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30 ways to save the planet

01 October 2009
30 ways to save the planet

Keen to be green, but worried it could harm your bank balance? Have no fear… here are 30 ways to run your business sustainably - that will cost you nothing.

If you contact customers electronically, you can significantly reduce paper consumption. In the long run, lower demand for paper equals less impact on the environment

There's talk of green shoots starting to grow, but the hospitality industry is still faced with a hugely challenging economic climate as well as increases in business rates, energy and food costs. It's understandable that thoughts of saving your business may take priority over plans to save the planet.

Here, in the first part of this year's Sustainability Month, Caterer has asked 30 industry leaders for their top tips to make your operation more environmentally friendly. They will all save you money - and cost you nothing to implement.

1 Michael Caines hotelier and two-Michelin-starred chef

A big one is waste disposal. The cost of refuse collection now is quite high, and councils are getting penalised on landfill, so it's going to save you money if you think about ways to recycle. You can set up a food composter for nothing - most local authorities are giving compost bins away - and you can pass the surplus compost on to clients and garden centres.

2 Phil Roker owner-director, Vacherin

My favourite fact at the moment is that a restaurant or business switching a day's worth of red meat or dairy eating to vegetarian food is equivalent to localising the entire food supply in terms of carbon emissions. So you can sell cheaper, higher gross-profit foods, and save the planet. About 50% of food-related carbon emissions occur before the food leaves the farm gate - compared with only 11% that occur in transportation. So encouraging vegetarian eating avoids a double whammy of red meat and dairy being very inefficient in their production, compounded with the methane discharged from cows - which is 24 times worse than CO2 in global warming.

3 Adam Byatt chef-proprietor Trinity restaurant, Clapham

Why not grow your own table plants? It's cheap, seasonal, and has a whole lot more integrity than an exotic stem stuck in the middle of the table. We also churn all of our own butter for the table, which saves us money to boot.

4 Alan Murchison chef-patron, L'Ortolan and La Becasse

18 months ago I stopped using olive oil and started using local rapeseed oil. I went down to my local farmers' market in Winchester and found supplier Chris Pratt who produces extra virgin rapeseed oil. So we've gone from using lots of imported olive oil with numerous air miles attached to it, to using local rapeseed. I'd recommend it to anyone. It's fantastic for cooking and for dressings, it's high in vitamin E and half the saturated fat of olive oil. It's cheaper and better for you and the environment. www.prattsfood.co.uk

5 Steve Elliott managing director, Serviceline

With greater throughput in the summer, train your staff to stack the fridges and freezers properly. Propping open the door of the fridge or coldroom is one sure-fire method of wasting energy and making the compressor work hardest. Do not stack boxes all round the evaporator, and don't fill a cabinet or bottle cooler so full that the air can't circulate. Remember to chill bottles first before putting them in a bottle cooler.

6 Philip Newman-Hall director/general manager, Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons

We have reduced our hot water temperature by two degrees - from 64°C to 62°C, which is still hot enough to have no risk of Legionella as well as hot enough for all our needs. It is measured at all times; and this has produced a saving of £7,000 since we did this. And, what is more, we have had no guest comments about water not being hot enough."

7 Anthony Demetre chef-proprietor, Arbutus

Will and I try to use organic produce as much as we possibly can to cut down on pesticides. Stocking lots of fantastic organic wines on your wine list helps, too.

8Lindsay Winsercommunications controller at 3663 First for Foodservice

Minimise the amount of waste you are producing by choosing a supplier who is committed to making recycling and waste management as easy as possible for their customers. If they are hot on minimising the amount of packaging waste on their products and making as much packaging as possible recyclable it will help you cut down on waste, too.

9 Tom Kerridge chef-proprietor, the Hand and Flowers, Marlow

I've changed all my lightbulbs in the kitchen to energy-saving ones, which hasn't cost anything. Another good thing is that I found out my fish supplier also does dry store so I've merged the two, cutting out one delivery. Talk to your suppliers and see if they have a variety of produce and can deliver things together - it'll help you streamline costs and also save on carbon emissions!

