LEAF: A look back at where we started, and where we are now.

IMG_7091.JPG

The Dishwasher was rhythmically humming while the sink behind it filled up two industrial basins of water to thaw some chicken. Hood fans worked constantly over pre-heated fryers and flat tops that were cranked and working at full capacity. House lights were all on.

No one was in the restaurant though.

In the evenings, I’d melt ice in the bar sink by running hot water, and then scoop handful after handful of plastic straws and throw them in the garbage. It was a moment of awakening that I realized that the foodservice industry is incredibly wasteful. Foodservice has one of the largest carbon footprints of commercial operations, yet it is a driver of our economy and a past time for many. There had to be a way to improve the way we do things. I looked into what sustainability resources were available for foodservice establishments and found very little. The seed was planted, and after two years of research and development, a nationwide non-for-profit was launched that focused on reducing the environmental impact of the industry and certified restaurants that are operating more sustainably.

It was the community of like minded people around me who made the first steps possible. The emerging green movement in Calgary welcomed and supported my idea. Our pilot restaurant was River Cafe, a high-profile restaurant in Calgary whose owner shared our philosophy and passion for sustainability, while keeping us mindful of important considerations in a successful business. This like-mindedness was then discovered across Canada.

LEAF started with one restaurant in Calgary and has grown to what it is today, nearly 100 LEAF certified facilities across Canada, from independent restaurants to small cafes and campuses. We want to make a big impact on the world around us in terms of environmental efficiency and waste reduction, and help reverse the current environmental direction we’re headed. This is the passion that drives us daily. Wo do this in two ways: we educate restaurants about the benefits of sustainability, both environmental and financial, and provide guidance to improve their operations. And it goes far beyond local food. We look at everything from the menu, to the chemicals they use to clean, energy practices, water use, social policies and more. But we also engage in the consumer world where we help consumers find our LEAF certified restaurants so they can show their support and feel good about where they choose to eat.

We now have third-party auditors and LEAF certified restaurants in most major cities in Canada. The auditor’s role is to work within their communities to reduce the environmental impact of local restaurants, and improve their environmental and economic sustainability, which ultimately benefits the local community. A lot goes into a restaurant getting a LEAF sticker on their door. The places that have it are passionate about sustainability, their communities and people.

As a non-profit, we work hard at creating more awareness for LEAF and what it means, why it exists. We know people tend to feel better by eating somewhere they know is more sustainable. These people who feel that it is important tend to spread the word and it’s this organic growth that propels us forward. We use social networks to increase awareness of the restaurants that are doing good things, and then that relationship is continued face to face and off the network, when our audience visits a LEAF restaurant for a truly great experience.

How can you help? Reduce your own impact by refusing disposable plastics when you go out to eat, look for LEAF certified restaurants and encourage your local restaurants to get LEAF certified. If you work in the foodservice industry and want to improve the sustainability of your restaurant, get in touch!

LEAF support UN's Clean Seas campaign

VOR_CleanSeas_PartnerBadges_final1.png

LEAF is proud to announce that we have agreed to support the UN’s Clean Seas campaign by continuing our commitment to tackling the plastic pollution problem. In June, we launched our Plastic-Free Dining Challenge, asking restaurants to reduce or eliminate single-use plastics, and earlier this year we launched our criteria version 4.0, which places a heavier emphasis on eliminating single-use plastics and requires all LEAF certified facilities eliminate plastic straws, bags, stir sticks and sandwich pokes, with requirements getting more stringent at each level.

Do your part to reduce plastic pollution - sign up for the Plastic-Free Dining Challenge

And sign up for the Clean Seas campaign here: http://www.cleanseas.org/take-action

Can a food truck really be green?

Can a food truck really be green?

It may come as a surprise, but food trucks are inherently less wasteful than traditional restaurants in many ways. Once they arrive at their destination, they use only a fraction of the utilities that larger brick and mortar restaurants use. Food trucks must also contend with unique challenges, such as limited space for food and supplies (including water) forcing them to conserve as much as they can and making them highly aware of waste. When it comes to overall emissions, there doesn’t appear to be a definitive answer as to which setup comes out ahead.



