Five things every chef should know before they call themselves sustainable


There’s no debating it – sustainability is well and truly on the menu for UK hospitality businesses, with countless private and public sector initiatives (such as the SRA) now available to assist the industry with their environmental impact.

At the end of the day, it is up to each and every individual within a restaurant, bar, café or hotel to act in a sustainable manner. At Cookery School, we believe that before any chef is asked to put sustainable practices into action, they need to understand why. By developing their knowledge, they’ll be able to make informed decisions, instead of following along blindly and possibly missing a trick.

We believe that for any chef to call themselves sustainable they should start with these five essential points.

  1. Food waste, not general waste

    Did you know it takes 25 years for an iceberg lettuce to decay in landfill? Throughout this time, it’s releasing methane, just one of the greenhouse gases that’s contributing to climate change.

    Therefore, it’s essential that you discard of your food waste properly. All uneaten scraps, tea bags and coffee grounds, out of date food, meat and fish (raw and cooked), dairy products, eggs, grains and pulses and baked goods can be added to your food waste bin. This is then collected and converted into green energy through a process of anaerobic digestion, thereby decreasing your environmental footprint two-fold!

    While preventing food waste should be your first port of call, anything that is disposed of needs to be done so correctly. It’s a lesson not only for head chefs, but for every person walking into the kitchen.

  2. Where is your produce coming from?

    When designing your menu, seasonality should be top of mind. Regardless of cuisine, customer base or time of day, sourcing within the seasons means dramatically increasing the sustainability of your menu, as it means your produce doesn’t have to travel to make it to your plate. Air miles are a huge contributor to the sustainability of your produce, so the more that can be transported from close by, the better!

  3. Carbon footprint of ingredients

    While you should be considering every ingredient when designing your menus, there are some that are especially ruinous to the environment. Lamb and beef are the worst offenders, followed by cheese, pork, turkey, chicken and tuna. By limiting your use of these, or looking for the most sustainable alternatives, you’re helping to reduce your overall climate contribution.

  4. Embrace the five ‘R’s

    We’ve gone beyond the ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ mantra of old, with two additional instructions added. In order of preference, the common sustainability ethos is now ‘refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose and recycle’, with an emphasis on refusing to use potentially harmful products in the first place. In the kitchen, this means negotiating with suppliers on their packaging so that there is limited plastic, moving towards paperless invoicing and payments and performing an audit of necessary requirements – when was the last time you reviewed everything you use and purchase for the kitchen?

  5. Chemicals

    Health and safety are of the utmost importance in a professional kitchen, but it doesn’t need to come at the expense of the environment. Most commercial cleaners contain phosphates, which cause toxic algae blooms and aren’t neutralised in the sewage plants, polluting rivers and by proxy, fish and plants. There is a growing market of high-grade cleaners that are chlorine and phosphate free, including our preferred supplier, Delphis Eco. Swapping your cleaning products to these alternatives are a huge step in the right direction when it comes to sustainability.


Cookery School at Little Portland Street runs a one-day accredited course for hospitality professionals wishing to increase their knowledge and implement sustainability measures into their workplace. Find out more on their website:

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