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Tackling Food Waste Is Like A Workout At The Gym

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the gym by chun kit to via flickr

Although the importance of reducing food waste is almost as well known as the importance of being health, it is just as easy to tell yourself that you’re doing better than you actually are.

Put yourself in the shoes of someone looking to shed a few pounds. You might decide to go to a 5-day fitness boot camp. Even if you achieve your desired weight during that intensive period, you wouldn’t expect to maintain any gains if you went back to your old ways after, would you? It is exactly the same with food waste prevention programmes in your business — it requires adopting a daily routine, as well as changing your diet!

You would also need to be clear about what parts of your behaviour and thinking have to be changed to stay on top of your food waste prevention game. So here are seven common misperceptions that food business operators, including restauranteurs and hotel managers, have when it comes to food waste.

1) We don’t waste that much food (…we think)

Ignorance is bliss, at least in some contexts. But in a business one, you can’t manage what you can’t measure is more appropriate. In other words, wasting food= wasting money, so it’s paramount to gain a thorough understanding of what you are wasting to understand how much is wasted, when it’s wasted (which shift of the day, which day of the week – especially delivery days!), where it’s wasted (spoilage? preparation? buffet? plate?), what is wasted, and why it’s wasted.

To get there, all you need are a simple system of color-coded bins and containers, a small kitchen scale, an Excel spreadsheet, and a commitment to do the job to get you started on measuring how much food waste you actually generate.

2) It’s the chefs’ responsibility

Wrong, especially for larger operations with several outlets and dozens of bins that act as “food waste black-holes”.

Food waste is the responsibility of everyone who handles food within your organisation, so you have to include all members of staff who come into contact with the produce: your purchasing manager, to integrate knowledge of the shelf-life of products into purchasing decisions; the receiving manager, to thoroughly check the quality of items to avoid spoilage; the storage manager, to monitor expiry dates; service employees to keep an eye on less popular items; and engineers, to run routine checks on the calibration of equipment (especially fridges and ovens) and avoid unnecessary food waste.

3) We forget to explain why we’re saving food

Depending on your geographic and cultural context, your employees may never have learned why wasting food is so bad for the environment (misuse of arable land, chemical inputs in the soil, water waste, waste from packaging, CO2 from transportation, processing, and storage), from a social perspective (the indecency, as up to 900 million people still do not have enough to eat), and for your profitability. Ensure that food waste becomes a topic mentioned to your employees on a daily basis if you expect perspectives and practices to evolve.

4) No need for the carrot, the stick will do

It is harder to force people to change their SOPs (standard operating procedures) if you can’t answer the question: “What’s in it for us?”

Simple and inexpensive incentives, such as a “Food Lover of the Month” award, in which you invite your most dedicated employees to eat “like a guest” in your restaurant, can effectively produce effective results. Or be a bit more daring: set up an employee’s fund, where a certain percent of the savings made on the food cost percentage will be redistributed and used by employees for staff outings, birthday celebrations or staff parties. Giving people positive reasons to comply is by far the most impactful approach you can adopt to get everyone on board.

5) We control the buffet, we control food waste

By the time food reaches the buffet line, it has been through several critical food waste-generating points.

In some hotels, we have seen that up to 47 percent of food waste occurs at the pre-consumer level, either as spoilage or preparation waste. Do not underestimate the importance of accurate forecasts, good storage (calibration of equipment and best practices like First in First out), and preparation (standard recipes, knife skills, and general awareness of employees) in your efforts to reduce waste. A lot of improvements can be made upstream.

6) Our food cost is within budget= we are doing great

As food business owners and managers, you are most likely to be using food cost percentage, or the ratio of the cost of food to total sales generated from selling food, to monitor the financial performance of your operations, and if you are within budget, you may consider the job as done. The problem is that your food cost percentage does not reflect how effective you are with maximising the use of food as a resource. We have worked with hotels that have had a very low food cost percentage, around 28 percent, but also had high levels of food waste in their operations.

Instead, we use our tool called the Food Efficiency Indicator (FEI), which is calculated as (total amount of food waste in kg) / (total food bought in kg). For that particular hotel, the result showed that out of 100 kg of food bought for outlets, 38 kilos were ending up in the bin a way or another! The FEI measure only looks at the amount of produce that can be consumed, so things like inedible vegetable trimmings are not counted towards the amount of food waste generated.

Imagine how you could improve your profitability if you adopted this key performance indicator and made it a focus within your business model.

7) It’s too much effort for such few benefits

The financial impact of food waste is very often misunderstood, mainly because of a lack of clear first-hand data (how many kilos of food is wasted per day), and the fact that associated costs are almost systematically overlooked.

To calculate the true cost of food waste, you need to take the purchasing price of each item, and add costs related to energy, water and labour. According to the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), a leading UK think tank on food waste, the purchasing price represents only 62 percent of that true cost.

So when you know that a hotel selling 15000 meals a month can generate more than 70 tonnes of food waste per year, and that the average true cost of food waste per kilo is 5 USD, it becomes easier to understand the scale of savings to be made from reducing food waste.

Getting your food business fit can be easily achieved by taking a few steps in the right direction and committing to extra exercise. But where do you begin?

Food businesses can start saving on food expenses by looking at the scales, if you dare! We have seen hotels serving fewer than 400 daily covers (and an additional 1000 for the staff canteen) making losses of 1600 USD per day!

