Archive for October, 2009

I will be presenting a one day workshop through the University of Oregon’s Sustainability Leadership Program on November 13th. This is the second year for the class, and we had a great turn-out and response last year. Information on the class below, and on the SLP website.

Sustainable Foodservice Operations: Products, Practices and Resources

This one-day workshop will focus on the unique issues of implementing sustainable practices in the foodservice industry. The workshop will provide information on sustainable food options, energy, water and material waste reduction, rebate and tax incentives, sustainable foodservice products and sustainable practices for the foodservice industry.

The foodservice industry, per square foot, is the most energy intensive commercial sector in the country. The workshop will explore ways for all foodservice facilities including schools, hospitals, universities, correctional institutions, corporate cafeterias, grocery stores, and individual restaurants to implement sustainable practices.

Topics will include:

  • Sourcing sustainable food
  • Energy and water efficiency options
  • Reducing waste coming into and leaving the building
  • Taking advantage of government and utility incentives
  • Implementing HVAC best practices
  • Starting green cleaning programs and other topics

November 13, 2009
8:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
UO Portland White Stag Block
Presenter: Paul Kuck
$244 before October 30; $279 after October 30

Course description and registration:

Earlybird registration deadline is October 30


Campus Dining Trends

Author: Paul

One of the big things in campus cafeterias the last couple years has been trayless dining. Several hundred college foodservice operations removed trays from their dining facilities, and left the students to eat what they could carry. The initial programs were a huge success, and continue to be widely popular. Rightly so. Campus foodservice operations are seeing anywhere from a 20-50% reduction in food and beverage waste, which makes a big contribution to the bottom line of the facility and the environment. Less food is wasted therefore less food needs to be prepped, which means less labor, lower energy bills, less dishes, and less hot water not to mention smaller waste hauling bills. It’s basically a win, win, win for the operations.

Foodservice management companies like Aramark and Sodexho are rolling out trayless programs in the majority of their campuses, and it is predicted that the majority of schools nationwide will be trayless in the next several year. In a survey conducted by Aramark in 2008, 79% of the 92,000 students surveyed said they support trayless dining programs. One university chef I spoke with said the majority of people that complained when they took away the trays were the university staff. Maybe the colleges could hire some local waiters to teach the students and staff how to carry multiple plates without spilling anything…

So what is the next big thing for non-commercial foodservice? While many organizations are opting for biodegradable products, I personally think reusable take-out containers are going to be the next step for non-commercial operations interested in reducing their environmental footprint.

eco-takeoutUp until a few years ago there was not a commercial, reusable take-out container on the market. That is until Eckerd College student, Audrey Copeland came up with the idea for one. While a sophomore at Eckerd, Audrey audited the foodservice program’s use of Styrofoam take-out containers and decided there should be a more sustainable option. Over the next several years she wrote a grant to fund a pilot reusable container program, contracted a company to produce the container, helped design the products and created a program for her college to implement the containers into their foodservice operations. She is now the Sustainable Products Manager for G.E.T., the company that manufactures the “Eco-Takeouts,” and has introduced the containers to Bon-Appetit, Sodexho, Google, Nestle, various healthcare facilities, and Aramark, which made a commitment to introduce the container to 100 of its university accounts. My props to Audrey for single-handedly swaying a huge industry.

The containers are basically a poly-propylene clam shell container (though there are other styles available) that the students have the option of using for a $5 deposit. They then simply exchange the container for a clean one at no additional cost the next time they visit one of the foodservice options.

Again, these programs are showing a huge financial benefit for the foodservice operations, and lets the students dine anywhere they want without the “eco-guilt” of using another take-out container. Several facilities are achieving a 40% reduction in their use of take-out boxes, while other schools that made the containers mandatory for students living in the dorms are seeing nearly a 100% reduction in container use. 100% savings sounds good to me…


About a week ago I posted an article in the news section of about bisphenol-A (commonly known as BPA) being found on point-of-sales receipts – mainly thermal receipts that are wildly used across the foodservice industry. I’ve posted a number of other articles on the hormone disrupting chemical before – generally about its contamination of food from aluminum cans, food packaging and water bottles. I knew thermal receipts contained BPA, but I thought it was just a chemical in the paper itself. Something they use to make it thermal, but nothing that would leach out and potentially harm the user.

