Sustainable Dining – Sourcing, Society and Environment

Veganuary is over and you may have found yourself asking, “what next?”. Perhaps you’re continuing with a plant-based diet or have dramatically reduced your meat intake. Maybe you rushed out on the 1st February to buy yourself a steak. Overall there’s a strong chance that last month got you thinking a little about the food that goes on your plate and the journey it’s made to get there.

It’s easy to make small changes to your shopping habits and cooking at home to help create a sustainable future, but have you ever given the same consideration to the restaurants that you visit? An increasing number of food businesses, including restaurants, street vendors and canteens, are putting sustainability at the top of their menu and championing the sustainable food movement.So what exactly makes a restaurant sustainable?

The Sustainable Restaurant Association have put together a simple three-pillar framework to measure and celebrate the good things that restaurants are doing and to spark ideas on what else can be done. Restaurants are scored in each of the following pillars, resulting in an overall average rating of up to three gold stars:

SOURCINGthis pillar is all about the food on the plate.

  • Celebrate local and seasonal: 95% of fruit and vegetables eaten in the UK are imported. Using British produce generates income for the local economy, reduces the environmental impact from food miles and lessens our reliance on imported food.
  • Serve more veg and better meat: the planetary health diet reinforces the idea that to reduce our impact on the planet, we should eat less meat. Increasing the plant-based options on menus helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions. When meat and dairy is used it should be purchased from responsible, high welfare and organic sources.
  • Source fish responsibly: the Marine Conservation Society report that 90% of global fish stocks are either fully or over-exploited. Their Good Fish Guide helps identify which fish are best on the menu, focusing on sustainably managed stocks or those farmed in an environmentally responsible way.
  • Support global farmers: when imported food is used, restaurants can ensure the produce chosen is sourced fairly and guarantees farmers in developing countries income and quality of life.

SOCIETYthis focuses on relationships with people. A good restaurant should…

  • Treat staff fairly: providing equal opportunities to all employees, such as training, career progression and salary, contributes to a happy, engaged and successful workplace.
  • Support the community: there are endless ways that restaurants can give back to their local communities, including donating surplus food, providing discounts for services, hosting community events and donating a portion of the sales from a dish to a nominated charity.
  • Feed people well: restaurants can help customers make healthier decisions when eating out by offering a varied and balanced menu with recommended portion sizing and options for those with food intolerances or dietary preferences.

ENVIRONMENTthis measures the impact on the planet. A good restaurant should..

  • Value natural resources: restaurants can monitor and measure their energy and water usage, set targets to reduce wastage, move to renewable sources and invest in efficient and energy-saving appliances and equipment.
  • Reduce reuse recycle: 62% of packaging and ‘non-food’ waste generated in the Hospitality and Food Service (HaFS) Sector is recycled. Of the remaining waste, 56% of this could have been recycled (WRAP – 2013). Restaurants can implement processes to manage their purchases to reduce packaging waste and can responsibly recycle any unavoidable waste.
  • Waste no food: almost 1 million tonnes of food is wasted in the HaFS Sector each year (WRAP – 2013) of which 75% is avoidable. By monitoring their food waste and engaging with local communities and charities who can benefit from surplus food, or providing end of day offers on apps like Too Good To Go, restaurants can significantly decrease their waste, their emissions and save money along the way too.

Inspired to try something new? Why not take a look at the planet-friendly food guide Truth, Love and Clean Cutlery to see what restaurants are listed in your area and how they’re doing their bit.

By Sam Hadfield, Systems Consultant and Empar Barreria, Account Manager