Small steps to sustainability

20 January 2012 by
Small steps to sustainability

There are always more environmental measures that it's possible to take, but they're not always practical or - more importantly - profitable. To give you a green start, Emily Manson has foraged for monthly measures that won't cost the earth

Times are tough out there, there's no denying it, and it's easy for environmental issues to slip down the agenda or even fall off altogether.

But rather than let it become an extra bullet point loitering at the bottom of your ‘to do' list, it's possible to make environmental measures work for you and your business. In these times it just has to be about win:wins otherwise it's never going to get done.

But there's no need to use trial and error before establishing what works. We've spoken to operators and industry insiders to discover what they have found makes their operation greener and adds value and volume to the business.

So, if you only do one green thing a month this year, do the following…

1 Ditch the linen
By removing tablecloths you can reduce the environmental impact of using water and detergents in washing machines and consumption of electricity by tumble dryers.

If you do your own laundry you'll notice a difference in your energy and water bills, and if you use a laundry company you should see a significant reduction in your laundering costs.

At the Scarlet we're no longer using tablecloths in our restaurant and instead dress tables with unique place mats that are easy to wipe clean. We use linen napkins during our dinner service to add that touch of glamour to our evening meal. We still manage to create a relaxed and intimate dining experience during the day, and a sumptuous evening service - even without tablecloths.
Claire Beard, sustainability manager, the Scarlet Hotel, Cornwall

2 Educate and communicate
Education is probably the most important aspect when dealing with the environment, so it's vital to communicate with your stakeholders.

Send a note to everyone - employees, guests and business partners - and communicate some key points. Provide them with general hard-hitting information about the environment, explaining what mankind and specifically hospitality are doing, both negatively and positively.

List what your company has done so far and what your intentions are for the immediate future. Then challenge the stakeholders to come up with additional contributions that are easy and realistic to implement.

This increases the feeling of community within your business circle and will make implementation more effective. Don't be afraid to call for a personal sacrifice and ask them to let you know when they've done it. Finally, follow up with emails detailing results and new opportunities to ensure continued awareness.
Micahel Levie, CEO, CitizenM

3 Menu planning
Go local: use fewer miles between origin of product and its consumption, reducing the carbon footprint of the ingredients through sourcing and transport.

Go seasonal: menus that make the most of the seasons will have lower carbon footprints as produce is often cheaper as it is at its most abundant.

Create a balanced menu: Ensure menus have a range of all the lowest footprint foods you can find to fulfil balanced dietary needs. Avoid too much beef, intensively farmed foods and depleted fish, and aim for nose-to-tail eating.
Simon Macfarlane, director of operations, Bite Catering

4 Recycle glass
We've long had storage space and noise issues surrounding our glass waste, so we're installing a Glass Vac UK glass implosion system with vacuum collection.

Used on ships for years to reduce waste glass, it uses a low power, high energy shockwave to break the glass into safe fragments. Multiple glass bottles can be tipped into the machine and it stores the fragments in a sealed cube underneath. It reduces the glass to one fifth of its original volume, saving valuable storage space and reducing the number of collections required.

The system can be collected from 60 metres away from the lorry, reducing wheelie bin noise and allowing us to move our glass operations to less noise-sensitive areas internally. Collection visits will reduce by up to 80% as a result, reducing carbon emissions by up to 1 tonne per year, while improving our operational efficiency and creating a quieter environment for our guests.
Debra Patterson, PA to director of operations, the Savoy

5 Grow your own
Large or small, urban or rural, any restaurant can grow something and the benefits are many and obvious. Restaurants across the UK are discovering the economic benefits of producing their own fruit, vegetables and herbs.

At the top end of the scale restaurants lucky enough to have land are planting full scale kitchen gardens, providing a year-round ready-made supply of the produce.

But even a flat roof is an ideal space for some raised beds, or perhaps a beehive or two. For those with even less outdoor space, microherbs or window boxes can still yield a good crop. A nearby allotment is another way of engaging staff, and possibly the local community in cultivating the lowest carbon, freshest, tastiest, cheapest and most reliable produce for their kitchens.
Mark Linehan, the Sustainable Restaurant Association

6 Composting
Kitchen waste is a significant issue for many hospitality operators, with disposal prices rocketing. We already composted grass clippings and garden waste, but wanted to tackle our kitchen waste. We found that a third of the kitchen waste can be composted and are now putting it back into the property's gardens.

There's no fancy technology involved, just basic, large-size compost bins, which take around six months to work and turn vegetable and fruit peelings, eggshells, teabags, lettuce leaves and food scrapings into fine, rich soil.

We estimate it will amount to tonnes of food waste a year that would have gone to landfill, but is now being put to really good use. We're delighted with the results - it makes us all feel better and we're cutting costs in terms of waste removal and the amount of compost we buy in.
Martin Barlow, owner, the Budock Vean, West Cornwall

7 Doggy Bags/boxes
The Sustainable Restaurant Association's Too Good To Waste campaign to reduce food waste really got London restaurants thinking in 2011. Many restaurants had little or no idea of the extent of the problem. Engaging customers in the issue was a great idea and we've had a fantastic response to the doggy boxes.

