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Food Excess: The Neglected Issue In The Hospitality Industry

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Benjamin Lephilibert, Founder of LightBlue Environmental Consulting, writes. Travelling millennials, who will outnumber Boomers in Asia by 2020, have much higher expectations when it comes to the “green” credentials of the accommodations they select.

The good news is they will continue pushing the industry, from hostels to 5-star luxury resorts, in this direction. Energy, water, waste, chemical consumption or support for local communities are now issues that hotels take into consideration when adopting a sustainability approach, whether they do so for ethical, financial, or branding reasons. However, there is a fundamental aspect of hotel operation that remains neglected. It’s one with a staggering environmental impact that is so obvious that all see it but no one talks about it. The problem is so seriously ignored that it’s not included in the criteria for the most advanced green hotel certification schemes.  And it can cause tremendous damage to a hotel’s income statement. Too often considered as a necessary evil by hoteliers, food waste is the elephant in the room that the vast majority of operators still try hard to ignore.

When I get to share what we do at LightBlue to help hotels to address their Food Excess issue, the typical reaction I get is: “it’s nice, but what do you do, you get hotels to reduce the variety of food?” Or “you can’t force people to finish their plates, can you?”. The answer is a clear no, we cannot and will not do that, as guest satisfaction and brand standard are central in every improvement offered to our partners. However, we realized through our experiences that by implementing a food excess monitoring system that uses clear categories (Spoilage waste, preparation waste, buffet waste and customer plate waste) we’ve been able to help properties reduce their food waste by 45%.

Although hoteliers have not yet gotten on board, food waste has recently made it into the headlines of several international business publications including: Bloomberg, the Financial Times, and CNN. And countries all over the world are beginning to realize the true negative impact of food wasteThe United States plans to cut their food waste by 50% by 2030; and the European Union is being even more ambitious as they plan to do the same but by 2020. The impetus for these programs is clear. As a recent report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) states, “The impact of food waste is not just financial. The vast amount of food going to landfills makes a significant contribution to global warming”. As such, the United Nations just recently set food waste as one of their most urgent UN Sustainable Development Goals (Goal 12.3).

If Public Organisations, International bodies, and business media recognize the severity of the problem of food waste, then why aren’t hotels willing to face this issue?

When the word “hotel” is brought up, the feelings and sensations that it conjures are typically thoughts of luxury and relaxation – a getaway, an escape for all kinds of people from whatever stress and responsiblities they are facing in their daily lives. With these expectations, hotels have to please their customers and that oftentimes means serving an abundance of food for their guests. Whether it be via an a la carte restaurant, or an overflowing buffet, with this abundance of food comes a significant amount of food waste.

Through the implementation of our Food Excess Audits, we’ve proved this to be true. One hotel we assessed in Bangkok, Thailand wasted over 1300 kilograms of edible food in just seven days, which amounts to a shocking 70 tons per year. After implementing our Food Excess Solution Program, the result was 5,635 kilograms of food saved within 5 months, coupled with an average savings of 2.29% off of monthly food costs. The financial savings for that property are in tens of thousands of USD per years, and the positive impacts resulting from the decrease in food waste is a great marketing/communication opportunity as well, as these 5.6 tonnes represent 840 days worth of food for a family of four.

Reducing food waste is so much more than just reducing loss of edible resources. Look beyond the food waste and into what is really happening by scrutinizing the whole food chain. Where are we sourcing our food (food miles)? How much energy is needed to harvest, process, package and transport that food? Food loss and waste adds up to a significant amount of resources being wasted, specifically needless energy, labor, land pollution, water and more.

WRAP UK, The True Cost of Food Waste within Hospitality and Food Service, Nov 2013We can’t expect every hotelier to wholeheartedly embrace sustainability, even though those who have are harvesting the benefits in terms of staff retention, reduced operational costs –energy, water, disposable and recyclable wastes, chemicals, higher guest satisfaction, and branding. But how can we continue to ignore the issues when small resorts have been found to waste up to 150 tons of edible food per year? Or that a staggering 36% of all food purchased ends up in the bin? That when taking into account energy used, water used, labour cost, mis-allocation of financial resources and loss revenue for that food that could have been sold, the actual true cost paid by a hotel for food waste can reach a stunning $800,000  for one  large (300 room) resort? Nobody you might think, or at least no one with understands business and has a sense of responsibility.

However, the truth is that hoteliers are still turning a blind eye on their “Food Waste Situation”. Classic KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) such as the Food Cost % and Total Revenue from Food and Beverage remain almost exclusively the only indicators of financial performance of food outlets and banquets, instead of looking as well at what is being lost between purchasing of food up to the end of service.

Business is business, and the bottom line remains the same: how much does it cost, and how much can I save. Our Food Excess Solutions program can give hotels an unprecedented understanding of their food waste situation (how much, where, when, what is it, why, and how much does it cost), a practical way to monitor food excess, and actionable solutions along the value chain.

It helps move the issue of food waste higher up on the hotel general agenda, a clear benefit from an environmental perspective can also be measured while building the capacity of your employees, and it helps hotels save a lot of money (with a very short payback period). And in this situation, greed is good for everyone.

