New Strategies for Recapturing the Value of Hotel Food Waste

By Pete Pearson Director of Food Waste, World Wildlife Fund | December 23, 2018

I get the question often: why does World Wildlife Fund care about food loss and waste? People joke, do we need to feed surplus food to animals at the zoo?

Actually, donating surplus food to animals and zoos does happen in many cities, but food waste affects wildlife in a much deeper way. In fact, it affects every living animal on the planet, especially humans.

All by itself, estimates show that food waste is responsible for 8% of human-generated greenhouse gas emissions. That's more than half of what's emitted by cars, buses, trucks, airplanes and ships around the world. It also represents a colossal waste of water, land, and energy.

Food waste is also a huge waste of money and resources. Reducing waste is a perfect example of how more sustainable business practices can sustain people, planet, and prosperity all at the same time.

Yet the food waste debate often focuses on how to keep waste out of landfills. That's a worthwhile goal, but it's not the best way to save money-or the planet.

As one hotel executive put it bluntly to me: "When we donate food to shelters or food banks, we're not saving costs. When we donate wet waste to pig farms, we don't improve the bottom line. When we compost more, we don't become more profitable. When we produce less food for an event, we're more efficient and it affects profitability."

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.