10 Tips for Going Green in Food Service

Promote a more sustainable food service, whether you are a restaurant, cafeteria, hospital, or school, with these 10 tips for going green in food service.

Green is hot, and it’s here to stay. If you want to stay on top of the latest consumer and business trends, then you need to add eco-literacy to your resume. According to a recent Gallup Poll, 90% of Americans recycle, 83% reduce energy use, 83% use less water, 83% avoid environmentally harmful products, and 73% buy environmentally beneficial products. Thanks to a great deal of high profile media coverage about the ills of our planet, from overflowing landfills and pesticide residues to green house gas emissions and global warming, the public is interested in doing their part to help heal Earth. For those businesses and professionals working in the food system, there is ample room to make a difference. But people are expecting much more than simple green initiatives like recycling aluminum cans. They want to know about an organization’s carbon foot print (the measurement of the impact of human activities on the environment in terms of the amount of green house gases produced measured in units of carbon dioxide) and food miles (the number of miles food travels to get to the dinner plate). Try out these tips to get going down a greener path.

10 Tips for Going Green in Food Service

Think green!

1. Think Green.  Get together with your teammates and make a green agenda, identifying eco-friendly opportunities, practices, and goals that are achievable over the short term and long term.

Use reusable storage containers as much as possible.

2. Go Paperless.  Reduce the use of paper products, whether it’s in the office or on the kitchen floor. Use electronic mailings and registrations as much as possible. When you use paper, search for recycled products.

3. Reduce Energy and Use of Resources.  If you’re in food service, you already know that it can be an inordinately energy and resource draining enterprise. Try to optimize practices and equipment to reduce energy and water use. Investigate new appliances that will reduce energy and water use, explore alternative transportation avenues, train staff in conservation, and delve into alternative energy sources.

4. Reuse and Reduce Waste.  Use reusable supplies whenever possible (think china and silverware over plastic). Avoid the use of Styrofoam, which experts say takes about 500 years to decompose in a landfill. If you must use disposables, try alternative bio-degradable supplies. Cut down on food waste, about 20% of all commercially prepared foods go straight into the trash. And recycle, recycle, recycle.

Purchase from local vendors.

5. Support Local.  From plugging the farmer’s market to buying from local sources, make local your first choice. Not only might you support small businesses within your community, you can cut down on the number of miles goods and services need to travel to get to your business.

Support better food production purchases.

6. Foster a Sustainable Food Supply.  Commercial agriculture is a major contributor to air pollution, water pollution, and habitat degradation. Support organic, sustainable, humane, and free trade practices at every opportunity. Plan menus seasonally and ask yourself if you really need to serve raspberries in January.

Promote green travel by supporting local food systems.

7. Travel Green. Cut down on your impact on green house gas emissions when you travel, from using energy wise transportation to green hotels and convention sites.

8. Eco-Smart Construction. If you’re designing new construction for an upcoming facility project, turn to energy efficient and sustainable building materials and systems.

9. Team Up.  Join local eco-friendly groups such as the Hunger and Environmental Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group (HEN) or Slow Food USA. List your services in green directories, such as Green Restaurants.

10. Promote your Green-ness.  Give yourself credit for your eco-friendly ways. List your green practices and affiliations on your website and organization materials. Promote the value of environmentalism to your community.

Spicy Sorghum Sweet Potato Veggie Burgers

Eco-Friendly Goals

Source: Sustainable Communities Network

  • Save Trees
  • Improve Soil
  • Minimize Waste
  • Create Community
  • Improve Local Economy
  • Conserve Water and Energy
  • Support Local Farms and Farmers
  • Reduce Contributions to Global Warming

Written by Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN, February 7, 2011; Updated on April 27, 2021.

For other eco-friendly tips, check out the following:

The Myriad Benefits of Community Gardens
Top 11 Tips for Sustainable Eating
The Impact of Food Miles

Image: Jade Edamame Brussels Sprout Rice Bowl