Twenty percent of that cost can be saved by implementing a monitoring system, reviewing your storage practices and empowering your employees. Start small and monitor change, you will be pleasantly surprised when you see how much you can save by paying real attention to this issue!

Environment

Build, Buy, Or Retrofit? 3 Green Housing Considerations

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green housing techniques

Green housing is in high demand, but it’s not yet widely available, posing a serious problem: if you want to live an eco-friendly lifestyle, do you invest in building something new and optimize it for sustainability, or do you retrofit a preexisting building?

The big problem when it comes to choosing between these two options is that building a new home creates more waste than retrofitting specific features of an existing home, but it may be more efficient in the long-run. For those concerned with waste and their environmental footprint, the short term and long term impacts of housing are in close competition with each other.

New Construction Options

One reason that new construction is so desired among green living enthusiasts is that it can be built to reflect our highest priorities. Worried about the environmental costs of heating your home? New construction can be built using passive solar design, a strategy that uses natural light and shade to heat or cool the home. Builders can add optimal insulation, build with all sustainable materials, and build exactly to the scale you need.

In fact, scale is a serious concern for new home buyers and builders alike. Individuals interested in green housing will actively avoid building more home than they need – scaling to the square foot matter because that’s more space you need to heat or cool – and this is harder to do when buying. You’re stuck with someone else’s design. In this vein, Missouri S&T’s Nest Home design, which uses recycled shipping containers, combines the tiny home trend with reuse and sustainability.

The Simple Retrofit

From an environmental perspective, there’s an obvious problem with building a new home: it’s an activity of mass consumption. There are already 120 million single-family homes and duplexes in the United States; do we really need more?

Extensive development alone is a good enough reason to intelligently retrofit an existing home rather than building new green structures, but the key is to do so with as little waste as possible. One option for retrofitting older homes is to install new smart home technology that can automate home regulation to reduce energy use.

Real estate agent Roxanne DeBerry sees clients struggle with issues of efficiency on a regular basis. That’s why she recommends tools like the Nest Thermostat, which develops a responsive heating and cooling schedule for the home and can be remotely adjusted via smartphone. Other smart tools for home efficiency include choosing Energy Star appliances and installing water-saving faucets and low-pressure toilets. These small changes add up.

Big Innovations

Ultimately, the most effective approach to green housing is likely to be aggressive retrofitting of everything from period homes to more recent construction. This will reduce material use where possible and prevent further aggressive land use. And finally, designers, activists, and engineers are coming together to develop such structures.

In the UK, for example, designers are interested in finding ways to adapt period houses for greater sustainability without compromising their aesthetics. Many have added solar panels, increased their insulation levels, and recently they even developed imitation sash triple glazed windows. As some have pointed out, the high cost of heating these homes without such changes will push these homes out of relevance without these changes. This is a way of saving existing structures.

Harvard is also working on retrofitting homes for sustainability. Their HouseZero project is designed for near-zero energy use and zero carbon emissions using geothermal heating and temperature radiant surfaces. The buildings bridge the gap between starting over and putting up with unmanageable heating and cooling bills.

It will take a long time to transition the majority of individuals to energy efficient, green housing but we’re headed in the right direction. What will your next home be like? As long as the answer is sustainable, you’re part of the solution to our chronic overuse – of land, energy, water, and more.

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Environment

How the Auto Industry is Lowering Emissions

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auto industry to clean air pollution

Currently, the automotive industry is undergoing an enormous change in a bid to lower carbon emissions. This has been pushed by the Government and their clean air plans, where they have outlined a plan to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040.

Public Health Crisis

It is said that the levels of air pollution lead to 40,000 early deaths in the UK, with London being somewhere that is particularly bad. This has led to the new T-Charge, where heavy polluting cars will pay a new charge on top of the existing congestion charge. Other cities have taken action too, with Oxford recently announcing that they will be banning petrol and diesel cars from the city centre by 2020.

Eco-Friendly Vehicles

It is clear that the Government is taking action, but what about the auto industry? With the sale of petrol and diesel plummeting and a sharp rise in alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is clear that the industry is taking note and switching focus to green cars. There are now all kinds of fantastic eco-friendly cars available and a type to suit every motorist whether it is a small city car or an SUV.

Used Cars

Of course, it is the cars that are currently on the road that are causing the problem. The used car market is enormous and filled with polluting automobiles, but there are steps that you can take to avoid dangerous automobiles. It is now more important than ever to get vehicle checks carried out through HPI, as these can reveal important information about the automobile’s past and they find that 1 in 3 cars has a hidden secret of some kind. Additionally, they can now perform recall checks to see if the manufacturer has recalled that particular automobile. This allows people to shop confidently and find vehicles that are not doing as much damage to the environment as others.

Public Perception

With the rise in sales of alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is now becoming increasingly more common to see them on UK roads. Public perception has changed drastically in the last few years and this is because of the air pollution crisis, as well as the fact that there are now so many different reasons to switch to electric cars, such as Government grants and no road tax. A similar change in public opinion has happened in the United States, with electric car sales up by 47% in 2017.

Progress

The US is leading the way for lowering emissions as they have declined by 758 million metric tons since 2005, which is the largest amount by far with the UK in second with a decline of 170 million metric tons. Whilst it is clear that these two nations are doing a good job, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in order to improve the air quality and stop so many premature deaths as a result of pollution.

With the Government’s plans, incentives to make the change and a change in public perception, it seems that the electric car revolution is fully underway.

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