London Chefs Campaign to Reduce Food Waste

Three years ago, a survey among UK restaurants revealed that eating out produces 100 times more CO2 emissions than eating in. Food waste contributes a significant portion to this amount. Last year, several UK businesses brought the focus to food waste and developed methods on how to reduce this number. However, in spite of growing awareness, a whopping 200,000 tons of food is wasted per year.

Currently, dozens of London chefs are banding together to introduce doggy bags in an attempt to reduce waste around the capital. The Sustainable Restaurant Association has organized the Too Good To Waste campaign and participating restaurants have pledged to stock “doggy boxes.” Staff in these restaurants will be trained to offer these boxes to diners (free of charge) who have not been able to finish their meal.

The SRA is a national non-profit that provides restaurants advice and support on how to become more sustainable. SRA also offers Star Rating as a method to evaluate how sustainable restaurants are. This rating also serves as a barometer for customers when choosing a place to eat. Tom Tanner of the SRA reckons that the initiative could cut down the amount of food waste by at least 20% in every participating restaurant. The doggy boxes provided by SRA is made by London BioPackaging and are constructed out of 100% recycled and biodegradable materials making them suitable for recycling and composting.

Restaurateurs reckon that there is a stigma around asking for doggy bags that keeps London diners from asking for one. A survey suggests that 9 out of 10 diners feel that something needs to be done to cut down food waste but a third had never thought to ask for a doggy bag and another quarter were too embarrassed.

Tackling food waste is a complicated problem. Many diners who do take food home are just as likely to throw it away after it has been sitting in their fridge for a few days. Therefore, there is no way to measure if the campaign has had any impact on the amount of waste that is reduced. A food waste campaign will have more impact if there is a dual focus on what hotels and restaurants can do within their premises to reduce food waste.

There are a variety of different ways in which food waste can be converted into something useful. Customer campaigns are essential to bring a bigger focus to the issue but unless the restaurants themselves are making and effort to reduce food waste through their operational methods, the problem will continue. Food waste not only contributes towards GHG emissions but is it a crime to just throw away something that so many people are dying without. In the face of rising food prices, every effort must be taken to reduce the amount of food that is wasted.

Image Credit: Sustainable Restaurant Association

Akhila is the Founding Director of GreenDen Consultancy which is dedicated to offering business analysis, reporting and marketing solutions powered by sustainability and social responsibility. Based in the US, Europe, and India, the GreenDen's consultants share the best practices and innovation from around the globe to achieve real results. She has previously written about CSR and ethical consumption for Justmeans and hopes to put a fresh spin on things for this column. As an IEMA certified CSR practitioner, she hopes to highlight a new way of doing business. She believes that consumers have the immense power to change 'business as usual' through their choices. She is a Graduate in Molecular Biology from the University of Glasgow, UK and in Environmental Management and Law. In her free-time she is a voracious reader and enjoys photography, yoga, travelling and the great outdoors. She can be contacted via Twitter @aksvi and also

3 responses

  1. The SRA’s Too Good To Waste campaign has two strands. For consumers the focus is on the doggy box – raising their awareness of the problem and engaging them in a part of the solution. For participating restaurants we have also produced fact sheets, information and advice on how to reduce waste back of house – specifically in the preparation process. By working together we believe restaurants and their customers can reduce waste. Think inside the box and help cut waste.

  2. This is clearly a British issue. Although it’s true that Americans are notorious overeaters, there is no restaurant I’m aware of that doesn’t gladly offer doggy bags, and no American who’s ashamed to ask for one! I probably get one weekly.

  3. Yes, I have lived in the UK several times over and – related closely to British diffidence and modesty – there is no tradition of taking home leftovers from restaurants. No continental European would be caught dead doing it either. It has long been considered completely inappropriate behavior. That is why the idea of the doggy bag will take quite some time to catch on in Britain, assuming it ever does. Americans who ask to take food home from London restaurants are still regarded as crass (trust me, I couldn’t help myself, and as recently as 2009 I was regarded as inappropriately behaved). FYI, the box pictured is from London’s Food for Thought, a longstanding, pioneering and delectable vegetarian restaurant located near Covent Garden.

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