A series of projects that aim to help hotels reduce food waste are underway at major hotel brands including Hilton, Hyatt, IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) and Marriott International.
The 12-week pilot programs, a project of the World Wildlife Fund with support from The Rockefeller Foundation and the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA), will focus on reducing food waste by:
- Measuring food waste outputs on a regular basis
- Improving employee training programs
- Creating menus designed to limit food waste
- Raising awareness with customers
In an interview, Pete Pearson, director of Food Waste at WWF, said the first step is measuring the properties’ food waste.
“We’ll spend the first eight weeks getting everybody measuring apples to apples, baselining their food waste and getting an idea of how much they generate,” Pearson said. “Then halfway through, we introduce enhanced training for employees.” Pearson said this will involve video-based learning.
Some of the pilots will also test zero-waste menus, for example a 1,000-person event designed to create little or no waste — without detracting from customers’ experience at the hotels.
“There is a lot of hesitation to make radical changes because nobody wants to detract from the customer experience,” Pearson said. “[The pilots will explore] what experience can the customers take on to not load their plates, maybe a corporate event with not as much of an overage buffer – instead of 10 percent overage they are comfortable with 1 percent? Ultimately what we want to do is a see at every corporate function, at every wedding there’s a shift in mentality where we don’t want to tolerate waste anymore.”
Other participating hotels include Hershey Entertainment & Resorts, Sage Hospitality and Terranea Resort. The projects also support The Rockefeller Foundation’s YieldWise Initiative, which aims to reduce post-harvest food loss and halve the world’s food waste by 2030.
Another piece of The Rockefeller Foundation’s $130 million commitment to tackle food waste involves an online hub, launched in January, where corporations can exchange information and solutions for reducing food waste can help them achieve their goals.
More food waste is sent to landfills and incinerators that any other single material in everyday trash, representing 21.6 percent of discarded municipal solid waste, according to the EPA. In 2014 alone, more than 38 million tons of food waste was generated, with only 5.1 percent diverted from landfills and incinerators for composting.
In addition to shrinking their environmental footprint, reducing food waste can help businesses save money: a report released earlier this month found companies save $14 in operating costs for every $1 they invest in reducing food waste.
The World Wildlife Fund says its recent research shows a need for industry-wide training and education on food waste reduction among hotel properties, and a general lack of measurement and tracking of food waste.
“We’ve already seen that hotel guests are more than willing to conserve water and energy, simply by placing a card on their pillows or hanging their towels. Our hunch is that they’ll also take action to be part of the fight to cut food waste,” said Devon Klatell, associate director, The Rockefeller Foundation, in a statement. “And once we’ve succeeded in cutting hospitality food waste, we can take those learnings to other sectors like restaurants and retail.”
Following today’s launch, WWF, AHLA and The Rockefeller Foundation plan to roll out additional activities for individual hotel properties to participate in and encourage the entire industry to follow. The partners will also publish a toolkit that reports on key findings, best practices and next steps to tackle food waste in the hotel industry.