7 easy sustainability wins for hospitality businesses

3 Jul 2019

Measures such as the recent Governmental ban on plastic bags, and the growing popularity among customers of paper straws and reusable takeaway coffee cups illustrate the growing awareness of and demand for sustainability in New Zealand.

Making sustainable and ethical choices as a business has become increasingly important - for the environment, and for attracting and retaining the increasing number of consumers that now actively make choices about where to spend their money based on a business’ ethical credentials.

In some instances, choices that reduce your carbon footprint as a business need not cost you more money, and can in fact have a cost saving effect on the business. According to Nick Keene, Hospitality New Zealand National Board member and owner/operator of Schnappa Rock and Wahi restaurants in Tutukaka, Northland; his own journey to becoming a more sustainable hospitality operator started with the realisation that making his venue more energy efficient, would also provide significant cost savings.

“The start of this journey for us came several years ago when I had the idea of putting 18 solar panels on the roof of the restaurant. I employed a couple of consultants who declared that we could save up to 33 percent of our power bill and that I could see a return on investment within six to seven years,” Nick told Hospitality New Zealand.

Through an energy audit of the restaurant, the consultants went on to show Nick how the venue could save up to 25 percent on its power bill simply through a smarter, more efficient use of energy. “The fridge seals on our walk-in units were cracked and all but ineffective, the latches didn't fully close and the strikers often bounced the door back open. Making easy adjustments made a huge difference to our energy use and costs,” Nick added.

Since then, Nick has become a passionate advocate for sustainability, and heads up Hospitality New Zealand’s own dedicated Sustainability Advisory Council, which was created to help our members on making sustainable choices in their business practices.

For many businesses, especially small businesses that feel they have minimal time or resources to make major changes, making choices that reduce your carbon footprint may seem like a daunting task. So how do you start? Nick advises starting with the “low-hanging fruit” in line with the basic principles of reduce, reuse, recycle.

By starting with the measures that are cost effective, and will be the easiest and fastest to show positive outcomes, you can gradually build on your eco-friendly journey overtime.

To get you started on your sustainability journey, here are Nick’s seven (relatively) accessible and affordable tips for becoming a more environmentally friendly hospitality operator and/or owner.

1. REDUCE Start by trying to reduce your power consumption, which can have a positive impact on the environment, as well as your running costs. In terms of up keep and power use, refrigeration is a big cost for any hospitality operation. Whether you are using big or small units, there are cost benefits in making sure that condensers are kept clean and there is no obstacle to airflow.

2. PACKAGING Where possible, send your packaging back with the delivery driver. It is a cost to receive, handle and dispose of packaging. Where possible, get your produce delivered in crates and send those crates back with the driver.

3. WASTE AUDIT Check your bins and see what is going in them. You will probably be surprised at what you find that could either be recycled or not wasted - cutlery, excess food - a plethora of things that don't need to be in there and will cost you to dispose of and replace.

4. CANVAS YOUR CREW Lots of your staff members may have interesting and innovative ideas about how your business can be more efficient and sustainable. Talk to them and consider their ideas.

5. TAKEAWAY CUPS This is a big one! Paper cups generally are not fully recyclable, as they are usually lined with a polyethylene membrane that makes them waterproof and not recyclable alongside cardboard and paper. These means they cannot go into your recycling. The majority of takeaway coffee cups used in New Zealand go to landfill, and as a nation we make our way through approximately 295 million takeaway coffee cups each year. Since 2009, KeepCup users have diverted an estimated 3.5 billion disposable cups from landfill. Many small acts make a phenomenal difference.

6. STRAWS If you are using plastic, non-recyclable straws, try replacing them for recyclable options such as paper, reusable options such as stainless steel, or no straw at all.

7. CLINGFILM Clingfilm may seem like a win for the sake of convenience, but it is a disaster for the environment because it is single-use, non-recyclable plastic. Banning clingfilm in your kitchen may sound like a tough call, but it is doable – Since October, and under the initiative of our Rising Stars Awards winning head chef Dean Thompson, our kitchen at Wahi has been completely clingfilm free. It has been a tough measure to implement, but our chefs at Wahi have got creative and made this work. Instead of wrapping products in clingfilm, we manage prep very closely, and use alternatives such as foil, small sealable containers (that are reusable), and we also use portion cuts from the butcher. In some cases this is a cost reduction when you calculate prep time, portion control and storage.

For reusable or recyclable straws, visit The Rubbish Whisperer for options. HNZ members get a discount.

Christchurch Branch members that want to learn more about sustainability in the hospitality industry may wish to join the upcoming workshop by The Rubbish Whisperer on Tuesday 30 July.

HNZ members can use the code HNZ2019 to get a 10 percent discount on tickets to this event.

Click here to read more and register for the workshop.

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