In the United States, 35% of food goes unsold or uneaten. This waste has enormous impacts on the environment – consuming cropland, fresh water, and other natural resources, while at the same time contributing approximately 4% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
Food waste also affects the economy, notably on the Pacific Coast of the U.S. and Canada, which represents the world’s fifth-largest economy, a thriving region of 55 million people with a combined GDP of $3 trillion. Estimates put the cost of food waste in the Pacific Coast region at more than $65 billion. This expense is shouldered by consumers at the grocery store, but also by businesses, especially in the hospitality industry where food and beverage service plays a vital role.
Tackling food waste is one of the key goals of the Pacific Coast Collaborative (PCC), an organization bringing together the Province of British Columbia; the states of Washington, Oregon and California; and the cities of Vancouver, BC, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Oakland, and Los Angeles. Formed in 2008, the PCC is working to build the low-carbon economy of the future, working across geographic borders and vertically among city, state, and provincial governments to support and strengthen their collective efforts to create great places to live, work, and start and grow businesses – all while reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions and protecting the natural resources that draw people from all over the world to the region.
The PCC has established ambitious goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by at least 80 percent by the year 2050, including through food waste management. The PCC’s food waste work began in June 2016, when the PCC entered into the Pacific North American Climate Leadership Agreement and committed to advance organic waste prevention and recovery initiatives to reduce carbon emissions from the region’s food waste stream.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought the issue of food waste to national attention, as pandemic-related disruptions and bottlenecks caused spikes in the cost of food as well as added loss and waste throughout the supply chain. Hoteliers have felt that pain as food prices have increased 10% in the past year, making food waste an even more costly drain on the bottom line.
The Pacific Coast Food Waste Commitment (PCFWC) is leading efforts to reduce that waste, working with businesses including hotels to establish a public-private commitment to cut the amount of wasted food in the region in half by 2030. That success metric aligned with United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 and other global, national, and regional commitments.
Working with resource partners Cascadia Policy Solutions, ReFED, WRAP, and the World Wildlife Fund, the PCFWC is inviting U.S. food businesses to collaborate with regional jurisdictions in this effort. Currently, there are 12 food business signatories – including national grocery retail chains like Albertsons, Kroger, Sprouts, and Walmart; regional retailers like Raley’s, Fred Meyer, New Seasons Market, and PCC Community Market; manufacturers including Bob’s Red Mill, Lamb Weston, and Organically Grown; and foodservice leaders Sodexo.
Because food waste is a systemwide problem, the PCFWC is continuing its efforts to expand its work to additional industry sectors, including hospitality.
The PCFWC takes a Target-Measure-Act approach. In addition to measuring food waste, the PCFWC focuses on action by implementing intervention projects with businesses to reduce food waste on the ground. The World Wildlife Fund is currently running an intervention project with major hotel chains and several convention centers that will do a deep dive into events and sales agreements. By embedding food waste reduction strategies (such as how food is served, where leftover food is donated) into event agreement language, hotel and event venues can make food waste prevention an intrinsic part of the sales process and especially work on targeting food waste reductions upstream. The resulting reduction in food waste will lead to dollars saved for the hotel, and improved environmental performance.
The outcomes of this intervention project have the potential to transform the events industry. Participants in the intervention project will receive paid-for consultant support to train their staff on food waste prevention measures, audit their waste streams, and work with sales teams to develop, test, and institutionalize new event agreements between clients and food service providers. WWF is still seeking hotel and event space partners interested in participating; for more information, please contact: Tara.McNerney@WWFUS.org.
A resource for hotels looking to reduce food waste on their own comes in the form of Hotel Kitchen. (See HotelKitchen.org.) In 2017, WWF worked with the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) and a group of industry leaders to develop and launch Hotel Kitchen, a comprehensive platform for hotel properties to address operational food waste from many angles. The pilots and research that informed the creation of Hotel Kitchen uncovered key drivers of food waste in hotel operations, including menu design, surplus ingredient and meal preparation, overage from meetings and events, a lack of local partners for food recovery or food waste hauling, and others.
For example, Hotel Kitchen lists a few steps for how to include waste reduction measures into event contracts, a few of them being
- Include a final set time for buffets in contracts and BEOs.
- Require updated guest counts 10 and 5 days prior to the event, and day of.
- Add donation partner agreements into event contracts so all agree where food will go after event.
- Decrease overage guarantee.
- Include an overage menu for unexpected attendance instead of a percentage of overproduction on each dish.
Targeted resources are available including a free video training series, a quick start Champion’s Guide to addressing property food waste, a Toolkit for Communicating Food Waste to Guests, a Waste Measurement Methodology, and more.