Sustainability in the food industry refers to the production, processing, distribution and consumption of food in a way that minimizes negative impacts on the environment for both current and future generations. As people become increasingly aware of the impact of climate change, the pressure on the dining industry to adopt sustainable practices grows. It is believed that the global food system is responsible for a third of all greenhouse gas emissions. While, of course, the culinary industry isn’t solely responsible for climate change, the industry can make meaningful changes to support sustainability efforts and reduce the impact of climate change.
Reducing Food Waste
Reducing food waste is one of the easiest and most impactful ways to increase sustainability. Clubs can reduce food waste by tracking inventory, planning menus carefully and offering dishes with reduced portion sizes for diners with smaller appetites. An inventory management system can help keep track of ingredients and supplies to avoid food waste while ensuring everything is available when needed. Knowing what and how much food you have helps manage freshness, quality, efficiency and waste reduction while providing a smoother dining experience. Chefs should also design menus with overlapping ingredients in dishes. Overlapping ingredients will not only prevent waste but also cut down on overall food costs.
Using Local and Seasonal Ingredients
When possible, chefs should prioritize local and seasonal ingredients to reduce the environmental impact of their food sourcing. Many chefs are focusing on the food industry’s impact on global warming by avoiding products and foods that bear unnecessary carbon outputs or even excessive packaging. While supporting local farmers and the community, chefs will also contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions produced by the transportation industry.
Chefs are taking a creative approach toward minimizing waste and creating flavors from the ingredients themselves. Chefs are focusing on streamlining menus with a localized approach that will keep in line with what is locally fresh and readily available within the community. Planning menus around seasonal and local produce creates a unique dining experience for members. The perception of food, especially fine dining, has changed. Chefs once believed it was important to import specialty items and few people considered the seasonality of ingredients or the consequences of importing ingredients. However, diners are now more conscious of where their food comes from and look for cuisine that uses local ingredients.
With over half of the agriculture industry’s emissions coming from meat production, reducing meat and incorporating plant-based dishes on the menu is a great way for clubs to reduce their carbon footprint. Plant-based and vegan trends have not only taken hold of the culinary industry due to health concerns, but also because of animal welfare and sustainability. The increased popularity of vegetables and plant-based products makes room for chefs to get creative by putting a spin on traditional dishes in new and interesting ways. Vegetables are replacing meat to make sustainable and healthier alternatives with the same great taste as the original recipes. Chefs have become more creative with vegetables by studying seasonal availability as well as regions and cuisines around the world where vegetables, not meat or seafood, are the primary ingredients.
To effectively communicate sustainability efforts, clubs should create a clear sustainability statement, with visible signage, trained staff and sustainability messaging on menus. Food transparency is about being clear and honest about sourcing, ingredients, nutrition, environmental footprints and social impacts.