Carbon Tax Drives Hospitality Industry To Greener Alternatives

She believes that one of the most significant challenges keeping the catering industry from accepting greener products is a lack of knowledge. “People find it challenging to differentiate between need and greed,” she argues.

She says that people rarely consider the origins of the food they eat in a day. For example, a pizza bought at a local pizzeria may include toppings that come from as far afield as Europe and the US. In some cases, the accumulated distance of all the ingredients may add up to about 30 000 km.

This contributes to significant carbon footprints for catering companies.

Jenks advises her clients to buy fresh produce from local fruit and vegetable stores to assist in cutting down on transport costs and its associated impacts.

She emphasises that chefs should endeavour to source only locally available food.

Further, she notes that, by taking small deliberate steps, commercial kitchens can improve the nutritional value of the food they serve.

She says that a new trend in New York is for restaurants to plant roof gardens, some of which are fully self-sufficient. Another trend is for restaurants to grow wall gardens, where plants are shelved vertically against a wall, to make the best use of constricted spaces.

Buying organic produce also goes a long way to protecting customers and the environment and presents them with healthy products. Jenks notes that market demand is actually driving prices down for organic products.

Further, Jenks believes that the normal commercial milk available is over sterilised and full of permissible additives and antibiotics. She recommends drinking organic milk. “The animals on organic farms receive better care, while studies point to commercial milks having medical side effects on children and have even been shown to raise the infertility rate in men, owing to the hormones given to animals to produce more milk and meat.

“In addition, she urges customers to ensure that the fish they order in restaurants are not rare fish.”

This can be accomplished through a single phone call to environmental organisations such as the Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative or the Marine Stewardship Council.

Jenks also recommends buying only fair trade coffee. “Increased demand has resulted in more tropical rain forests being chopped down to make way for coffee plantations, while the producers receive very little money from their crops,” she says.

Further, free-range meats are reported to be much healthier for human consumption.

Jenks notes that, in 1961, the Western World ate 71-million tons of meat. This figure has now swelled to about 204-million tons of meat being consumed a year. “To produce every kilogram of meat uses up the same energy as driving about 160 km in a car, or lighting a 100 W light bulb for 20 days,” she says.

“People do not need to eat meat every day. In combination with pulses and grains, one can easily get the required amount of protein,” she reports.

Further, Jenks believes that genetically modified (GM) foods should not be supported, as they are the start of a new monopoly in the agriculture market. She says that many GM crops are engineered to produce sterile seed, necessitating farmers to buy seeds from large global companies forever more.

Meanwhile, there are a number of changes that catering and hospitality companies can make in an industrial kitchen to reduce energy consumption. Jenks recommends using a dishwasher, as it uses less energy and water to clean dishes.

Further, induction cookers that heat up the whole pot, rather than from the bottom only are able to save significant amounts of energy as well. “First prize would be, how- ever, for commercial kitchens to install gas stoves and ovens, which have been proven to be more energy efficient,” she says.