How green is your favourite restaurant?

This is the first week that our recycling collection is back on its usual date, and I am very glad to see the last of our over-flowing boxes! It is not always easy to recycle everything you want to, but we residents try do our bit. But what about our local pubs, cafes and restaurants? Do they really recycle every bottle, cardboard box and food scrap? Hmmm… what do you think?

I know a couple of places local to us that do not recycle properly, including a pub and a cafe. But rather than name and shame (although very tempting…) I thought I’d look into what can be done instead, and mention some of the good guys.

The Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) was set up last year to provide advice and support on sustainability, which includes recycling, good sourcing, and using energy efficiently. They already have over 500 foodie companies asking them for advice, and it is really great to see some of our local businesses on the list. Any business that prepares and serves food can join – so come on local cafes, pubs and restaurants – are you doing your bit?

LOCAL COMPANIES DOING WELL

I don’t often write about chains, as I think they do well enough without the plug, but Carluccio’s is one of the companies that has signed up to the SRA, so well done them – they are the only local chain on the list! On a smaller scale, Lussmann’s has also signed up. Lussmann’s already has a good reputation for sourcing locally, but one of the main benefits for them of joining the SRA has been recycling. They have made cost savings (45%) and their waste now goes to generate electricity, rather than landfill, which is good for the planet, and for their bills. I am sure other restaurants could do the same?

The point of the SRA is not about being the most sustainable restaurant immediately but being committed to becoming more sustainable and proving that you’re doing it. And its not all hard work. There are cost savings to be made, and it can bring in extra business. Customers like to know where their food is coming from, and it makes us feel nicely smug that we are “doing our bit” if a place is well run.

Every cafe, pub and restaurant can benefit. If you are one of the many cafe and restaurant owners that read this column, here are a few ideas from the SRA that may help.

1. Follow a seasonal calendar. Make sure you and your chefs know what’s available to help with menu planning. Keeping it local and seasonal can mean lower costs and contact with other local businesses.

2. Control your energy Don’t get flustered over ever-rising bills. Take action, measure what you use and implement simple energy efficiency tactics and get those costs down. For example, a blocked fridge will use 25% more energy. Cooking with lids on pots and remembering to turn the lights out at the end of the day can make a significant difference to energy bills.

3. Get campaigning Get involved with existing campaigns, which come with their own materials and are backed up by a promotions budget.  For example, Eat Seasonably, Fairtrade Fortnight and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s Fish Fight.

4. GIY – Grow It Yourself January’s a good time to get planting. Grow your own herbs, salad leaves, tomatoes, strawberries and chillies – all easy plants to grow with limited space. Tell your customers what you are doing.

5. In ev’ry job that must be done……there is an element of being more sustainable – it’s not all about big projects. Look at your straws, cups and napkins. Upgrade to Fairtrade, make jam and pickles, offer different portion sizes, get more efficient light bulbs…

So come on local businesses – being green can save you money, and local customers like to know you are doing your best. If you run a food business, and would like more info, go to http://www.thesra.org.

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About thelocalfoodie

Food writer for The Herts Advertiser.
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