10 Gordon Campbell Gray chairman, Campbell Gray Hotels, and the new chairman of the Considerate Hoteliers Association

11 Steve Lowy owner, umi hotels

Train housekeepers to turn off TVs at the socket and not leave them on stand-by.

12 Paul and Elaine Redd proprietors, Fairbank Hotel, Crantock, Cornwall

On booking, ask guests for a valid eâ€'mail address so that you can electronically send them (via eâ€'mail) their booking confirmation - including attached items, in PDF format, relevant to their individual booking - such as a sample copy of the evening menu, or simplified directions to the hotel. By communicating with guests via eâ€'mail, you can significantly reduce paper consumption for items such as writing paper and envelopes. In the long run, lower demand for paper equals less impact on the environment - with fewer trees needed for paper production and less waste paper for disposal.

13 Ciaran Fahy general manager, the Cavendish, London

Check set temperatures and timers of air-conditioning and heating boilers regularly. Over-heating or over-cooling areas and hot water are both costly in terms of energy used and shortens the lifespan of the equipment. Timers can often be found overridden with equipment running needlessly."

14 Jason Atherton executive chef, Maze

Try to put a stop to second deliveries - we've banned them at Maze. Also, look at different ways to use vegetable waste. There are things you can do like braising leek bottoms, washing carrot trimmings and cooking them up with stock and carrot juice to make an amazing purée.

15 Paul Willcocks commercial director, Bunzl Catering Supplies

Use controlled dispensing systems to minimise waste - eg, toilet tissue systems that dispense single sheets or centre-feed paper rolls which dispense sheets rather than continuous, free-flowing, uninterrupted lengths. And use concentrated products such as chemicals, which get diluted at the point of use, resulting in less packaging and reduced transport implications owing to reduced bulk.

16 Tim Cordon Rezidor Hotel Group's responsible business manager

Measure your kitchen utility usage: chefs have a habit of leaving ovens/hobs/salamanders/taps, etc on all day, so they are ready when they need them. If you incentivise the kitchen on their use of gas, electricity and water, you will be amazed at how much you can save."

17 Vanessa Scott director, Strattons hotel and Restaurant in Swaffham, Norfolk

Getting your staff on board is crucial; we take all of ours out to visit a landfill site so they have a picture of the reason they are recycling as much as possible; this has been the single most important initiative to drive change. Record all outputs whether it's waste, or natural resources to target improvements. Doing this enabled us to drive landfill waste down to 2% of total waste and in 2008/2009 push to achieve a 50% reduction in this to 1%.

18 Giorgio Locatelli chef-patron, Locanda Locatelli

We are a stand-alone restaurant but we share a building with the Hyatt hotel. About 18 months ago we decided to team up with the hotel for our waste disposal and recycling and it has had a huge impact. We now have a contract for the rubbish collection so that it's all done together, which has enormous advantages. Working together makes us more powerful, so if your business is next to another one, work with it to have the same waste disposal - it means your waste will be picked up at the right time, by the right people. We also have a policy whereby nothing leaves our kitchen until we've sorted it out.

19 Gill Jenkins proprietor, Bedknobs Bed & Breakfast, Bodmin, Cornwall

Why do we need catalogues and brochures mailed to us from our suppliers, now that they all have websites and eâ€'mail? We don't - cancel them all today! Calculate the weight in paper that you'll save each year - not to mention in energy and pollution - you'll be shocked. And each time you receive a new one through the post, take a moment to "phone or eâ€'mail" and ask to be removed from the mailing.

Methane from cows is a big contributor to global warming
Methane from cows is a big contributor to global warming

20 Claude Bosi
chef-proprietor, Hibiscus

Be adamant about sourcing as much as you can from within the UK. There is some fantastic quality produce available in this country which is great for your customers and menus and saves on air miles, too.

21 John Bennett managing director, BaxterStorey

The simplest one is making sure the staff you employ understand the amount of energy their unit is using and that they treat it like they would at home. They wouldn't leave the telly on overnight, so they should think like that at work. This alone can have a huge impact on the amount of energy you use and can also decrease the greenhouse effect. Make all your staff aware of energy use and share the challenge.

