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Earth Day 2016: Tips for Reducing Food Waste

Earth Day 2016: Tips for Reducing Food Waste

Today is Earth Day 2016! How are you spending it? 

In case you hadn't heard, things aren't going so well for our favourite planet. A dizzying array of challenges faces humanity and our strange, love/hate relationship to this beautiful world.  Sometimes they can appear frightfully daunting; it’s enough to make one throw their hands up in exasperated despair. But that is precisely what Earth Day 2016 is for: taking time to think about the blue-green marble we reside upon, and just what we’re going to do about saving it.

Across the globe, more than 200 countries and over a billion people participate in demonstrations, rallies, festivals and events marked by unique methods with which to conserve energy, preserve ecosystems and campaign politically for policies in favour of protecting our environment. There are challenges on nearly every front, in every industry, in all parts of the world, that are all addressed on Earth Day.

When it comes to food, in Canada, one of the biggest challenges is food waste. According to a report from Value Chain Management International, food waste in Canada cost $27 billion in 2010. By 2014, the cost of wasted food increased by 15%, surpassing more than $31 billion a year. It’s a staggering amount, much of it avoidable. According to CBC, even easily avoided food waste still increases the cost of food by as much as 10% or more.

Earth Day 2016

You probably don’t need to review the statistical data to know that this type of waste is completely unsustainable. As individuals, business owners and enterprising restaurant enthusiasts, there are still plenty of ways to curb the worst impacts of food waste in at the restaurant. Spend your Earth Day right - start implementing these tips today:

Avoid Overbuying

Reducing food waste at your restaurant is more than just environmentally conscious — it’s just good business sense. Start by watching how much you purchase from your produce vendors. By all means, take advantage of produce sales when they occur — but make sure you’re not buying more than you can use.


If you’re caught in a cycle of buying more food than your restaurant can sell, chances are your stock is spoiling at roughly the same time, leading to a massive waste of food and profits. Work with your vendor to see if it’s possible to stock your kitchen with products in various stages of ripeness. That way, you’ll have fresher ingredients for a longer period. Some vendors may even offer discounts for buying unripe produce.


Take the time to properly inspect all food orders brought to your restaurant. Make sure to dig deep — don’t settle for a quick visual inspection of what’s sitting on the top. Remember that some products can appear fresh and ripe until you actually hold it in your hand. Never accept orders with overripe or spoiled food. Inspecting your food beforehand can help reduce the amount of waste you’ll eventually create.


Stop bacteria growth in its tracks by pre-cooling all hot, cooked food before storing it in the fridge. Putting warm food in the fridge endangers ALL the existing food, so make sure it’s cool before you store it. All other food products should be stored properly — whether in packaging wrap or sealed containers — to prevent further waste from cross-contamination. Rotate your refrigerated food at regular intervals, to ensure older stored food gets used up first: for example, store new foods on the right and existing foods to the left. Use them up from left to right and you’ll be able to ensure fresh course every time. Of course, make sure that your refrigerator and freezer are both running at proper temperatures.

Portion & Price

Introducing a portion control scale to your dinner service can help ensure that the amounts of food being plated are precisely served to your customers. You can use electronic scales or plate using specific utensils and tools. If you’re anticipating a mass extinction of a certain item, it’s time to create a brand new specialty item on the menu. This way you’ll make use of the food you’ve got and still turn a profit.


Canada’s Food Donation Act, 1994 states that persons donating or distributing food to others is not liable for damages should there be harm caused by consuming the donated food — unless, of course, it’s already gone bad. You might think the humanitarian alternative to reducing food waste by donating unused food to the hungry or less fortunate can be less profitable. But by and large, people appreciate acts of kindness and charity — and you might find a great many of them will show you their gratitude by giving you business. Recently, our member, Starbucks, announced that their US locations would be donating unused food

Among all the environmental issues competing for our daily attention, food waste seems particularly unjust when one considers the rate at which people go hungry in this world. Reducing wasted food is something we can all change; it’s well within our grasp, and even in our best interests to do so. Always remember that there’s hope for a better world, and it starts with each and every one of us.

Need more tips on food handling and safety? Pick up our Food Safety Code of Practice - available for $14.95 on our Restaurants Canada bookstore.

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"Restaurants Canada's new Code of Practice provides the what's, why's, and how's of food safety for foodservice operators. Designed as an interpretive guide to the model Food Retail and Food Service Regulation and Code and provincial regulations across Canada, its use of colour, graphics and pictures as well as its easy-to-understand language, makes it an invaluable, user-friendly guide."


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