[See link at bottom to download the full report]
We live in a world filled with concerns about climate change, food and health, and other factors critical for sustainability, and these problems are growing at exponential rates. We all need to take action to prevent these problems from spiraling out of control, including taking a close look at our current practices, instead of just continuing ‘business as usual’.
Sustainability is often defined as the “avoidance of depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance.” The Alliance expands this to include “holistic approaches to the environment, social justice, health, participatory democracy, and local economies”. With this in mind, the impacts of unsustainable thinking become more noticeable. In a world filled with disposable “things” we have strained our environment to its breaking point.
Plastic straws litter our oceans and sidewalks. Packaging from purchases blows across highways. Plants and animals are pulled from their lands making way for garbage heaps and the residual waste which pollutes the Earth. We are beyond time to talk about these problems. Businesses that serve food have a special role to play as we develop ways to live more sustainably and advocate for a more sustainable global society.
Food waste, product sustainability, energy, and water use are key areas for action.
- Consider establishing a compost program for local municipalities, or in cities to reduce food waste in landfills, and ultimately be converted into nourishing soil for future produce.
- Consider issues like plastic straws, making a shift towards paper straws that can be composted and break-down quickly to prevent build up.
- Consider take-away containers that are made of sugarcane and are biodegradable and compostable.
- Consider solar energy solutions that take natural sunlight and convert it to electricity to power our homes and businesses.
- Consider switching from disposable water bottles to reusable ones
These are just a few ideas of some simple changes that can be made to help build a better world. The question we offer is why have these changes been pushed aside? Why is it that we tolerate the use of plastic bags? Why do we allow Styrofoam to be used in food service? All of the considerations above are choices, ideals, and mindsets that have been used in businesses and can be done by everyone.
All of these choices have the power to make an impact and a change to the world we currently live in and provide relief from these problems continuing to build. The idea of sustainability is not something that should be looked upon as “trendy” or “costly”, instead sustainability should be viewed as an action that improves the world we live in and the world of future generations. Cost impacts most of the choices we make on a regular basis. We all make decisions based on cost throughout our lives. Why is plastic so affordable? Because the user is not paying for all of the negative environmental impacts, and implications of living in a disposable world. That cost is shared by us all.
This project started as an outgrowth of an attempt to identify sustainable cafés and restaurants in the 2019 edition of the Sustainable Lehigh Valley booklet. We learned that the topic of sustainable practices in food-serving businesses required more depth than we we had time for in the spring.
As part of our internship program, a team of students met with participating cafés and restaurants, researched sustainable practices, and prepared this report: Emma Coppock (Lehigh University ’20), Marayna Dorsey (Shippensburg University ’20), and Joseph Yashur (Cedar Crest College).
- Executive Summary
- Food Waste
- Food Sustainability
- Food Service Products
- Attachment A – Sustainability Evaluation Tool
- Attachment B – Product Comparison Tool
- Attachment C – Product Cost
- Attachment D – EPA Waste Log