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Minimising the environmental impact of canteens and coffee bars

Canteen and coffee bar services consume significant amount of energy, water and catering-related consumables and generate a large amount of waste as well.

The most effective way to minimise the environmental impact of canteens and coffee bars may be a multilateral approach of:

  • engagement campaigns
  • ‘nudge’ behaviour interventions
  • setting minimum standards.

Staff engagement and behaviour change campaigns have a near-zero cost of scale and may not require any initial capital outlay, therefore allowing for faster impacts and savings. Introducing ‘game’ elements or incentives could further multiply the impacts and maintain individual interest. Changing the routine behaviour of groups can have a large cumulative impact, while creating a culture of change across a whole office can multiply the effect, making unconventional behaviours commonplace and habitual.

Dietary decisions can be habitual, personal and ‘locked-in’ actions and in some cases it may be preferable to use behavioural interventions, particularly nudge approaches. Nudge interventions aim to discreetly change behaviour through choice architecture (that is, changing how options are presented, which can make a particular choice the natural or default preference).

The impact of food on an individual’s ecological footprint could be greatly reduced by switching to a low-meat, locally sourced, organic and waste-free diet.

While individuals can be influenced through engagement, sustainable procurement and minimum buying standards for catering contracts and equipment can achieve ‘economies of scale’ in directly influencing suppliers, having an impact across the supply chain rather than just at an individual level. Procurement policies can favour the market for sustainable products with an effect at the regional scale, and minimum buying standards for catering equipment can favour water- and energy-efficient equipment.

Minimum standards can also be implemented for food waste by measuring the average food waste in a set period and setting a reduction target. The reduction of food waste can also be achieved by serving smaller or different-sized portions and by carefully planning menus.

These strategies will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions as they minimise the consumption of energy and water and the production of waste and they contribute to more sustainable practices in the agricultural sector.

For more specific information regarding the reduction of energy and water consumption and the minimisation of waste, please see Managing and minimising energy use, Managing and minimising water use and Managing and minimising waste production.

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