LEAF WINS 2018 ENERGY STAR® CANADA AWARD

LEAF WINS 2018 ENERGY STAR® CANADA AWARD

The annual ENERGY STAR® Canada awards are given to organizations who have made outstanding contributions to protecting the environment through superior energy efficiency. This year, Leaders in Environmentally Accountable Foodservice (LEAF) are proud to have been awarded the Recruit of the Year award from ENERGY STAR Canada.

This award recognizes LEAF’s green energy accomplishments as a national Canadian leader in sustainable foodservice standards. LEAF provides environmentally conscious knowledge, sustainable tools, and in-person support that ensure financial success of each restaurant, cafe, and food truck that we work with.

LEAF launches Plastic-Free Dining Challenge

Photo by Placebo365/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by Placebo365/iStock / Getty Images

June 1, LEAF will launch our Plastic-Free Dining Challenge - a campaign aimed at addressing the use of single-use plastics in the foodservice industry and actively working to reduce them.

Plastics are entering our oceans at an alarming rate. According to Ocean Wise, an astonishing 86 per cent of all plastic packaging is used only once then discarded. It can take an estimated 400 or more years for plastics to degrade in the environment, meaning a large percentage of every peice that has ever been created, still remains. Read more here.

With the incredible success of recent movements like #StrawsSuck and #LastStrawToronto, the time is now to build on this momentum and look at ways to further reduce plastic pollution. We are asking you to join us in tackling the plastic pollution problem!

Restaurants and Foodservice facilities: Sign up here to participate in LEAF’s Plastic-Free Dining Challenge!

Not a restaurant? Encourage your favourite restaurant to join us! 

LEAF releases annual Guide to Canada's Greenest Restaurants

LEAF has released our annual Guide to Canada’s Greenest Restaurants for 2018. For the past number of years, sustainable dining and various aspects of it , including local food, sustainable seafood, meatless menus, and environmental practices, have been listed as some of the top trends in restaurants and food service. Increasingly, restaurants are realizing that operating as a more sustainable business is also good for their bottom line.

Restaurants waste an average of 50 tons of food each year, and use 2.5 to 5 times more energy per square foot than other commercial buildings. 96 per cent of LEAF restaurants compost their food waste versus just 9 per cent of conventional restaurants. 85 per cent of LEAF restaurants use energy efficient or ENERGY STAR appliances versus just 52 per cent of conventional restaurants. LEAF restaurants consistently outperform conventional restaurants.

Consumers are increasingly more aware of the impact of their purchasing decisions, and gravitate towards more environmentally sound purchasing choices when presented with options. Dining at a LEAF certified restaurant takes the guesswork out of the equation for consumers.  The restaurants on this list have all been audited by an independent third party, and demonstrate a commitment to operating in an environmentally sustainable manner. Canadian diners can find an updated list of LEAF certified restaurants in their area, year round, on the LEAF website.

We are continually raising the bar for what it means to be LEAF certified. In the coming weeks, LEAF’s version 4.0 criteria will be released, which places a greater emphasis on single use disposable plastics and food waste.

Support a more sustainable foodservice industry - visit a LEAF certified restaurant in your area today!

Don’t see one on the list in your area? Send them this link and suggest they get certified!

Follow LEAF on Twitter @LEAF_Canada, on Instagram @LEAF_Canada, and on Facebook L.E.A.F

SAIT Celebrates Five Years of LEAF Certification

By Stephanie Ball

The School of Hospitality and Tourism at the Southern Albert Institute of Technology (SAIT) continues to push the sustainability envelope, more than five years after becoming LEAF certified.

Operations Manager Brad Rosenberger has been with the School of Hospitality and Tourism for 11 years and has witnessed and implemented many changes since joining SAIT.

Long before the City of Calgary rolled out its green bin program, SAIT was diverting organic waste in a big way. Large compost bins are provided all around the main campus, and they are getting a lot of use – especially in the culinary programs.

