February 24, 2021

Three Reasons Why Sustainability Matters in the Kitchen

By: Cecillia Wong

During unconventional times, sustainability is a key strategy to staying afloat and in some cases ahead of the competition. Not only will focusing on sustainability in your business reduce costs and increase revenue, but it will also increase overall happiness in the workplace for your employees. This in turn translates to greater customer satisfaction. From bespoke outlets such as Chikin’ to upscale restaurants such as Nobu, Power Knot has worked with countless businesses to help with sustainable planning in the food industry. We’ve summarized our experience and findings into three reasons why you should focus on building sustainability in your commercial and campus kitchen.

Customer and Legal Expectations

Beyond individual responsibility, businesses bear an obligation to take care of the environment. Increasingly, customers are expecting their food service operations to not pollute the planet. If these reasons are not convincing enough, California business owners face legal ramifications and expensive fines if they don’t take heed. The California Senate Bill 1383 mandates a 50% reduction in organic waste disposal from 2014 levels by 2020, and a 75% reduction by 2025. 

SB 1383 stipulates how waste generators and local governments must operate to keep organic material out of landfills. Jurisdictions must adopt enforceable ordinances to ensure that all residential and commercial generators are compliant. Penalties for noncompliance can be assessed by CalRecycle beginning in 2022.

Impact on Environment

Food waste accumulates through the day to day operations of a commercial or campus kitchen. Almost all the food waste ends up in landfills where it decomposes into methane gas. According to the EPA, the largest item sent to landfills is food waste and this results in 18% of total U.S. methane emissions coming from landfills. Methane is 87 times worse for the atmosphere than CO2. Food service operators sending their food waste to a landfill cause a huge impact on global warming.

How does this impact us?

Methane and carbon dioxide are greenhouse gases that directly contribute to global warming. In 2020, methane levels reached an all time high. 2020 was the hottest year on record and overall, Earth’s average temperature has risen more than 1.2°C (2°F) since the 1880s. The overall impact of climate change on agriculture is negative and will result in a reduction of food supplies and food production. Consumers can see this negative impact reflected in increasing food

David Annis, Director of University Dining Services, sprays down food and enzyme pellets in a biodigester in Cather Dining Center.

Impact of Operations

Sustainability isn’t just good for the environment. Going green will actually help commercial operations save costs in the long run. Waste removal is costly, laborious, and strenuous. Leaving trash in the bins for too long leads to issues with rodents, flies, and odors. Food biodigesters are an on site organic waste solution that simplifies the disposal process. They convert organic waste to grey water that can be safely discharged into the sewage system, completely removing janitorial services and landfills from the equation. 

Previously, the disposal of food waste at the University of Nebraska Lincoln (UNL) followed a complex path in which the waste was hauled away by custodial staff, loaded onto a truck, and dumped in a landfill where it would produce greenhouse gases. 

The University took a major step toward sustainability when its Dining Services installed their first biodigester in November 2019 within the Selleck Dining Center. Impressed by the operation of the LFC biodigester, UNL installed a second one at the Cather Dining Center in June 2020. Combined, the food digesters have diverted over 44,000 kg (98,000 lb) of food waste from landfills and reduced UNL’s carbon footprint by 185 tonne of CO2e since installation.

“The people that were the happiest about it were our facilities people — the people that had to come in a couple times a day and haul away all the big, messy, heavy bags of garbage,” Director of Dining Services, David Annis said. “There’s none of that now. After we put the one in Selleck, they were the ones that came to us and said, ‘Well, when are you going to put in the next one? We really like these things.’”

The first step towards sustainability may be daunting, but the payoff is well worth the effort. Commercial kitchens can avoid fees while reducing cost and impact on the environment. Power Knot has launched the smallest commercial grade food waste solution for businesses interested in getting started with sustainability initiatives, the LFC-25 Biodigester. It is a fully enclosed automated biodigester that can safely dispose of 25-55kg of food waste per day.

Take the first step towards a sustainable kitchen here.

Power Knot