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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

Want to Connect With Nature? Start by Disconnecting From Busyness

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Connect With Nature

Have you ever found yourself staring at one of your (many) devices and feeling slightly disgusted with how much time you waste on technology? If so, you aren’t alone. We all have moments like these and it’s important that we use them as motivation to change – especially if we want to be more connected with nature.

How Busyness Impacts Your Connection With Nature

Whether you realize it or not, you live an ultra connected life. Between smart phones, tablets, computers, and wearable devices, you’re never very far from some sort of technology that can connect you to the internet or put you in touch with other people. That’s just the world we live in.

While it could be argued that this sort of omnipresent connectivity is a positive thing, it’s also pretty clear that being permanently tethered to technology impacts our ability to strip away distractions and connect with nature.

When you’re always within arm’s reach of a device, you feel a sense of busyness.  Whether it’s browsing your social media feed, uploading a picture, reading the news, or responding to an email, there’s always something to do. As someone who wants to spend more time in nature, this is problematic.

4 Practical Ways to Disconnect

If you want to truly connect with nature and live a greener lifestyle, you have to be proactive about finding ways to disconnect. Here are a few practical suggestions:

1. Switch to a New Phone Plan

It’s not always practical to totally unplug from the world. Family and work responsibilities mean you can’t go off the grid and continue to fulfill your responsibilities. Having said that, there are some ways to scale back.

One suggestion is to switch to a prepaid phone plan. When you have a prepaid phone plan, you’re far less likely to spend hours and hours of your time making phone calls, sending texts, and surfing the web. It forces you to be more conscious of what you’re doing.

2. Get Rid of Social Media

Social media is one of the biggest time wasters for most people. Whether you realize it or not, it’s also a huge stressor. You’re constantly being exposed to the best snapshots of everyone else’s lives, which makes you feel like you’re missing out on something (even when you aren’t).

If you want to feel a sense of relief and free yourself up to spend more time in nature, get rid of social media. Don’t just delete the apps off your phone – actually disable your accounts. It’s a bold, yet necessary step.

3. Create Quiet Hours

If you aren’t able to get rid of social media and disable various online accounts, the next best thing you can do is establish quiet hours each day where you totally detach from technology. You should do this for a minimum of three hours per day for best results.

4. Build Community

Do you know why we’re drawn to social media and our devices? Whether consciously or subconsciously, it’s because we all want to be connected to other people. But do you know what’s better than connecting with people online? Connecting with them in person.

As you build real life, person-to-person relationships, you’ll feel less of a need to constantly have your eyes glued to a screen. Connect with other people who have an appreciation for nature and bond over your mutual interests.

Untether Your Life

If you find yourself constantly connected to a device, then this is probably a clear indicator that you aren’t living your best life. You certainly aren’t enjoying any sort of meaningful connection with nature. Now’s as good a time as any to untether your life and explore what a world free from cords, screens, and batteries is really like.

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Environment

6 Tips for an Eco-Friendly Move

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Moving can be a stressful and challenging time. No matter how many times you’ve done it in the past, the process of packing up, transporting, and unpacking isn’t very fun. It’s also not very eco-friendly. As you prepare for your next move, there are things you can do to ensure you leave less of a footprint behind.

6 Tips for a Greener Move

Because of the stress and pressure felt when moving, it’s pretty common for people to rush through the process and focus on getting it done. In fact, a lot of people take an “at all costs” approach; they’ll do whatever it takes to make the process as cheap and fast as possible. Don’t be one of those people. It doesn’t take much effort to turn a standard move into an eco-friendly move.

1. Maximize Each Trip

When moving across town, it’s imperative that you make as few trips as possible. Each trip requires more gas, more emissions, and more waste, and more time.

If you’re taking your personal vehicle, consider pulling a trailer behind it. You’d be surprised how much stuff you can fit into a small trailer. Not only will it make your move greener, but it’ll also save you a lot of time.

2. Donate Things You Don’t Want to Keep

The longer you live somewhere, the more junk you accumulate. This isn’t always obvious until you start packing for a big move. Instead of bringing all of these things with you to your next home, get rid of the stuff you don’t need! If the items are useful, donate them. If the items don’t have much value, toss them.

3. Reuse Moving Boxes

Not only are moving boxes expensive, but they’re also wasteful. If you need a bunch of cardboard boxes, consider looking around on Craigslist, asking friends, or checking the dumpsters behind stores. You can usually find a bunch of recycled boxes of all different shapes and sizes. Here are 12 places you can get them for free.

4. Get Creative With Packing

Who says you need moving boxes? You may find that it’s possible to do most of your move without all that cardboard. Things like storage containers, trashcans, filing cabinets, buckets, and dressers can all store items. Blankets and sheets can be used in lieu of bubble wrap to prevent your items from getting damaged.

5. Use Green Cleaning Supplies

Once you arrive at your new place, resist the urge to pull out a bunch of harsh chemicals to clean the place. You can do yourself (and the planet) a favor by using green cleaning supplies instead. Ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, and ammonia are great to start with.

6. Forward Your Mail ASAP

Don’t delay in forwarding your mail from your previous address to your new one. Not only is it wasteful for the Postal Service to route your mail to a place where you don’t live, but the next owner is probably just going to toss your letters in the trash.

Moving Doesn’t Have to be Wasteful

Most people only move once every few years. Some people will go a decade or more without a move. As a result, the process of moving often feels strange and new. The less experience you have with it, the less likely it is that you’ll be as efficient as you should. But instead of just diving into the process blind, take some time to learn about what an eco-friendly move looks like. That way, you can leave behind the smallest footprint possible.

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