Don’t Talk About it. Be About It.
August 23, 2019
This post was inspired by my most recent disagreement with my husband. Although we’re both concerned about the environment, we consistently disagree. Yesterday evening, for example. He’s upset about the Amazon burning down and nothing is being done. I told him if he’s concerned about carbon emissions to plant trees. He complains about heads of states and climate change agreements. I shame him about not using a reusable mug at Wawa. He’s resolved to vote green, or something (I really just stopped listening at some point). I asked when we’re going to break ground on our rain garden, switched to bar soap, ate the last of the watermelon that no one else would finish, and gave our neighbor with the leaking truck dirty looks.
You can look at sustainability on a macro level, but what are you doing about what you have the most control over?
Don’t Talk About It, Be About It.
So what can food service professionals do?
Check out your trash: Knowing what you’re throwing out the most is a great way to make an impact. One of our national suppliers Mann’s went through their trash last year [check out their Let’s Talk Trash blog post]. On a smaller scale, I do this at home by putting my trash can across the room. Walking across the kitchen makes me more mindful of what I’m discarding. In my bathroom I keep a recycling container that started filling up very quickly with plastic bottles. That accumulation inspired me to switch to bar soap.
Recycling: One of the reasons the bottom fell out of this is contamination because most of us aren’t recycling properly. Do ALL of your employees know which numbered plastics can be recycled? Do you remove lids from jars? Do you have to remove the lids? Find out and educate your staff.
Takeout containers: Are they recyclable? Can you make a switch to #1 plastic which is accepted is nearly all recycling programs? Biodegradable options?
Reduce: Let’s go back to takeout containers… How can you reduce usage? If biodegradable or recyclable is too expensive, can you off-set this by being more mindful about how many you use? Could you offer full and half size entrees on your menu? Is it necessary to put one take container in a plastic bag? Could you encourage your guests to bring their own containers in lieu of a doggie bag? Positively influencing consumer behavior inside and outside your establishment does the most good.
Reduce Meat consumption: Vegans and others cite the environment as one of the reasons to go meatless. The Meatless Monday folks encourage us to try it out and they have great ideas and a social media platform established. The Mushroom Council promotes The Blend as a way to reduce meat consumption.
Food scraps: Food waste is something we all have control over everyday. Can you use food scrapes in another application? Do you need to peel those carrots? Composting? A good place to start is to identify what is being thrown out most often.
Culture: Fostering a green culture, talking about sustainability is the biggest way to grow sustainable practices. Start small. Start a small committee and bouncing ideas off of each other. Start with things that don’t cost anything. Small steps. You don’t need to be perfect, if you improve something– it’s a win.
Purchasing practices: The biggest way to be more sustainability is to carefully consider when you spend money. At Seashore, we do source local whenever possible and it aligns with our food safety requirements. A lot of our product is sourced directly from large national growers. The national growers we source from Taylor Farms, Sunkist, Mission, Driscoll’s, Grimmway, and others have some great sustainability programs themselves. Money talks.
Eat seasonally: Best practice is to eat local and we all know that, some of us before it was cool. One of the biggest frustrations I have is when customers tell me what they want then ask for me to make it as local as possible. That’s not how it works. I can tell you want’s in season and hope you want mushrooms and hydro-bibb. My job is promote what’s fresh, what’s coming into season and what’s new. Start with what’s in season (ask your account manager, ask me, google it, whatever), get inspired, then plan your menus! Colorful Plates is a great resource and inspiration!
At Seashore we are not perfect, but we value sustainability and will continue to refine our green efforts. We are apart of the PRO*ACT network which also values sustainability and we learn from each other. We came together to create Greener Fields Together. Our initiative was ahead of its time and has grown over the years. It incorporates what WE are doing, what our local, regional, and national suppliers are doing, and even what you’re doing.
The purpose of this blog to share my 9 years of produce industry insight. Enjoy more fresh produce, buy with confidence, and let’s move fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables to the center of the plate!