Why you need to reduce your food waste to be more sustainable
Sustainability is at the heart of the work being carried out by our Kitchen team. As part of Environmental Awareness Week, Lucy French, a chef on our Kitchen discusses how she became interested in sustainability issues, the importance of reducing food waste and provides some top tips for how you can do this easily.
What inspired you to become a chef and how did you get interested in sustainability issues?
I grew up in a family of food lovers where everything centred around the kitchen and each meal was an occasion, and this ethos has stayed with me throughout my life. For us, food was something to be enjoyed and respected, not just 'fuel'.
Sustainability is also something that has been engrained in me from a very young age. I am pleased that my sustainability ethos can continue to develop along with the Travers Smith Kitchen. Our Kitchen is a proud member of the Sustainable Restaurant Association, which is a diverse and progressive community of food businesses, all with the common goal of making the food industry a more sustainable place.
When we talk about sustainability, what do we mean?
Very simply, sustainability means meeting our own needs without compromising the ability for future generations to meet their needs. To sustain simply means to keep, or to strengthen – we need to keep our planet going for those that will come after us.
Why is there a need to reduce food waste, and why do you think so much edible food is wasted?
Food is estimated to be responsible for around 30% of the UK's greenhouse gases. As it breaks down in landfill, food waste gives off methane, which is 25 times more damaging to the environment than CO2. Many people are not aware of this impact that throwing away good food has.
Food waste begins even before produce reaches the supermarket shelves – an estimated 50 million tonnes of farmed fruit and vegetables grown in Europe is discarded each year for being the wrong shape or size. Once food is in the shops, people can tend to over-shop and buy more than they need, which leads to avoidable waste.
If you throw away something as small as an apple, you're not just throwing away one piece of fruit. The apple is a tiny part of a much bigger picture – it has gone through a journey involving many different resources, from the farmers and the pickers to the packagers and the delivery drivers – it's not just the 60p you spent on the apple or the apple itself that is going to waste.
You lead the Kitchen's sustainability programme, what are some of the key things that you have introduced to help make the Kitchen as sustainable as possible and to reduce food waste?
We try to make our Kitchen as sustainable as possible. We cook only with seasonal produce, and where possible use British and local fruit, vegetables, meat and fish, in order to reduce the carbon footprint of our menus. We use products from British ecological cleaning company Delphis and make sure that all of our suppliers share our sustainable ethos.
We monitor our food waste carefully, and have a regular audit to highlight areas in which we need to improve. The whole team is constantly in conversation about ways to reduce our food waste, and the chefs are encouraged to be mindful in ordering and creative in menu planning. We try to use every part of the produce – 'root to shoot' eating – for example, we keep the leafy tops of bunches of carrots or beetroot to make a pesto or salsa. We keep all of our vegetable peelings and odds and ends to make stocks, and any leftover fruit or vegetables are made into chutneys, pickles or shrubs.
We also do small things which make a big impact, such as using recycled paper towels, turning off taps when we don't need them, only turning the ovens on when absolutely necessary, and putting lids on pans on the stove as it cuts down boiling time by 50%, meaning we use less gas. We use cling film and single-use plastic as little as possible, using alternatives such as beeswax wrapping.
Will these initiatives also be carried through to Braithwaite's as well?
Yes and more! Sustainability is the heart of everything we do in the Kitchen and we are bringing this ethos and everything we have learnt to Braithwaite's with us. We find ourselves in a wonderful position where we can start again from scratch, in line with the Sustainable Restaurant Associations 'reopening right' recommendations.
We have been so lucky to have the time to reflect on our supplier base and research how we could ensure that we open Braithwaite's sustainably, and we are proud to do this.
Please see our new Braithwaite's Sustainability Hub page for more info.
Can you give some examples of what people can do at home to reduce their food waste?
- Plan your meals for the week ahead so that you don't over-shop and end up throwing things away. Also, don't go shopping hungry!
- Be creative – look inside your fridge and store cupboard when thinking about what to have for lunch or supper before rushing to the shops
- Keep leftovers – cooked vegetables can become a salad the following day, surplus roast chicken can become a soup, a pie or be added to a pasta bake
- If you make too much of something, freeze it for a later date
- Try 'root to shoot' eating and use the whole vegetable – I've included a quick recipe for carrot top pesto below
Carrot top pesto
- Leafy tops from a bunch of carrots
- Small handful of another herb such as basil or parsley
- 50g pine nuts
- 25g parmesan
- Olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- Salt and pepper
Blitz all of the ingredients (apart from the olive oil and seasoning) in a food processor, or bash in a pestle and mortar. Gradually add enough oil until you get the consistency you desire. Season to taste. Delicious with fish or grilled chicken.