Preventing and Reducing Food Waste

Decreasing what we send to the landfill, to cut our greenhouse gas emissions

At Bon Appétit, we hate food waste with a passion. It’s a big contributor to climate change. Wasting food means you’re also wasting all the energy it took to grow, harvest, transport, and cook it. In addition, food decomposing in landfills releases methane, the greenhouse gas that is 20 to 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), landfills are the largest human-related source of methane in the United States.


A Wheaton College student prepares to go trayless

As part of our Low Carbon Diet program, Bon Appétit launched a 12-week Food Waste Reduction campaign in all cafés nationwide. 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, which included 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.

Food recovery hierarchyWe are proud to have been able to keep our food waste tonnage down ever since. We follow the EPA’s food recovery hierarchy, which is about trying to stop food waste from happening in the first place.

Source reduction in the kitchen: Preparing food from scratch in small batches to order, using snout-to-tail and stem-to-root cooking techniques, and being the first company to talk guests out of using trays has all helped us keep our food waste to a minimum.

Source reduction on the farm: We’ve also tackled food waste at the farm and processor level. In 2014 we launched the Imperfectly Delicious Produce program, working with our farmers, suppliers, and chefs to source cosmetically challenged produce that would otherwise be left to rot in the fields or discarded in the processing plant.

Food recovery: Even though we’re proactive, there is always inevitably some food going to waste. When we do have edible excess food, we try to find a way to get it to people. Around the country, we work with food banks and nonprofit organizations such as the Food Recovery Network (press release) to take excess, nutrient-dense food from our cafés and get it to food-insecure people.

Feeding animals and industrial uses: At some locations, we send scraps to Farm to Fork partners (for animal feed or composting) and waste fryer oil to biofuel processors. In fact, a handful of our catering vans run on waste vegetable oil from our cafés!

Composting: We compost food waste on-site and through municipal programs where available, and we do our best to show our guests how to properly sort their waste for composting and recycling.

USF student Kathleen Shelton helps guests sort their waste into the right bin

USF student Kathleen Shelton helps guests sort their waste into the right bin


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