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Road Trip! How to Choose the Greenest Vehicle for Your Growing Family

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Greenest Vehicle
Licensed Image by Shutterstock - By Mascha Tace -- https://www.shutterstock.com/g/maschatace

When you have a growing family, it often feels like you’re in this weird bubble that exists outside of mainstream society. Whereas everyone else seemingly has stability, your family dynamic is continuously in flux. Having said that, is it even possible to buy an eco-friendly vehicle that’s also practical?

What to Look for in a Green, Family-Friendly Vehicle?

As a single person or young couple without kids, it’s pretty easy to buy a green vehicle. Almost every leading car brand has eco-friendly options these days and you can pick from any number of options. The only problem is that most of these models don’t work if you have kids.

Whether it’s a Prius or Smart car, most green vehicles are impractical for large families. You need to look for options that are spacious, reliable, and comfortable – both for passengers and the driver.

5 Good Options

As you do your research and look for different opportunities, it’s good to have an open mind. Here are some of the greenest options for growing families:

1. 2014 Chrysler Town and Country

Vans are not only popular for the room and comfort they offer growing families, but they’re also becoming known for their fuel efficiency. For example, the 2014 Chrysler Town and Country – which was one of CarMax’s most popular minivans of 2017 – has Flex Fuel compatibility and front wheel drive. With standard features like these, you can’t do much better at this price point.

2. 2017 Chrysler Pacifica

If you’re looking for a newer van and are willing to spend a bit more, you can go with Chrysler’s other model, the Pacifica. One of the coolest features of the 2017 model is the hybrid drivetrain. It allows you to go up to 30 miles on electric, before the vehicle automatically switches over to the V6 gasoline engine. For short trips and errands, there’s nothing more eco-friendly in the minivan category.

3. 2018 Volkswagen Atlas

Who says you have to buy a minivan when you have a family? Sure, the sliding doors are nice, but there are plenty of other options that are both green and spacious. The new Volkswagen Atlas is a great choice. It’s one of the most fuel-efficient third-row vehicles on the market. The four-cylinder model gets an estimated 26 mpg highway.

4. 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

While a minivan or SUV is ideal – and necessary if you have more than two kids – you can get away with a roomy sedan when you still have a small family. And while there are plenty of eco-friendly options in this category, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is arguably the biggest bang for your buck. It gets 38 mpg on the highway and is incredibly affordable.

5. 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel

If money isn’t an object and you’re able to spend any amount to get a good vehicle that’s both comfortable and eco-friendly, the 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel is your car. Not only does it get 28 mpg highway, but it can also be equipped with a third row of seats and a diesel engine. And did we mention that this car looks sleek?

Putting it All Together

You have a variety of options. Whether you want something new or used, would prefer an SUV or minivan, or want something cheap or luxurious, there are plenty of choices on the market. The key is to do your research, remain patient, and take your time. Don’t get too married to a particular transaction, or you’ll lose your leverage.

You’ll know when the right deal comes along, and you can make a smart choice that’s functional, cost-effective, and eco-friendly.

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How Climate Change Altered this Engineer’s Life

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how climate change affect our lives
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Rawpixel.com -- https://www.shutterstock.com/g/rawpixel

Living the life of an engineer likely sounds pretty glamorous: you are educated and highly regarded, typically have high paying gigs, and with the breadth of knowledge and array of fields of specialty, your possibility for jobs is usually immense.  But what if there was something else that needed your attention? Something bigger than just being an engineer, going to work every day and doing the same technical tasks typically associated with the profession?

For Kevin McCroary, that is exactly how it played out.  A successful engineer, gainfully employed in a prosperous job, a simple trip to the Philippines made him see that there was a bigger issue at hand than using his engineer training in a traditional profession.  This bigger issue was that of climate change.  And working as a volunteer for underprivileged children in the Philippines, he saw first-hand the extensive pollution and poverty that existed here and that impacted the livelihood of these kids and their families.

Upon returning home, from his trip to the Philippines he had a new perspective of the impact we as individuals and as humanity have on the earth, and more than that Kevin wanted to know more.  He started to do some research and study these human-environmental interactions, and shortly thereafter ended up in Greenland.  There, he spoke to a man who had lost his home in a tsunami, and, who, through consistent weather tracking could indeed confirm that the current weather trends were “strange:” there was undeniably a general warming tendency happening in the arctic, causing an array of negative effects.

The combination of these observations, as well as his own research, led Kevin to conclude that something had to be done.  With that in mind, he launched his project Legend Bracelet.  The mission is simple: create a reminder of the legacy we are leaving behind.  As individuals and as humanity, we are leaving behind an imprint on the earth, and the magnitude of it is something that needs to be brought to the forefront of public awareness.  The idea is to have a bracelet that can serve as a daily reminder of the impact on the earth that each of us can have every day, regardless of how big or small.  The bracelet has two capsules: the first is filled with sand or earth, and the second is empty.  As the owner, you are to fill the empty one with your own earth, carrying it with you as a reminder and symbol of your connection and commitment to helping look after our environment.

We are all impacted by climate change, and we all have a responsibility to help.  And it can start with something as simple as putting on a bracelet.  Support Kevin on his Kickstarter campaign for Legend Bracelet, tell others about it, or take action in your own way and play your part in slowing down the effects of climate change.  You may think “but I’m just one person!” You are indeed.  But so is he.  Every change starts with one.

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