Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from food waste
As part of our Low Carbon Diet program, Bon Appétit launched a 12-week Food Waste Reduction campaign in all cafés nationwide. Food waste packs a double global warming whammy since it represents both the waste of the embodied energy it took to grow, harvest, transport and cook the food and significant methane emissions when the food decomposes in landfills. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, landfills are the largest human-related source of methane in the US, accounting for 34 percent of all methane emissions.
By April 2009, we reduced food waste generated in our cafés by 30% through 1) educating chefs and kitchen staff on proper portioning and prepping techniques, 2) a daily waste monitoring program in all kitchens and 3) a consumer waste reduction educational campaign including weighing and measuring food at dish return stations and encouraging trayless dining, where appropriate. As a result of these efforts, we achieved a weekly reduction in CO2 equivalent emissions between 40 and 50 tons.
Even before this Food Waste Reduction campaign, many of our accounts had been implementing innovative ways to reduce food waste. For example, Bon Appétit’s general manager at St. Joseph’s College in Maine was the first to experiment with trayless dining in 2005 and it has become a nationwide movement in college dining halls since then. The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education predicts that most of the nation’s 4,000 colleges and universities will institute trayless dining within the next five years. Other Bon Appétit accounts divert their kitchen waste through a variety of different avenues including on-site and off-site composting, direct relationships with farmers who use the waste for pig and chicken feed, biofuel processors, and food banks. Currently, more than 40% of our accounts’ food waste (by weight) is diverted from landfills.