Go Green – Tackling Food Waste

By: Kelsey Millman

Sustainable Solutions That Will Improve Your Bottom Line

While recycling, saving water, and reducing electricity are among the many important steps toward being sustainable, are you aware of the impact food waste has on the climate crisis? Ben Liegey is on a mission to expand our collective understanding of food waste prevention and help hospitality operators improve their bottom line in the process.

“If food waste was a country, it would be the third highest emitter of CO2 in the world.”

“Food waste generates 8% of total anthropogenic GHG emissions globally, meaning that if food waste was a country, it would be the third highest emitter of CO2 in the world, behind USA and China,” says the food waste expert and co-founder and CEO at Rethink2gether.  “Globally, food waste prevention is the number one solution to fight climate change, and emissions caused by food waste can be drastically reduced through simple steps.”

Liegey’s Vancouver-based company works directly with accommodators across the province to reduce food waste through a tailored action plan that will result in annual savings.

“An average restaurant in BC experiences approximately 50K in food waste per year—30% of which is completely avoidable,” he says. “3% of hospitality businesses in British Columbia measure food waste currently,” and Rethink2gether wants to increase that number by providing the expertise, training, technology, and a certification program—The PLEDGE™ on Food Waste—to set operators on their path to savings. He adds, “hospitality businesses can cut food purchasing costs by 3-7% and expect an average of 30% less food waste after a year of using our services, meaning 15K can go back into your pocket.”

“If you show you care about the environment, you can attract people needed in the industry right now.”

Although cost savings and protecting the planet are clear benefits of reducing food waste, Liegey also points to ethical food waste prevention as a means to attract and retain workers, as today’s workforce is “looking for work that has meaning.” Particularly for those within the culinary space, Liegey suggests, “if you show your employees you care about the environment, and the treatment of food, you can attract people who are needed in the industry right now.”

But employees are not the only group of people looking to engage with food-conscious businesses. He notes, “According to a recent poll, 83% of global travellers think sustainable travel is vital. If you want to drive revenue and guests to your hotel, being sustainable is really a no-brainer.”

“83% of global travellers think sustainable travel is vital.”

Fortunately for us all, food waste prevention is becoming part of a larger conversation—something Liegey is excited to see. “We are witnessing governments around the world beginning to take action,” he says. “France is one of the first countries to officially adopt anti-food waste laws.” Anticipating that this will be a growing trend, it creates an opportunity for operators to be leaders in this space, being among the first to implement food waste prevention practices.

Sandman Hotel & Suites Kelowna Pilot Project

In BC’s hotel community, one such leader that has emerged is Sandman Hotel & Suites Kelowna. The property recently participated in a first-of-its-kind Energy, Waste & Carbon Reduction Pilot Project, pioneered by the BC Hotel Association, in partnership with FortisBC, GreenStep, and Rethink2gether. Through this ground-breaking program, all aspects of the property’s hotel and dining operations have been scrutinized by analysts as they measure the property’s carbon footprint, while conducting comprehensive energy, waste, and water audits. This was all done with one aim in mind—to identify energy conservation and sustainability opportunities.

For Rethink2gether’s part, Liegey explains, “We trained the entire team on-site, and arranged food waste segregation bins to separate different food waste streams that include preparation, spoilage, and plate waste.” Once the measuring systems were in place, over the course of a week, the Rethink2gether team began “analyzing food waste data to identify food efficiency opportunities—compared against industry data—and shared a detailed three-month action plan that will help the property identify up to tens of thousands in cost-savings from food waste reduction alone.”

“A detailed three-month action plan will help identify up to tens of thousands in cost-savings from food waste.”

To support this program, the Sandman Hotel & Suites Kelowna added a $2 Eco Fee to all guest bookings as of February 15, 2022. Funds go directly into a Sandman Hotel Group Green Fund—administered by GreenStep—to support the implementation of future sustainability projects and opportunities at the hotel.

While the sustainability collective hopes to roll this pilot project out across BC, Liegey says there are steps that hotel operators can immediately take to support food waste reduction—and it begins with a pen and paper. “The most important step in food waste prevention is to begin measuring,” he says, and operators do not need any specific technology to get started. “You have in your hand a very easy way to create significant savings and leverage the number one solution to fight climate change. Alternatively, if you want to explore food waste monitoring technology, you can also try Food Intel Tech for free for 45 days.”

Liegey also encourages hospitality operators to explore Rethink2gether’s website for free training, resources, and to explore The PLEDGE™ on Food Waste, with 4 levels of certification and 95 criteria solely focused on food waste.

As Liegey states, “Climate action begins with each of us, and food waste prevention is a tasty way to improve your bottom line.”