What is the impact of hospitality and events on the environment?
Updated: Apr 16
Part I: Food & Drink Production
In this article, we look in depth at the contribution of Food and drink production to the problem and our sustainable solutions.
This is a big question that requires a suitably complex answer. We cannot help but witness in both fixed location and temporary hospitality venues the large amount of consumption and resulting waste, see picture above if you are struggling to remember what the end of an event can look like. There have been valiant attempts to calculate this waste, for example a study in California in 2006 found that 2.5 pounds (1.25kg) of waste is created by a single person at an event. These interconnected industries, with a combined contribution to the UK economy of £115.3 Billion in 2016/17, are economically significant as well as socially and culturally necessary so we must work hard to reduce this impact.
Food and Drink Production
At the heart of both the hospitality and events industry is the consumption of food and drink so this seems like an appropriate place to begin, indeed it is no secret that agriculture, which underpins food and drink production is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. The data shows that this activity along with the energy used in the production and packaging of food accounted for 26% of greenhouse gas emissions in 2018. In addition, in the same year agriculture accounted for 70% of the world's freshwater consumption and 78% of global ocean and freshwater eutrophication (the saturation of bodies of water with nutrients causing the destabilisation of ecosystems).
This is a major problem as water is an increasingly scarce resource; the WWF website reports that despite water covering 70% of the planet, only 3% of the water is fresh and the majority of that is locked in glaciers or is otherwise unusable resulting in 1.1 billion people not having access to water. There is also the energy used to process, store and package food and drink products. The facts around this can be surprising, for example in 2008, a report was commissioned by New Belgium Brewing Company that found that the refrigeration of one of its ales was nearly one third of the products carbon footprint. If we talk in more detail about alcohol we can actually document in detail the negative impact the production of certain types of alcohol can have, take Tequila for example; for every litre of tequila produced it creates 5.5kg of pulp and 10 litre of acidic waste, which ends up polluting soil and water in Mexico’s Jalisco state. That is way more waste than product whichever way you look at it. We cannot even start to consider the impact of hospitality and events without examining their relationship with the production of food and drink products, and as actors in these industries we must try to influence the supply chain and find ways to mitigate the enormous damage caused to the planet by these associated industries.
Growing our own: We grow our own ingredients using low tech and low resource methods. This puts us in control or the carbon footprint of those ingredients. As mentioned above, we have a herb garden which we fertilise we worm castings made from leftover food waste from events. In addition, we filter rain water (remember it is one of our scarcest resources) to water the garden, meaning as little new resource as possible is used in production. Also in terms of food miles (something I will talk about in a later blog), there is nothing more locally sourced than popping downstairs to pick up what you need before a job.
Sustainable supply chain: We purchase from businesses that are reducing waste and prioritising sustainability, for example for our gin we use Nadar gin from the Arbikie distillery (https://www.arbikie.com), which is actually one of the first carbon positive spirits on the market. This is made using pea legumes as the main ingredient as opposed to most gins that are made from spirit distilled from cereals such as wheat, barley or maize. Growing peas means no synthetic nitrogen fertiliser so it does not negatively impact the environment; damage to waterways, air and soils is avoided. Peas also benefit the ecosystem as a whole by improving soil quality by fixing it with excess nitrogen which is enough to help grow the crops that are planted after them. We keep our ear to the ground as well as being a part of this growing community, so we will always bring you the most sustainable serves on the market.
By Dominic John
Dominic is the Sustainable Business Director at The Natural Bar Company. He has worked in hospitality and events for the past fifteen years and in sustainable businesses for the past three years, his passion is creating closed loop systems and proving that sustainability in the long run can save rather than cost money to a business .