One way to reduce waste at your restaurant is to implement an on-site composting program. Turning organic materials into compost helps divert waste from landfills and returns nutrients to the soil.
Need help getting started? Patrick Cuccaro, general manager of Affairs to Remember Catering in Atlanta, and Christy Cook, senior manager of sustainability field support at Sodexo, offer these tips.
Find your champion. Look for an employee who is a major Influencer with the rest of your staff and who is passionate about the environment, says Cuccaro, founding member of the National Restaurant Association’s Zero Waste Zones initiative. Choosing the right person to champion your cause will ensure that someone besides you takes ownership of the task. It helps if these employees aren’t managers, he says. The cultural shift that will put you on your way to successful composting can happen very quickly if the desire and will to do it grow organically with your staff.
Create your team. Make sure each department has at least one member who can speak passionately about the environment, Cuccaro says. As an owner, you can connect the dots and show them how doing good is good business. It translates to healthier finances and greater employee engagement.
Claim your real estate. At Affairs to Remember, chefs and cooks have small buckets or containers to temporarily place compostable materials. They empty them into a large, centrally located bin in the kitchen. Other departments don’t generate as much compostable material, Cuccaro says, but each person has a convenient receptacle to regularly empty into the central bin.
Measure and share your results. Affairs to Remember recently celebrated diverting 300 tons of materials from Georgia’s landfills. Staff measured progress from Day One and shared details with clients, suppliers and competitors. “People need to hear your story, and if this is an important part of your brand, it’s perfect for social media,” Cuccaro says.
Find the mentors. Find out who’s in the know, and use them as a resource. Most people involved are happy to share ideas and other resources freely that will put you on your path to success, Cuccaro advises.
Educate your employees. Your employees need to learn and understand how to carry out the tasks involved to complete them correctly. If you’ve hired a company, or hauler, to help you with your composting service, have them perform the training, says Cook, a member of the NRA Conserve Sustainability Advisory Council.
Post clear signage. Make sure your signs are easy to understand and concise. And remember: A picture is worth a 1,000 words.
Make it easy for employees to compost. Set up a composting program that “fits” your facility, Cook says. Ensure containers are the best possible size, and follow the flow of the kitchen to increase odds employees will use them properly.
Explain why composting is important. Give your team at least one reason why composting is worth the extra effort, Cook says. Examples that might resonate with them: The compost helps build healthy soil for future fruit and vegetables, and it reduces methane gas landfills release, therefore lessening greenhouse gas emissions.
Share the message: Don’t waste, no matter what. In some locations, the volume of compost materials increases because employees and customers feel it’s OK to have more waste if it’s being composted, Cook says. It’s not.