We ran out of our doggy boxes much sooner than we'd thought and when we weren't able to offer something for our customers to take their leftovers home in, they complained. It was clearly something that people wanted.

This year the campaign extends around the UK and restaurants should grasp with both hands the opportunity to reduce waste, save money, keep waste out of landfill and satisfy customer demand to take home leftovers.
Thomasina Miers, founder, Wahaca

8 Install hippos
Water is a resource that is becoming more and more valuable and at Dukes we have learned to be aware of this. After testing hippo bricks in our staff toilets, we are now rolling this device into all our guest room toilet cisterns, which will help to reduce our water usage.

It's also a good idea to harvest rainwater. We take advantage of a free water source by collecting rain that flows into our gutters and storing it in specially built tanks. The water can then be used during the summer months to irrigate the garden and other plants.
Debrah Dhugga, general manager, Dukes London

9 Reduce deliveries
We looked at the whole supply chain from where the food is grown, the manufacturing process, and the supply and distribution, as we are increasingly aware of how we contribute to CO2 emissions. We worked closely with all our key suppliers to reduce orders and deliveries by using a national distributor; ensure that over 35% of our purchasing spend is with one key distributor; maintain service and quality standards while working with our core fresh suppliers who have reduced their deliveries from six to three per week.

We have also chosen a core supplier who runs specific vehicles on bio-diesel which is much less damaging to the environment than fossil fuels because it produces far less CO2.
Liam Farrell, founder, Leafi Kitchens & Event Catering

10 Bottle your own water
Stop wasting money and resources on bottled water in meeting rooms and bedrooms.

We installed a water filter and bottling system four years ago for £2,000 capital investment and saved £14,000 in the first year and ongoing year on year. It takes minimal labour to do the bottling each day and we've reduced our environmental impact and costs significantly.

The hotel has 45,000 fewer bottles to dispose of annually, no cardboard cases and reduced CO2 emissions on transport - it's an absolute no-brainer.
Ciarán Fahy, managing director, the Cavendish hotel

11 Make your own honey
Even if you are in the middle of a city you can put beehives on the roof. If you are in the country you will find that with a couple of beehives in the garden your flowerbeds will look better, as will your fruit trees.

In addition to providing as well as selling your own honey, a bonus is that local people will buy the honey as it can alleviate the symptoms of allergies and hayfever.

And you don't have to don the white suit yourself - you just contact your local beekeepers' association and they do all that.
Francis Young, owner, the Pear Tree at Purton

12 Recycle textiles
Following questions from guests about what we did with old textiles, we looked into what we might be able to do in order to more actively deal with this issue.

Working with one of the charities that we support on an ongoing basis, we discovered that all condemned linen, blankets, towelling, uniforms and soft furnishings could be collected by a company that specialises in the recycling of textiles. For every tonne of waste collected, £200 is donated to the Starlight Children's Foundation.

The waste textiles are also converted into new products and the amount of waste going to landfill is significantly reduced.
Jonathan Raggett, managing director, Red Carnation Hotels

There are plenty of quick fixes and gadgets that are cheap or free to install, good for the environment and help you save on energy costs. Dr Rebecca Hawkins, director of the Responsible Hospitality Partnership, lists her top five gadgets to save the environment and operators' cash.

1. LED lights
They last up to 45 times longer than normal lamps and save up to 85% on electricity costs.

2. Toiletry dispensers
Guests only use 10% of individual products. Wall-mounted dispensers can reduce waste by up to 40%.

3. Shower Flow Regulator
Can reduce water usage in showers by up to 50% or six litres per minute with no discernable difference in quality.

4. Ecozone Dryer Balls
By retaining heat they reduce the time needed to dry a load by around 25%, saving on running costs.

5. ‘Switch-off' stickers
Could cut your lighting costs by as much as 15% and general energy consumption by anything from 10-40% a year just by reminding staff to switch off.

top 5 tips for efficiency in the kitchen
FCSI consultant Andrew Etherington, owner of Andrew Etherington Associates, provides his tips for saving costs in the kitchen

1. buy local and in season
It doesn't cost anything and the market price will be lower than that of imported produce.

2. minimise waste
Monitor how much plate waste there is. If you're over producing you are wasting money. If you produce less in an efficient way you can obviously save money.

3. manage energy
Don't waste energy. Induction cooking may be expensive from a capital expenditure point of view but it will save money in the long term as you only draw energy when actually cooking something. People still enter the kitchen in the morning and stick all the ovens on, which is clearly a waste.

4. use equipment correctly
So many people use equipment in one way, which may not be the most efficient. Familiarise yourself with all the functions of equipment like combi-ovens and be aware of its capabilities.

5. join accreditation schemes
It costs very little to nothing but joining schemes such as Food For Life, which is endorsed by the Soil Association, or the Sustainable Restaurant Association can reap rewards. As well as hints and tips you can share practical information and good practice with other operators.

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