2009 Environmental Survey: Paler shade of green

FoodService Director's first Environmental Study find out how operators are tackling sustainability.

When Lester compared the data for the first quarter of 2008, before the environmental changes had been made, and the first quarter of 2009, he found that his total disposable purchases were down 62%. His costs, however, have remained the same as before the changes because of the higher price of biodegradable products. Lester has also maintained the goal of keeping non-biodegradable waste down in the cafeteria. For the first quarter of 2009, the department is averaging 50% of cafeteria disposables being biodegradable or recyclable.

“We trained our staff to ask a customer if they are eating in or taking out,” Lester says. “If they are eating in, we highly encourage people to use the china plates and stainless steel cutlery. Ninety percent of my customers are the hospital staff. Since everyone was so into it, it really cut down on the amount of Styrofoam and plastic that we bought.”

Another product Lester reduced the use of was polystyrene cups. He purchased reusable 20-ounce cups that the staff could buy to use for their personal drinks. Lester sells the cups at cost and offers a discount on beverages to customers who use the reusable cup. Lester sold out of the first 1,000 cups and has since purchased an additional 500. Although he says the reusable cups have been successful—foam cup purchases have dropped 35%—he adds that foam cups are still the department’s nemesis in their environmental efforts.

Recycling: Following the success of the cafeteria program, Lester and the green committee started a recycling component. “I know that typically a lot of foodservice directors don’t deal with garbage, but I thought that since I started the program I would just go ahead and get involved in that too,” he says.

The foodservice department is recycling cardboard, aluminum cans, plastic and paper. Lester says that the surprising element of the recycling program has been the interest from other hospital departments, especially the operating room. “They are pretty closed off and we stay out of there because we’re food people, but we found out they go through a tremendous amount of plastic in their procedures,” Lester says. “The thrown away plastic used to be 15,000 pounds a month and that has been reduced to 7,000 pounds a month since we started recycling.” So far the operating department has saved more than $900 a month with its recycling efforts.

According to a report from Waste Management, after three months of recycling, the system had reduced overall waste by more than 11%.

Lester says that another unexpected result of the recycling program was staff involvement. “The funny thing is this has been a really big morale thing,” he says. “The staff can kind of take their minds off of everything in a stressful business throughout the hospital. For example, pharmacy is really excited for some reason. They are really into it.”
 

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

The Virginia Department of Health said it has traced a “cluster” of hepatitis A cases to frozen Egyptian strawberries used by Virginia units of a smoothie chain.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe voluntarily trashed the strawberries and switched to supplies from a different source immediately after being notified of the connection, the health department said in a statement issued Friday.

The department noted that it had traced earlier outbreaks of hepatitis A to strawberries imported from Egypt. But it warned that supplies may still be in the freezers of other foodservice operations...

Managing Your Business
business man smash computer

Foodservice directors spend a lot of time taking care of other people, whether it’s K-12 students who aren’t always eating enough at home, malnourished patients back for return visits or employees squabbling among themselves. That kind of pressure can weigh heavily—and come home from work. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America finds that 83% of men and 72% of women say stress at work carries over into their personal lives, and 50% call staff management their main culprit for workplace stress.

“Stress is very difficult in our world, and work-life balance is very much a...

Industry News & Opinion

Students at an Arkansas high school may have to take creative measures to get a meal, thanks to a school policy that prevents parents from dropping off lunches left at home.

The Catholic High School for Boys in Little Rock, Ark., last week posted a picture on Facebook of a sign that reads, “Stop. If you are dropping off your son’s forgotten lunch, books, homework, equipment, etc., please turn around and exit the building. Your son will learn to problem-solve in your absence.”

While social media opinions on the school’s rule were mixed, some commenters expressed concern that...

Industry News & Opinion

Novato Unified School District in Novato, Calif., has created a new vegetarian grab-and-go item as part of the district’s Meatless Monday initiative, marinij.com reports .

The Fiesta Rice and Bean Shaker, which is served in disposable cups, contains rice, corn, black beans, taco seasoning, corn tortilla chips and romaine lettuce topped with an optional salsa and ranch dressing. It’s also customizable, as students are able to select which ingredients they’d like to include.

The vegetarian shaker is made using produce from a nearby organic garden. Sofie Garcia, an employee in...

FSD Resources