Environmental Advice for Food Businesses


What is it

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A sustainable food economy provides a range of healthy and sustainably sourced food that does not damage the planet, whilst supporting local businesses and jobs. But; how does being sustainable benefit businesses?

Read on to find out what you can do to go green and how this can help your business and the planet.


What You can do

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1. Reduce food waste

Collectively, UK food-businesses waste one million tonnes of food per year, three quarters of which is still edible. By finding ways to reduce food waste, your business can cut its carbon footprint, reduce its operating costs and use fewer resources, saving you money. Furthermore, customers, financial institutions, employees and suppliers have a growing interest in a company’s environmental performance. Follow these simple actions to reap the benefits of reducing waste:

  1. Measure your food waste using these helpful guidelines from our ‘Taste Not Waste’ Campaign.

  2. Once you have determined where and why food is being wasted, it’s much easier to reduce it! Learn how to develop a food waste policy and take action on reducing waste here.

  3. Food does not have to go in the bin! There are many organisations who can re-distribute food that would otherwise be wasted. Check out the ways you can redistribute surplus food in Cambridge here.


3. Recycle

Clear communication is key to ensuring that recycling is done properly. Explain to your staff why you are starting to reduce waste and recycle - for example, discuss how it saves money and provides environmental benefits! Recycling is straightforward when you:

  • Get the bins right! Invest in good quality bins, with labels stating what should be put in which bin. Download posters for your bins here.

  • Engage your staff. Involve staff from the beginning, so that they understand the benefits and what they need to do. This will encourage participation, increase recycling rates and may even lead to new green and money saving ideas!

  • Work together. Encourage your customers to recycle and consider working with neighbouring businesses to combine waste and save on contractor fees.

  • Choose the most appropriate waste management solution for your needs. When entering into a contract for food waste recycling, make sure that the service meets your requirements (bin types, collection frequencies, etc.) and won’t incur additional costs. Greater Cambridge Waste offer many solutions!

* Does your business have waste coffee grounds? Look into Cambridge Food Hub’s Green Coffee Shop Scheme! The scheme enables collaboration between local businesses to benefit the economy and the environment:

“The Food Hub will deliver a range of local products to your coffee shop or cafe. At the same time, we will collect a caddie of used coffee grounds and take them to Biobean for recycling. We will provide you with the caddies as part of the scheme. The idea is that the collection of waste products is efficient, as it happens at the same time as goods are being delivered.”

Click here for more information.

2. reduce packaging

Food and drink packaging items are now amongst the most commonly found litter items in Europe’s oceans! There are several straightforward steps to reducing packaging waste:

  • Use returnable and reusable packaging, for example, crates or boxes for fruit and vegetables.

  • Use real crockery! Clean and re-use items, rather than using disposable plates, cutlery & cups. Have a look at WRAP UK’s guidelines on eliminating plastics here.

  • Use refillable condiment bottles rather than individual sachets.

  • Offer an incentive for your customers to keep coming back to you, for example through giving discounts for bringing reusable packaging for takeaways. Keep in mind that “bio-plastic” or compostable packaging is not currently accepted in the city’s green or blue waste bins. Re-usable packaging is much better!

  • Many businesses within Cambridge already provide reusable incentives, such as Benets and Fitzbillies, who both give discounts on coffee when customers bring a reusable cup!

  • Likewise, at the University of Cambridge, the University’s Catering Services have stopped selling all single-use plastic bottles, replacing them with cans and glass bottles (which are much more widely recycled) and free drinking water. Have a look at their Sustainable Food Policy for more examples of business sustainability.

* To further help reduce plastic waste, local businesses can sign up to the Refill app and offer passers-by the opportunity to refill reusable water bottles with free tap water. To get your business involved in the Refill revolution:

  • Download the Refill app.

  • Add your business and location.

  • Request your Refill sticker.


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5. Save water

Similarly to saving energy, setting targets to reduce water use can have many benefits. Not only does decreasing water consumption reduce costs, it can also cut your carbon footprint and generate positive media attention. In business situations, major cost savings can be achieved by:

  • Taking regular meter readings to track when and where water is being used.

  • Using staff training and simple visual aids above sinks, such as signs with reminders about turning off taps.

  • Installing urinal controls or waterless urinals and waterless toilets.

  • Fitting simple water saving devices such as efficient flush toilets and automatic or sensor taps.

