contribute to a sustainable food system. By implementing a composting initiative, food businesses can divert food waste from landfills, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and produce high-quality soil for gardening and farming.

To start a composting programme in a food delivery kitchen, consider the following steps:

Conduct a waste audit

Identify the amount and types of food waste generated in your kitchen to determine the feasibility of composting.

Choose a composting method

Decide on a composting method that fits the needs of your kitchen. Options include indoor or outdoor composting, or using a composting service.

Educate staff

Train kitchen staff on proper composting techniques and which items can and cannot be composted. Make sure to label compost bins clearly to avoid contamination.

Monitor and maintain compost

Regularly monitor compost bins to ensure that they are functioning properly and not attracting pests. Turn compost regularly to promote decomposition.

Train Employees on Sustainable Practices

Implementing sustainable practices in a dark kitchen is a team effort that requires the cooperation and support of all employees. Training employees on sustainable practices is important for promoting a sustainable food system and reducing environmental impact.

By educating employees on sustainable practices, they can make informed decisions and take actions that promote sustainability in their daily work. For example, they can be trained to turn off equipment when not in use, reduce water waste, properly sort and recycle materials, and use energy-efficient appliances.

Here are some tips for training employees on sustainable practices:

Include sustainability in employee onboarding

Incorporate sustainability training into the onboarding process for new hires to ensure that they understand the importance of sustainable practices.

Provide ongoing training

Offer regular training sessions on sustainability to keep employees engaged and informed. Consider providing incentives for employees who demonstrate sustainable practices in their work.

Make it a team effort

Encourage employees to share their ideas for sustainable practices and to work together to identify areas for improvement.

Use visual aids

Use posters, signs, and other visual aids to help employees remember sustainable practices and encourage them to take action.

By training employees on sustainable practices, food businesses can promote a culture of sustainability and work towards reducing their environmental impact. With ongoing education and support, employees can play a critical role in creating a more sustainable food system.

Use eco-friendly packaging & reduce packaging waste

It’s no secret that one of the planet’s most devastating issues is waste. Landfill sites are out of control, roughly 8 million tonnes of plastic ends up in our oceans every year, and experts estimate that this will triple by 2040. 

Any sustainable business must handle their waste responsibly, all of it. The easiest way to control this is firstly using sustainable packaging. All food delivery packaging should be compostable or fully recyclable materials, such as recyclable plastic, recycled paper, bamboo cutlery etc. Having said that, if you can eradicate plastic from your kitchen to become fully plastic-free, you’re winning on the packaging front!

Be mindful of this when buying produce, ingredients, equipment or cleaning products for your dark kitchen. Recycle all glass, cardboard and plastic that comes through your doors, and send any other packaging back to your supplier to reuse. Choose your suppliers wisely and refrain from businesses using styrofoam or excessive plastic for deliveries. 

To be an industry leader in sustainability, you must recycle, reuse or compost all waste materials, food waste and residues from your food delivery kitchen.

Conserve water at every opportunity

Water covers 71% of the earth leading to the common misconception that we have enough water to get us by for millions of years – why do we need to be stingy?! Well, only 3% of Earth’s water is drinkable, and the majority of this minuscule percentage is frozen in our glaciers, so we don’t have water to waste. 

If you run a food business that relies on consistent water usage throughout the day, in agriculture, for example, there are a few options to reduce wastage. If you use flood irrigation with sprinklers, switching to drip irrigation can dramatically decrease your water usage. A high number of businesses are also looking to implement the wastewater reuse technique.

Businesses should review all water usage, even dishwashing, and implement procedures that are less water-intensive. Doing so will save overall water usage and potentially money.

Sustainable food distribution

Distribution is a huge concern for an eco-friendly supply chain. 

Freight ships and HGV’s transport most of the world’s goods both locally and globally. Each vehicle generates greenhouse gases and CO2, so how can we tackle this?

As we mentioned before, cooking what is in season and shopping locally – or as close to home as possible – will lessen the distance the food needs to travel and diminish emissions from global importing. 

Another opportunity for a cleaner distribution system is to switch to trucks and vehicles that use greener fuel. Many newer vehicles now use electricity or biofuel, and local food delivery-only restaurants can deliver using bicycles. 

Be conscious of animal welfare and farming conditions

So, it’s known that switching to a plant-based diet is one of the most effective things we can do as individuals for combatting climate change. The operations of food businesses and manufacturers are reflective of this, including more vegan options on menus, the production of meat alternatives has increased tenfold, and the future of takeaways looks dramatically different in 2030 compared to 2021.

If you have animal products and animal by-products in your supply chain, you should do so sustainably. Firstly, think about reducing the number of animal food products you use and ensure they are treated humanely. Choose farmers who guarantee all animals are free of growth hormones, are certified organic, cage-free, free-range and antibiotic-free.

Social factors to consider:

A planet-kind business is not only environmentally-conscious but ethical, too. You must hold your moral standards high and take care of the people who work with, for and around you. 

Here are a handful of ways to make your food establishment ethical:

Support healthy working conditions

Any workers contributing to your supply chain should have safe and healthy working conditions and be paid a fair wage. If overseas chocolate, tea, coffee or olive oil are a primary ingredient in any of your products, you should source them from Fairtrade certified suppliers. The Fairtrade certification ensures workers in the production line receive a fair wage and their employers respect their welfare. 

Customer satisfaction should be at the heart of your brand

Whether you operate within the food industry or otherwise, customer satisfaction should always be the core of your brand. After all, without your customers, how would your business run?

Staff should always deliver an exceptional experience to customers. From the healthy food they eat, the hospitality they receive and going above and beyond for their needs, customer satisfaction should be your main priority.

On top of this, your staff should always be ready to express your business vision to your customers and be willing to offer up information on sourcing ingredients sustainably and your broader climate action mission.

Serve the local community 

Ethics, morals and charity work all go hand-in-hand, and it’s a core element of running a business that cares. Whether it’s fundraising for a charity or improvements at the local park, hosting a class to teach children some cooking skills or offering your space for charity use, there are many ways to get involved and extend your mission to the community. 

Are you ready to celebrate Earth day all year long?

If you’re starting a sustainable food brand, or you are already established, our London commercial kitchens, catering kitchens and cold storage to rent are waiting for you. Book a viewing at any of our London kitchen locations, or get in touch to see how our spaces can help your planet-friendly brand take-off!

by Dephna

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