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Thursday, December 3, 2015

Sustainability: a matter of thinking critically & solving problems in an adaptive manner

The World Association of Chefs Societies (WACS), the umbrella organization of world chef societies, developed a Sustainability for the Foodservice Industry Course, which is ready for beta testing in early 2016. When finalized the course will be available to global culinary schools and potentially chef societies, such as the American Culinary Federation.

In many countries chefs are leaders with the ability to influence the general population in an empowering manner. Culinary students are future leaders within an industry that has a profound impact on the Earth’s resources. In the United States, the foodservice | hospitality sector is the second largest private sector employer.

At the core of sustainability is the ability to think critically and solve complex problems in an adaptive manner. 

The WACS sustainability course is designed to embed the importance of sustainability within daily practices, whether in a kitchen, home, business environment or public area, along with establishing the ability to critically think and solve problems. There is no one answer to most sustainability challenges and solutions are driven by local infrastructure available.

Within the course, sustainability is broken down into four categories – food, water, energy and water – in seven two-hour classes. The following is the class outline:
  1. Looking at the big picture: Why sustainability matters to the world and to foodservice.
  2. Food Part I: Agriculture – growing in dirt
  3. Food Part II: Animal husbandry
  4. Food Part III: Seafood
  5. Energy
  6. Water
  7. Waste
Kendall College Vice-President, School of Culinary Arts Chef Chris Koetke, orchestrated the sustainability course curriculum on behalf of WACS and invited Elemental Impact to provide the Waste course material. … and the answer was a big YES!

Holly & The Chris Triad
Moyer, Newman, Koetke
Ei met Chris when he presented on the 2011 National Restaurant Show education session The Compost Hero Returns with the HOW moderated by Ei Founder Holly Elmore. The following is a quote from the ZWA Blog article, Compost, The Quiet Hero at 2011 NRA Show:
The star of the session, Chris Koetke with Kendall College, educated on the specifics of HOW organics collection works within foodservice operations.  A true pioneer, Kendall College is in their fifth year with an organics collection program.
The Ei SMAT – Sustainable Materials ACTION Team – went to work on crafting a 50+ page PPT presentation complete with photos | visuals, instructor notes, and a glossary of industry terms. With impeccable timing, Ei Intern Jarrett Cohen came on-board for the administrative aspects of the curriculum development.

Following Chris’ guidance, the Waste | Recycling (Ei added recycling to the title) flowed from the broad, big picture viewpoint to the foodservice industry’s tremendous waste generation to the environmental impact and ended with the chef’s leadership role | responsibilities.

In the big picture portion, Ei emphasized waste is inevitable. When waste is viewed as trash, it is landfill destined; when it is viewed as a valuable material the waste is donated | reused, recycled or upcycled. Throughout the presentation, the business perspective is emphasized and how respecting material improves the bottom line.

Affairs to Remember
front-of-the-house event decor
The “My What a Big Pantry You Have!” and “the Waste FRONTier” sections focus on the tremendous volume of various materials used in back-of-the-house and front-of-house, respectively, operations. Next packaging is addressed in the “Box it Right” and “Make it Compostable” sections. 

Within the “Where does it all go?” slides the Three R’s – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – are addressed with an emphasis on donation of excess food. In addition, source-separated and single-stream recycling are presented in a pros | cons format.

In “Contamination: an expensive trip to the landfill” the focus is on food waste, one of the biggest contaminants in recycling streams. When it decomposes in landfills food waste produces methane gas, a GHG (greenhouse gas) 20 – 25 times more potent than naturally occurring carbon.

Retaining the food waste focus, the “Where Oh Where is our Soil?” section educates on the deteriorated state of our soils and how food waste composting is a solution for soil rebuilding. “Beyond Landfill Destination” details the four main destinations for food waste, other than landfill.

The “Chefs are Leaders …” uses Jamie Oliver, champion of better food in schools, as the powerful role chefs play in their new SuperStar status.

“Zero Waste” defines the emerging industry standard and emphasizes the importance of third certifications, such as the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council Business Facility Certification.

The “Business Perspective” slide is the perfect segue to Ei Partner NatureWorks case studies that ground “Success Stories.” NatureWorks provides four documented examples of waste diversion, zero waste events, waste reduction and landfill diversion at global venues.

For the “In Summary” slide the following three points are made:
  • Materials have value; Trash has cost.
  • Zero waste practices make good business sense.
  • Sustainability provides a competitive edge on many levels.

Each slide includes detailed instructor notes along with  links to supporting documentation for the information presented.

Kudos to the World Association of Chefs Societies for stepping to the plate and providing a comprehensive introduction to sustainability within the foodservice industry. It is important our future leaders develop the skills of critical thinking and problem solving, especially in the sustainability realm.

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