Accounting for over half a million tons of food waste a year, restaurants contribute significantly to the world’s ever-increasing amount of food waste. Food waste is a problem because, not only are valuable resources, like water and energy, that go into creating the food wasted, food releases methane as it decomposes (which contributes to global warming). As a restaurant, you are in a position to make a difference. And the government agrees.
With the hope of reducing waste, New York City’s Department of Sanitation (DSNY) launched the Commercial Organics Requirements with mandated laws for “larger commercial businesses.” This means that businesses part of nationwide chains or business with over 15,000 square feet must separate the following from trash and recycling: handled food scraps, plant trimmings, food-soiled paper, and certified compostable products. If you aren’t considered a large commercial business, you technically aren’t required to do any of this. However, it is simple and responsible to make an effort to reduce waste. Here’s how.
Ways to Waste Less!
Bloomberg’s Food Waste Challenge
In April of 2013, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg challenged New York City restaurants to lower their food waste by 50 percent. Restaurants competing in the challenge are entitled to benefits. Participants will be listed on the PlaNYC website, successful companies and project profiles will be included on associated official NYC documents, and participants will be able to self-promote participation in the challenge with official signage and media. By participating in the challenge, your restaurant is able to publicize, legitimize, and market your sustainable efforts. In the age of the eco-conscious consumer, this is great for your restaurant. For more on the challenge, click here.
This is an effective and impactful means of keeping food waste from landfills. Composting is cheap, easy, and gives back to plants and soil. You can implement composting by storing soil and food scraps in an aerated container and making your own herb garden.
Throughout the year it is important to analyze your restaurant’s menu to see which dishes are popular and economical and which aren’t. Another reason to make sure to analyze your restaurant’s menu is to gauge the amount of each dish is eaten. For example, if your larger steak cuts typically come back to the kitchen half-eaten, you should consider offering alternate portion sizes or reducing the size of the dish. Small adjustments like reducing portion size or offering alternative sizes can greatly help to reduce food waste in your restaurant.
Nonprofits, like Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, collect leftover food from your restaurant and supply it to undernourished areas of NYC. Another company, called City Harvest, the world’s first food rescue organization, collects over 55 million pounds of excess food per year and delivers it to 500 NYC food programs. Here is a list of 27 more organizations in NYC who are helping to combat food waste. Partnering with organizations like these enables your restaurant to do good often with minimal effort.
Taking initiative to reduce your restaurant’s food waste is a crucial step in caring for your planet. Besides being environmentally beneficial, being eco-conscious sends a powerful message to your customers. It shows customers that you care which can be a marketable and profitable message.