"We go through a lot when it comes to food,” says Rosenberger. “The green bins ensure we're doing our part for the environment and for SAIT itself.”

As an added bonus, both the culinary garden and campus landscaping areas benefit from the composted material and SAIT’s used cooking oil is reprocessed and used to produce biodiesel.

The school deals with many different suppliers and does their best to select sustainable food products.

“It’s about limiting our impact on the environment. It’s about being responsible,” says Rosenberger when asked what it means to be a sustainability leader.

SAIT has to set the standards and meet the needs of what the industry is demanding, he says. It's an important because students are going out into the world after they graduate to become executive chefs or hotel managers. They are the future of sustainability and so SAIT's environmental practices play a key role in teaching students to adapt and think ahead.

Rosenberger and SAIT’s School of Hospitality and Tourism are optimistic about the future and advancement of Alberta’s sustainability movement.

“Good things are happening.”

 

SAIT.jpg

Moment on the lips, forever in our midst: an epidemic of single use plastic

Photo by lindsay_imagery/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by lindsay_imagery/iStock / Getty Images

Six years ago, while visiting the University of Guelph and their Sustainable Restaurant Program (UGSRP), I first heard the term “straws suck”. Bruce McAdams, UGSRP’s co-creator and sustainable hospitality expert, and I were discussing the issue with plastic straws, when he said he wanted to have t-shirts made that said “Straws suck” to build awareness. The phrase was was clever, and it was accurate.  

It has only been the last couple of years though, that awareness of the issue has grown and a slow rebellion against single-use disposable plastics is forming. Local and federal governments are taking steps to eliminate these sources of plastic pollution, such as implementing plastic bag, straw and micro bead bans and using Canada’s G7 Presidency to encourage other countries to take action such as a plastics charter. Canada has also joined the United Nation’s CleanSeas Campaign

With approximately 8 million tonnes of plastic ending up in the ocean every year, the CleanSeas campaign is working with governments, the private sector and the general public to phase out the production and consumption of single-use plastics and microbeads within the next five years. If no action is taken, there could be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050.” (Source). 

Where government leadership is lagging behind, non-profit organizations like Ocean Wise  and Surfrider and consumer-based movements are working to bring awareness to the issue. 

 

Why the attack on plastics?

 Image courtesy of pixabay.com

Image courtesy of pixabay.com

Resource intensive, used for only a brief amount of time, and then discarded to live out an eternity in a landfill or oceans, single-use, disposable plastics don’t make sense. According to Ocean Wise, an astonishing 86 per cent of all plastic packaging is used only once then discarded. It can take an estimated 400 or more years for plastics to degrade in the environment, meaning a large percentage of every peice that has ever been created, still remains. 

It is estimated that we throw out 57 million plastics straws per day in Canada. Plastic bags (produce and grocery), coffee lids and plastic bottles and caps are also among the top plastic items that are consumed and discarded almost immediately. This culture of convenience has created a literal sea of plastic pollution. It is estimated that 8 million metric tons of plastic enter the oceans every year. The now infamous North Pacific Gyre, also known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, occupies an area that is twice the size of Texas. According to the UNESCO, Plastic debris causes the deaths of more than a million seabirds every year, as well as more than 100,000 marine mammals.

For sea birds and larger marine creatures like turtles, dolphins and seals, the danger comes from being entangled in plastic bags and other debris, or mistaking plastic for food. Turtles cannot distinguish between plastic bags and jellyfish, which can be part of their diet. Plastic bags, once consumed, cause internal blockages and usually result in death.” -

But, despite these major issues, plastics have become part of our lives and, in some ways, (yes I’ll say it, and cringe as I do) have made it better. Working in hospitals, I know plastics are everywhere. Plastic IV and medication bags deliver life-saving medications and improve sterility for patients who are at high risk for deadly infections, and plastic breathing tubes keep people alive when they are critically ill. Yes, plastics can serve a vital purpose that we have no adequate replacement for in the present. But whether it’s useful or not, the evidence is clear: our planet and wildlife simply cannot handle the amount of plastic that we currently produce and dispose of.

