Our Going Green Guide: Commercial Kitchens
Businesses are being scrutinised on their efforts to reduce their negative impact on the natural environment. There’s no denying we’re moving into a new era of environmental responsibility, and the foodservice sector is primely positioned to usher in the green revolution simply because of the size of the industry and the significant amount of energy consumed.
But a change in operational procedures and processes isn’t limited to the acquisition of commercial catering equipment or stock. Rather, there are a number of easy strategies you, as the responsible operator of a food service business, can adopt in your commercial kitchen. These will not only help you to run a generally green operation, but contribute to a safe working environment, improve your bottom-line and enhance overall productivity.
Sounds too good to be true? Read on!
Reduce utility consumption
Commercial kitchens consume roughly 2.5 times more energy than any other commercial space, and much of this energy goes to waste. Behavioural factors and poor maintenance have been identified as the biggest culprits.
Measures such as replacing electric combi ovens with gas combis, optimising thermostat settings and considering the most efficient refrigeration-unit layout can slash energy consumption a commercial kitchen. If you’re planning to replace older commercial kitchen equipment, invest in appliances that display the Energy Star logo.
It’s imperative, when looking to reduce energy consumption and waste, to keep equipment in good repair with a planned maintenance schedule. If you have extended warranties on commercial kitchen equipment, request that the manufacturer conduct an energy check. Regular servicing and good general upkeep can extend the life of your food processing equipment and keep it operating at its energy-efficient best.
Manage your waste (reduce and recycle)
It should be common practice by now, but be sure to recycle glass and cardboard from your dark kitchen, and return packaging to your suppliers to be reused wherever possible.
Food waste remains one of the largest sources of waste in the restaurant industry, but commercial services can help you convert your waste into renewable energy. These days, it’s even possible to recycle your used cooking oil to be turned into biofuels with no effort at all!
Of course, the most effective way to manage your waste is to reduce the amount you’re creating in the first place. Be efficient in your purchases and only buy what you really need. Experiment with dishes that use the whole vegetable or cut, and make the most of leftovers.
Rotate stores regularly to make sure produce isn’t cycling past its use-by date as it’s sitting on a shelf waiting to be used.
Change to biodegradable products where possible
Studies have shown that takeaway packaging is the number one source of waste in the food services industry, and most companies – even those that have established corporate sustainability programs –fail to fully account for the environmental impact of what happens to their packaging after it’s used.
If you’re serious about reducing your environmental impact, it’s important you take measures to reduce packaging waste, so minimise packaging wherever possible and take a look at suppliers of recycled or biodegradable products. Vegware products are completely compostable, meaning you can recycle with zero waste!
Use environmentally friendly cleaning supplies
It has taken some time for the food service industry to come to terms with the fact that traditional cleaning products are not only environmentally unfriendly, they may even be hazardous to public health. Studies have demonstrated just how many chemical cleaning products contain carcinogens and other harmful ingredients.
We no longer have an excuse not to use eco-friendly cleaning products. They’re both readily available and competitively priced. There’s also the added benefit that they’re far less likely to cause toxic or harmful to your employees and customers too.
Use environmentally and socially responsible suppliers
Source meat, poultry, dairy and eggs from suppliers that conform to high environmental, social and animal welfare standards, use fish from sustainable stocks as recommended by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) and consider increasing your provision of Fairtrade goods wherever possible.
Buying locally and buying seasonally are two sure fire ways to reduce your carbon footprint. By buying local, it means that your food isn’t traveling long distances by planes, trains, trucks, and ships, contributing to global warming and poor air quality.
There are also benefits for your local economy because buying directly from family farmers in your area helps them stay in business.
Buying seasonally saves money too, because seasonal produce takes far less effort and resources to grow. You might even experiment with growing your own! It means changing up your menu a little more regularly, and operating this way requires a certain amount of flexibility and creativity on the part of the kitchen staff, but the environmental impact – and quality – is well worth the effort.
Educate yourself and your employees on the best practices
The green movement is not a static entity, but a dynamic global phenomenon. Stay up to date with the latest green initiatives and follow popular industry blogs. Better still, why not set up your own blog on going green?
Even if you believe in your mission, it’s not always easy to get the rest of your team on board. If a chef has been doing something one way for 15 years, they won’t necessarily change their habits overnight — everyone really has to buy into it.
Seek out opportunities for training organised by industry trade groups and be sure to communicate your green initiatives with all staff – employees are far more likely to jump onboard with a green initiative if they understand the true impact of their efforts!
Most importantly, don’t forget to communicate your efforts to the customer. Being environmentally friendly is no longer a fashion statement but a genuine global initiative. Consumers are more tuned in to the process of food production than ever before, and it makes simple business sense to promote your ethical credentials.