What is the impact of hospitality and events on the environment?
Updated: May 28, 2021
Part IV: Green/ Food Miles
In this article, we look in depth at the contribution of food miles, also known as green miles, 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.
How about those green/food miles then?
A very hot topic in sustainability is green or food miles, meaning the amount of miles products and/or services (staff travelling to events) travel to get to the point of sale and consumption. The Sustainability Office of Harvard University states that there is conclusive evidence which ranks Cargo ships as the most efficient, followed by trains, then trucks, and lastly planes.3 It makes sense to us that less miles travelled by any method is a win for the planet. However this is a slightly contentious issue in the world of sustainability because in relative terms the impact of the production of goods far outweighs that caused by transportation. For example, Harvard University cites the example of New Zealand Lamb imports to the UK that are more sustainable than domestic supply because the Kiwi farms are generally raised on farms run by hydroelectric power, which negates the footprint of the 11,000 mile journey from farm to table.4 In 2008, The Guardian, presented a similar argument relating to green beans from Kenya, and also went further by using the example of apples, which can be stored for long period, to draw attention to the fact that at some point storage become more expensive in terms of carbon than importing the same produce.5 Fast forward nearly fifteen years and things have come a long way, indeed locally sourced in the UK does not necessarily mean carbon heavy anymore. However what has not changed is the fact that the answer is not always intuitive rather research and diligence as well as the free sharing of information are necessary to develop a sustainable supply chain.
Locally sourced and Sustainable: We look to work with suppliers who are close to us and care about the environment, something that is getting easier each season. For example we run a low tech mushroom at our Natural HQ which provides ingredients for fungi based cocktails using old coffee grinds (recycling), you have to taste them to get it. We could not think of anything more local than popping downstairs before we head off to an event to pick up what we need.
Seasonal menus: We create menus that change with the seasons, avoiding the food miles of non-seasonal produce or the carbon emitting storage required to prolong the shelf life of domestic goods. This operates in the same way as restaurants that source responsibly, as cocktails are liquid food we have re-purposed the idea for the mobile bar.
Sustainable suppliers abroad: We endeavour to extend our sustainability criteria to our suppliers who are not so local, in addition to them being FairTrade. For example, for our Calvados spirit we work with Avallen in France, a company with environmental positivity at its core. It is a completely natural product made from nothing but real apples, water and time in a location that has been pesticide free since 2016. The bottle is one of the lightest on the market ensuring a reduced carbon footprint from shipping and the label is printed on recycled apple pulp paper (the rest of the pulp is distributed to dairy farmers to feed their herds) using only sustainable dies minimising the impact on the environment.
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 .