Changing climate change
Industry, transport, energy production from fossil fuels and farming aren’t the only culprits producing greenhouse gases: Emissions come from food preparation too.
These gases, added to those produced naturally by marine and terrestrial ecosystems and other human production activities, are causing the so-called “greenhouse effect” which is overheating the planet. This phenomenon is the greatest risk to the future of humanity.
Sourcing ingredients whose production has less of an environmental impact and making conscious choices in restaurant management might seem like small changes, but small changes made by many people will lead to big change.
Slow Food, with scientific support from INDACO2, compared the environmental impact of a Slow Food Cooks’ Alliance restaurant, Les Résistants in Paris, with conventional restaurants.
The results of the study “Serving up care for the climate: Sustainability in restaurants is possible“ offer food for thought and a source of information and inspiration for anyone in the restaurant industry who wants to reduce the impact of their activities. The research shows that a menu light on meat, buying ingredients from sustainable agricultural systems and putting in place strategies for saving energy and reducing food waste can lead to an annual environmental impact that’s 4.5 times less than a restaurant with conventional suppliers providing products from far-off places and meat consumption in line with the European average, run with no concern for the environment.
We’ve come up with a placemat with tips for developing a “climate-friendly” menu.
Ask your customers to take the placemat home and use it to think about their everyday food-buying habits!
Here are some tips for running a climate-friendly restaurant:
It’s best to avoid plastic materials as much as possible, in both the kitchen and the dining room, as well as single-use products.
When there’s no avoiding plastic, make sure items are disposed of properly so they can be recycled.
Plastic must be used correctly, to avoid contamination of food and the ingestion of microplastics. The production of microplastics depends on various factors: the characteristics of the plastic, temperature, humidity and acidity, but also the type of food (fatty foods absorb higher concentrations of contaminants). The higher the temperature and the longer the food stays in contact with the plastic, the greater the transfer of microplastics into the food.
When it is impossible to avoid the use of single-use products, choose those made from biodegradable and compostable materials and make sure they are properly disposed of so they can be composted.
All paper products (napkins, tablecloths, kitchen towels, hand towels, toilet paper) should ideally be made from recycled paper or at least paper certified by PEFC or FSC, ensuring it comes from sustainably managed forests. That’s the best way to protect the forests and the economies linked to them.
A PEFC-certified forest will be managed in line with strict environmental, social and economic standards, meaning it will still be there for future generations. As well as guaranteeing that the raw material comes from a certified forest, PEFC also makes sure that workers’ rights are protected along the whole production chain.
Ecological detergents are the best choice for cleaning and the consumption of water and energy should be reduced to the minimum so as to limit the environmental impact as much as possible. Renewable energy suppliers should be chosen where possible.
Used cooking oil
Any oil left over after frying should be delivered to collection centers that can take care of its disposal or recycling. Incorrectly disposing of used cooking oil pollutes the soil, rivers, seas and watersheds, creating a surface film that prevents the oxygenation of the water and threatens the survival of flora and fauna.
Used oil can also prevent the sun’s rays from reaching deeper into the water, drastically harming the marine environment and underwater life. Just one kilo of used cooking oil can pollute 1,000 square meters of water surface area (from Legambiente).