  • Businesses investing in water efficient equipment may be eligible for tax savings through Enhanced Capital Allowance (ECA). Visit the ECA website for further details and a list of eligible products.

  • Where possible, use a water butt to collect and reuse rainwater.

* Visit Water Wise for more information on the benefits and methods of saving water.

4. Save energy

Lower energy use means higher profits! Through looking at where energy is used in your business, setting a realistic energy saving target (3-5% reduction per year) and taking action to save energy, your business can reduce its operating costs and carbon footprint. It can also help your business comply with current and future environmental legislation. Here are some ideas to get you started:

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  • Take regular meter readings to track energy consumption.

  • Turn off appliances when not in use and at the end of service.

  • Establish a programme of regular checks and maintenance to ensure that all equipment is in good working order.

  • Choose energy efficient ‘A-rated’ equipment.

  • Consider using movement detectors to control lighting in toilets, meeting rooms and other areas that are not in constant use. 

  • Use LED bulbs, which use less electricity and can last up to ten times longer than traditional bulbs.

  • Consider using induction equipment - these hobs work without the use of a flame, transferring heat directly to pots and pans rather than the surrounding air!

  • Use unheated hand dryers, which can use up to 80% less energy than a standard hand dryer.

  • Cambridge City Council can provide free energy assessments for certain businesses, as well as many guides and tips for local sustainability initiatives. Find out more information here.

  • Businesses investing in energy efficient equipment may be eligible for tax savings through Enhanced Capital Allowances (ECA). The ECA website details the scheme.

* Visit the Carbon Trust for a document outlining further energy saving opportunities for all food-sector businesses.


7. Save Resources

Cutting your use of other resources, like paper, can also make a difference. Here are some easily achievable actions to improve resource efficiency in all businesses:

  • Reduce paper use by reading and storing documents digitally.

  • Recycle or refill printer toners and cartridges.

  • Purchase products with little or no packaging, or request that deliveries to your business are shipped in returnable containers and return empty containers to your supplier.

  • Reuse packing envelopes / parcels, shred documents you no longer need and use the scraps as packaging instead of plastic or polystyrene chips.

6. Use Renewable energy

The use of fossil fuels for generating energy is a major contributor to climate change. Reducing energy use and our reliance on fossil fuels is essential for tackling this issue. This can be done by:

  • Using a renewable energy supplier! Companies like Good Energy can supply your business with renewable electricity, generated in the UK from sun, wind and water.

  • Generating your own power! The Energy Saving Trust provide several examples of small-scale energy generation techniques suitable for small businesses.


8. Keep it local

Sustainable practices benefit every member of society, the local economy and the environment. Through mutual support between all food-related businesses in Cambridge, the local food economy can prosper. Supporting local food producers will help to reduce the food economy’s carbon footprint as transport and delivery costs can be minimised. Food businesses can keep it local by:

  • Using locally sourced food, for both fresh and non-perishable food. Have a look through our collection of wholesalers of local, sustainable food from around Cambridge here. Supporting these businesses will help to reduce your business’ carbon footprint, reduce your transport costs and strengthen the local economy.

  • Incorporating seasonal produce and avoiding excessive shipping. In particular, support any local businesses delivering with, for example: electric vehicles (such as Cambridge Organic Food Company).

  • Encourage staff to walk, cycle, use public transport or lift share to work! If you encourage cycling, think about having a staff changing room, perhaps with a shower for employees to use.

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9. Communicate with Your Staff

To ensure sustainability throughout the business, every member of your team needs to understand your policies and aims. Therefore, training staff and discussing issues and solutions with them is key to success. This can be done by:

  • Explaining to your staff how and why you want to be sustainable and how they can contribute.

  • Encouraging discussion and input from all members of staff and senior management. Everyone should have a say on your green programme and be able to suggest improvements to the sustainability practice of the business.

  • Running campaigns to save energy, reduce waste, etc. Check out the Carbon Trust’s in-depth guide to running effective organisational engagement schemes here.

  • Posting visual cues, such as posters above sinks about not leaving taps running, or signs next to light switches about turning the lights off. Visit the WRAP Resource Library for recycling and food waste reduction campaign ideas, signs and posters!

  • Encouraging staff to bring in lunch rather than buying pre-packaged food and ensure your staff kitchen is well equipped, or provide in house lunches.

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Need more information or advice?

Email us at info@cambridgesustainablefood.org