Restaurant Sustainability: The Rise of Ethical Food

Unless you have been living under a rock, you will know that the world is at a crucial point environmentally. Our oceans are full of plastic, whole species of wildlife are at risk of becoming extinct, and the rise in global temperatures threatens the entire existence of our planet. If we, collectively, do not actively begin making changes to our daily routine and habits, life will be completely different for future generations. We all know about the daily swaps that can have a significant long-term impact on the future of the environment; carrying a reusable cup for your morning coffee, ditching the straw, investing in a stainless-steel water bottle, buying loose fruit & veg at the supermarket…but what are restaurants doing to play their part?

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It’s not all doom and gloom. London has historically been a pioneering city for new ideas and practices, and is no different in terms of restaurant sustainability. It is encouraging to see that many restaurants and food stalls are already making a conscious effort to ethically source food and reduce their impact on the environment. A corporate commitment to sustainability for a restaurant business seems like it should be a no-brainer as, according to a study by Purdue University, two thirds of restaurant customers are willing to spend more if a business uses eco-friendly practices. Win-win!

Not only does sustainability influence customers’ choice to dine at a restaurant, it is also proven to have a major impact on reducing employee turnover rates and recruiting top talent.  An engaged employee who is proud of where they work is more likely to be a productive worker and stay with the company longer. Simples.

How can restaurants ‘Go Green’?

-          Reduce food waste; whether this be through donating surplus food, managing food inventory more efficiently, or signing up for waste-reducing apps such as Karma, Too Good To Go or Olio

-          Be as self-sufficient as possible; a restaurant can grow its own produce, use organic produce, or source it locally, thus reducing the carbon emissions of transporting food

-          Use recyclable, biodegradable or compostable materials; replace plastic takeaway containers and cutlery with biodegradable or wooden alternatives

-          Swap out conventional cleaning products for those with the ‘green seal’ certification (eco-safe products), and invest in energy-efficient appliances

-          Provide more vegetarian/vegan options; growing and harvesting vegetables, grains, pulses and nuts produces significantly less greenhouse gases than meat and dairy farming

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Whether it be through ethical food sourcing, employing environmentally-friendly practices, or making small sustainable changes in the day-to-day running of their restaurant, below are a list of my favourite London restaurants with a conscience;

-          Hawksmoor Restaurant Group

-          Wahaca Restaurants

-          Farmacy, Notting Hill

-          Petersham Nurseries, Covent Garden

-          The Meet, Clapham

These are all definitely worth a visit.

Although it is promising to see some restaurants taking the initiative to be more sustainable and ethical, there is still a long way to go and the UK has a strikingly low percentage of restaurants making changes. I have been lucky enough to live in both Canada and Australia, two countries which take tackling climate change very seriously, and the sheer difference in the volume of environmentally-conscious restaurants, comparatively to the UK, is alarming.

Employing these practices shouldn’t be seen as an additional cost for the business, but as an investment in our planet.

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