 

Let's talk solutions

Unfortunately, we will probably never be entirely rid of plastics. However, we can and absolutely should do everything we can to decrease our use and get away from the convenience-centric mindset that is contributing to the mass amount of plastic pollution.

REDUCE

Health care aside, there are many industries that can significantly reduce or even eliminate plastics altogether right now (excessive plastic packaging comes to mind). Straws and bags are the target today, but all single-use and disposable plastics are on the chopping block. As consumers, we can become more aware of our own plastic consumption, refuse items that don’t meet our standards, and ask that companies provide better alternatives.

FIND ALTERNATIVES and INNOVATE

These two really go together. There will always be people who want their convenience and a even a need or desire for plastic-like material. We need innovation to find suitable alternatives for plastic materials that won’t end up polluting the environment and don’t result in harmful micro plastics as they breakdown. There are many companies that are developing innovative solutions to replace plastics, and even keep some or all of the convenience that we’ve become accustomed to. Sometimes, the solution may be painfully simple, such as going back to the way things were - e.g. milk and beverages in glass bottles.

LEGISLATION

Putting the onus on companies who produce these plastics to find ways to properly collect and manage them, and taxing those that don’t comply, may provide an incentive to reduce their reliance on them. Better recycling options for plastics that are, for now, unavoidable. 

CLEANUP THE MESS WE’VE MADE

Lastly, while we focus on reducing further plastic pollution, a group of brilliant engineers, researchers and scientists can develop plans to clean up the plastics that are already in the oceans. Organizations like The Ocean Cleanup are working on just that.  

This is the beginning of LEAF’s renewed focus on plastics. Version 4.0 of the LEAF criteria places a heavier emphasis on reducing and eliminating single use plastics. Stay tuned for more exciting initiatives to address plastic pollution in the coming months. 

If you're a restaurant or foodservice operator, contact us to get involved. 

Janine Windsor
President & Founder, LEAF

 

 

 

RC Show 2018: sustainability up front

IMG_3770.JPG

Over 20,000 chefs, restaurateurs and industry professionals attended the RC Show in Toronto on Feb 25-27th, 2018. LEAF was a co--presenter of the Eco Pavilion, which featured businesses and organizations to help attendees address waste, find rebates, learn about the ENERGY STAR program and more.

Day one featured a great discussion on the Business Case for Sustainability. Bruce McAdams of the University of Guelph's Sustainable Restaurant Program (UGSRP) started off the talk by highlighting the economic benefits of incorporating sustainability into operations and stats to provide context.  A panel discussion with five LEAF certified restaurateurs followed, each discussing their challenges and successes in their sustainability journey, and providing valuable insight and advice. 

Bruce_moderating.jpg
Brad Long.jpg

The talk wrapped with each chef offering their recommendation for the best sustainable change they made - either economically or greatest impact with least investment:

Cameron.jpg
  • Chef Cam McGowan from CRAFT Beer Market suggested starting with a waste audit of garbage, compost and recycling - laying everything "out on a tarp" to seeing what you're actually throwing away.
     
  • Ian Vickers, COO of Diversity Food Services, recommended placing compost containers by each service station and taking the garbage out of the way. Ian suggested placing the garbage at the back of the house created a "walk of shame" to throw something out, ensuring anything that could be composted or recycled, was.
     
  • Evelyn Gharibian from Hearty Catering, favoured monitoring water use and implementing conservation systems as means to reduce water use and cost.
     
  • Elio Zannoni of Gusto Commissary and Catering highlighted the ease and impact of eliminating plastic straws and stir sticks.
     