22 Eamonn Cole operations manager Victory Services Club, London

Simple, cost-effective tips include putting Hippos in the toilet cisterns - something that has saved us a load on water bills; and avoiding unnecessary paper usage by, for example, instructing our events people to use both sides of the flip chart paper.

23 Nassar Khalil Director of Operations, Base2Stay Hotel Group, London

Among the environmental best practices we operate at the hotel is to encourage guests to give cars and cabs a rest. They can avoid cars, if only for the day, as many of London's attractions are within a short walk of the hotel, and they only need to ask our reception team for directions.

24 Tim Chudley managing director, Sundial Group

Don't throw anything away which might be of value. Put it on eBay (it's amazing what gets bought) and link the sale to the Mission Fish (http://www.missionfish.org.uk/) eBay feature, which allows you to donate the proceeds to a deserving cause."

25 Grant Cook estates manager, Beales Hotels

On warm to hot days, open as many windows and doors as early as possible. This saves putting on air-conditioning and puts fresh air into the building. Likewise, hotels with automatic entrance doors should consider switching these to stay open on busy and hot days. This also saves electricity and allows fresh air into public areas.

26 David Cavalier director of food, Charlton House

If in the West we all ate 50% less meat then there would be no need for airlines to save on CO2 emissions. The only way to cut down on the huge amounts of CO2 produced in Western Europe through rearing and exporting meat is to decrease meat consumption by 50%. We all need to cut down, and eat locally produced seasonal vegetables, so start cooking and creating more vegetable dishes that are more interesting and can supplement meat dishes. Vegetarian dishes are the way forward.

27 Rupert Clevely managing director, Geronimo Inns

Aside from the obligatory turning off of lights, and switches, we use second-hand furniture wherever possible - not only is it more environmentally friendly, but it's far more homely and welcoming. We also send all our refuse cooking oil to a company who converts it into biofuel.e_SSRq

28 Malcolm Rann general manager and area district director, the Radisson SAS Hotel Edinburgh

Check your bills - make sure that they match your meter readings. This sounds simple, but you might be surprised. If you need help, you can use an energy consultant to validate bills for you.

29 Tom Aikens chef-patron, Tom Aikens Restaurant, London

Use recycled bags for your shopping instead of plastic bags. Even when it comes to suppliers, we give them all the boxes back and encourage them not to supply to us in plastic unless it can be recycled. One of our salad suppliers picks all his salads and we give him all plastic and cardboard back so he can reuse them - adopt that sort of attitude to packaging.

30 Keith Warren director, Catering Equipment Suppliers Association

Look after your catering equipment. If it is neglected or abused, it'll be less efficient. For example, glass and dishwashers need to be descaled - if limescale builds up on elements, they will need more power to heat the water. Similarly, dirty ovens need more power than clean ones - the heat has to get through the grime before it can start the cooking.


The Considerate Hoteliers Association (CHA) has called for all hospitality operators to implement a basic environmental and social responsibility policy.

John Firrell MIH of the CHA explained: "You have to start somewhere - so by creating a coherent policy, you give yourself and your staff a road map/agenda to help guide you through what can otherwise be a bit of an eco-nightmare."

Firrell suggests two key areas to start with - namely, energy saving and recycling.

He says: "Encourage staff to come up with new ways of saving energy and then provide information on where the savings are being used to improve the business. It's important to monitor the plan and give staff feedback on progress to ensure they keep supporting your goals and bringing new energy-saving ideas to the table.

On recycling, Firrell advises it's key to get staff buy-in: "Hospitality establishments create a lot of waste, but there is little that cannot be recycled in some shape or form, if you take the time to put workable systems in place."

â- The CHA is an association of like-minded hoteliers, whose purpose is to encourage, assist, cajole and motivate fellow hoteliers to adopt sustainable, environmentally friendly and socially responsible practices.

Thanks to the CHA for supplying many of the hotelier tips. For further details about the association visit www.consideratehoteliers.com

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