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11 ways for restaurants to be more sustainable

With all the other concerns of running a restaurant, it’s easy to dismiss sustainability – especially when it sounds expensive. But according to Oliver Bonstein of GreenCape, an NPO that works to support green industry in the Western Cape, there’s a lot that restaurants can do to reduce their impact on the environment and close the circle – and it doesn’t have to cost the earth. Here are 11 tips to a more clean and green business.

1. Donate unused food before the use-by date

Although 13.8 million people are hungry in South Africa, a third of all food produced here ends up in landfill. FoodBank SA does not currently collect from restaurants, but the NGO says it is planning to expand its Virtual Food Banking system to restaurants and hotels in the near future. The system works by allowing approved non-profits to collect food directly from participating retailers. Keep an eye on the FoodBank SA Facebook page for updates on the rollout. In the meantime, if you find yourself with a large surplus of edible food, contact FoodBank to organise a once-off donation. They’ll let you know if they are able to collect or facilitate a collection.

 

2. Help your customers to donate

The Fruit Cube, a fresh fruit delivery box service, gives customers the opportunity to pause their office fruit deliveries over the holidays. “This festive season, as we [have done] previously, we gave customers the option to donate nutritious fruit to those in need instead of just pausing their orders,” says Lesley Scott of The Fruit Cube. Many of the company’s customers ended up donating their orders and The Fruit Cube matched each donation. “The response was overwhelming. We were able to donate just under 4000 pieces of fruit in December and January. This was the first time we partnered with FoodBank SA and it was a very easy process.”

 

3. Donate old or unused kitchen equipment to help feed more people

Another organisation getting off the ground in Cape Town is The Real Junk Food Project. The South African arm of this British NPO will be launching soon, and for its first trick will link up with No Danger Diaries, Avant Garden and BEN’s Bikes to offer a bicycle service and mobile kitchen in a food truck to feed the homeless. In this early stage, they’re in search of kitchen equipment and donations of any kind. Check out their website to get in touch.

4. Keep a detailed inventory of perishable goods

Keeping track of your stock and what gets thrown away before it’s used will help to reduce future wastage. Analysing the data over a long period will help you to order more precisely – and save you a little money, too.

ThinkstockPhotos-485660784

5. Turn your food waste into compost

Reducing the amount of food waste that ends up in landfill is one of the major goals for sustainable businesses. The traditional problem with composting is the number of food types that can’t be used. Bread products, meat products, milk, rice and cooking oil all attract unwanted pests and upset the moisture balance of the compost. But Bokashi composting systems can accept all food waste – even meat scraps – and are sold in sealed drum systems, so you won’t have any unpleasant smells or unwelcome rodents. You can then either drop off the filled drum at a local composting facility, or use it in diluted form for your own garden. (The liquid produced by the system is an incredibly powerful liquid fertiliser.)

ThinkstockPhotos-820902226. Use recycling bins

Recycling bins do take up space but they don’t have to be unsightly. Markets and quick-service restaurants have a great opportunity to encourage customers to recycle too. Check out these five stylish recycling bins, rounded up by Visi.

7. Consider trialling more vegetarian dishes

If meat is your USP, this might sound odd, but offering more meat-free dishes might actually help to expand your audience – especially if they’re inventive and delicious – and fresh produce has a significantly lighter load on the earth than meat.

8. Buy local

Working with local suppliers helps to reduce the carbon footprint of your food. Some restaurants are taking this even further by growing their ingredients on the property. At Fermier, a new fine-dining restaurant in Pretoria, chef Adriaan Maree aims to completely close the cycle, growing produce for the restaurant on the property, and reusing waste to grow the next batch of food. While not everyone has a farm to hand, rooftop gardens and herb-growing schemes can help reduce the food mileage on your menu.

Raspberries on a mat at Fermier. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Raspberries on a mat at Fermier. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

9. Save water

The current water crisis in SA has made being waterwise more critical than ever. Motion-sensor taps and low-flow water tapheads can reduce the amount of water used in the kitchen, and installing a hippo – or just placing a brick in your toilet cisterns – can help reduce water usage in toilets. Training staff on the importance of saving water and even introducing the use of plugs can also go a long way to reducing water wastage.

10. Offer tap or filtered water as an alternative to bottled water.

At Tjing Tjing Torii in Cape Town, filtered water is offered free of charge for the table. Served in reusable glass bottles, it makes a nice value-add for customers, and is easy on the earth, too.

11. Serve only SASSI green-listed fish

Help save our oceans by avoiding orange and red listed seafood. Be aware that kingklip, salmon and prawns – although widely sold in restaurants – are orange-listed. SASSI recommends using South African rainbow trout as an alternative to salmon in sushi, farmed dusky kob instead of kingklip, and monkfish instead of prawns (it’s obviously a very different thing, but the texture is firm like a prawn.) Oysters and mussels are other sustainable shellfish options.

In 2016, Eat Out will be working with independent players to award the first-ever Woolworths Sustainability Award for a restaurant making the biggest commitment to sustainability. Find out more here.

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