  • Brad Long of Cafe Belong recommended working towards being a Certified B Corp, and stressed the importance of measurement.
Sust panel 3 - standing.jpg
 Kim of  Montgomery's  Restaurant

Kim of Montgomery's Restaurant

Throughout the show we collected pledges in our Pledge to Win contest - encouraging foodservice operators to make a sustainability pledge. We captured pledges for everything from  purchasing ENERGY STAR appliances and installing low flow fixtures, to eliminating plastic straws! 

The final day of the show featured the SaveONEnergy Forum presented by IESO where the focus was on SAVING. We heard first hand accounts of how big and small energy efficiency strategies had lead to major operational cost savings. 

Chic Alors! saves $700 per month with LED lighting and realized a payback within 7 months of the initial investment

Sheridan College campus was able to reduce the temperature by two degrees in the winter by installing ENERGY STAR window film, resulting in substantial cost savings

Kim of Montgomery's restaurant kept costs in check by choosing ENERGY STAR appliances, unplugging equipment when not needed, filling in cracks in the walls and around windows and doors, installing thick curtains and rugs as insulation, and more

At the end of the SaveONEnergy Forum, ENERGY STAR Canada, in partnership with Restaurants Canada, IESO, LEAF and Newspring Energy, launched their Foodservice Energy Challenge, which will give participating restaurant and foodservice facilities the opportunity for deep discounts on ENERGY STAR equipment and a chance to win prizing. 

IMG_3863.JPG

The show was capped off with the first LEAF Awards, presented to four incredibly deserving companies. Diversity Foodservices, Chic Alors!, Community Cafe and Creelman Market all took home awards. Learn more about the winners here.

Thanks to Restaurants Canada for putting on an amazing show and highlighting sustainability! We look forward to the RC Show 2019 where the theme will be Sustainability! 

  Creelman Market : winner of Eco-Innovator 2018

Creelman Market: winner of Eco-Innovator 2018

  Diversity Foodservices : winner of Greenest Restaurant over 10,000 square feet

Diversity Foodservices: winner of Greenest Restaurant over 10,000 square feet

  Community Cafe : winner of Most Improved 2018

Community Cafe: winner of Most Improved 2018

  Chic Alors! : winner Greenest Restaurant 2018

Chic Alors!: winner Greenest Restaurant 2018

ECO Pavilion Banner.jpg
 LEAF Approved Supplier  Rethink Resource

LEAF Approved Supplier Rethink Resource

Biodegradable or Compostable? Which takeout container is “greener"?

By Jeanelle d'Eon

Labelling can be one of the most confusing aspects when looking for an environmentally sustainable product. When in comes to takeout containers, the terms "biodegradable" and "compostable" dominate in popularity and cause plenty of confusion. While these two descriptors may seem similar (even interchangeable), they can mean very different things and have major differences when it comes to the end of the product's life cycle.

Truly biodegradable products (such a paper-based takeout containers and wooden utensils) have the ability to break down completely in nature with the help of living organisms like bacteria, or they can be composted in a simple backyard composter. Although they break down easily in the right conditions, if they end up in landfill, they will produce methane (a potent greenhouse gas) during the breakdown process due to lack of oxygen. So it is ideal to ensure there is a proper processing facilities and receptacles in place to minimize the amount of these products that end up in landfill. 

Here's where it gets complicated: not all "compostable" food service products are biodegradable. Many newer products that are labelled as "biodegradable" or "compostable" (such as bio-based plastics), require industrial composting facilities to break them down. Unfortunately, not all municipalities have these facilities, so many of these products end up in the landfill where they will not break down. Or, if they do, it's estimated to take a few hundred years, or more.

Essentially, truly compostable, non-plastic products are a more environmentally sustainable choice, (ideally made from recycled paper-based products), but there are many things to consider. When it comes to choosing a take out container, restaurateurs should consider a few key things:

Does my municipality have industrial composting facilities? 

Are my patrons likely to dispose of these products properly, or will most of them end up in landfill? 

Considering the above questions, what product will have the least harm on the environment?

100% recycled, paper-based take out containers and wood-based utensils are a few of our preferred options. What type of container are you using in your restaurant, and why?

 

IMG_0551.JPG