The BPA is what helps makes the paper thermal, but instead of being mixed in with the paper fibers it is more of a coating on the paper. The author of the report notes that the average sized receipt paper contains 60-100 milligrams of BPA while a polycarbonate water bottle leaches a few nanongrams. This equates to roughly a million times more “free” BPA on receipt papers than what could leak out of a aluminum can or plastic bottle. The “free” part refers to the fact that the chemical is able to move about because it is a coating. Unlike in the plastic coating of aluminum cans, this chemical is not bound to any other material. Therefore it can transfer onto a person’s hands, into their body or the rest of the world. The average person may touch a receipt a couple times a day, but foodservice workers touch hundreds every day, wiping a tiny bit of BPA onto their hands each time.

This really got me thinking about the chemicals service industry workers are exposed to on a daily basis. You may think a little BPA on your fingers is no big deal, but think about all the line cooks grabbing tickets out of the printer, and then grabbing a handful of lettuce to make the salad on the ticket – over and over with each and every order. I’m sure we’re talking about micrograms of the chemical being transferred each time, but more scientists are claiming that even a few parts per trillion can affect a person – well under what the FDA (read chemical industry) says is safe. The bigger picture I’m seeing is the constant toxic chemical exposure to foodservice workers. Cleaners, dishwashing chemicals, Teflon, butter flavoring, and now BPA; microgram by microgram, service industry workers are being poisoned by these chemicals.

I personally realized this type of exposure when I was managing a couple restaurants full time. I ate at least two meals a day in the restaurants, and soon grew sensitive to the smell and taste of dishwasher rinse aid. Its one of those tastes you know instantly. I could tell when someone else brought me a glass of water because they hadn’t rinsed it out like I always did. I often thought about how much of that chemical I and everyone else in the industry had ingested over the years drinking almost every drink, and eating most meals from dishes that came out of a commercial dishwasher. It’s basically death by a thousand cuts, or cancer by a thousand drops of rinse aid.

So what does one in the industry do to avoid the chemical bombardment? Switching to green cleaners is good start. It is something you can control, and most green cleaners are considered cost neutral. With the rinse aid issue, the only answer I have is to rinse your glasses before you drink out of them. Really hot dishwasher water seems to help a bit. I’m curious as to people’s experience with high-temp machines and chemical residue on dishes.

As for the BPA, for the health of ourselves and our customers I think the industry needs to start demanding BPA free products whether thermal paper, aluminum cans, plastic pint glasses or whatever else its in. The foodservice industry is a huge consumer of goods with a million restaurants strong. We have a lot of sway on these issues, and should use our buying power to influence the manufacturing and food production industry using these toxic chemicals.


Drinking Green

Author: Paul

Welcome to The Sustainable Shift Drink, a blog of Sustainable Foodservice Consulting!

I guess since I titled the blog The Sustainable Shift Drink I should start-off by discussing green drinks, or sustainable cocktails if you will. What is a sustainable shift drink? As those of us in the restaurant and bar industry know, a shift drink is the small complimentary incentive given out by restaurant owners to keep their staff around for the whole shift… It is an often-abused privilege, but a kind observance of the staff’s hard work.

The sustainable side comes from what SFC does best, sustainability. Usually local produce and sometimes wine gets the lion’s share of press in regards to the sustainable food movement, but I believe there is definitely a place for the cocktail in this slow food world. There is no reason a menu heavy with local and organic offerings should not offer a selection of local distilled spirits.

A few years ago, while working for a restaurant group, I started pushing the fellow management to start carrying a local liquor selection. I said, “It’s going to be the next big thing,” and to some degree I was right. Mixology is obviously a big trend in the bar business evidenced by numerous articles, bartenders being invited to foodservice shows, and even on TV. Who lets a bartender on TV?… Local and sustainable cocktail options have been advanced along with the mixologist trend, but I feel like it’s still pushed aside for gourmet drinks and the juggernauts of hard alcohol. Microbrews have seemed to make it into mainstream America, but micro distilleries like House Spirits and their Medoyeff Vodka have yet to make any sort of dent in Grey Goose or Ketel One’s market share.

For this reason, I think the foodservice industry needs to turn some of its attention to the small batch, craft distilled, livations so many of us enjoy.

Fortunately for us here in Oregon, we have a wide selection of craft spirits to choose from – not to mention numerous beers and wines, but that’s old news. 25 years ago, Oregon helped push the microbrewery industry forward, and is now leading the charge of craft distilleries with 17 throughout the state, second only to California. However, the craft distilling industry is not limited to the West. Across the country, small batch distillers are marketing their spirits hoping to get drinkers interested in their local, usually high-end spirits. Many are open for tastings, and always more than happy to make suggestions for cocktail recipes. Distillery tours are well worth the trip, and the addition to a bar selection.

Check out the American Distilling Institute website, which maintains a directory of all of the craft distilleries currently in the US.