The secrets of the most sustainable street food trader – Honest!

We’re proud partners of the British Street Food Awards – judging the Most Sustainable Trader category, sponsored by Hellmann’s, for the third time this year. Just as the standard of street food rises, so it does for the entries for this award. This year’s Honest Edibles was crowned Most Sustainable Trader. We asked founder Billy Collins to tell us their recipe for success...

Established in 2015, Honest Edibles started out with a legendary hand pushed cart to take its pop-up kitchen locally across Farmers Markets in Leeds.  Since then, we have continued to push the sustainable food movement, opening the City’s first fully vegan restaurant in 2017 and gaining a loyal following across the street food scene at festivals and food events nationwide.

Sustainability built in

Our newly opened Café-Bistro is partnered with Citu, allowing us to use Solar Panels and Wind Turbines to cook and prepare food entirely using renewable energy, even recycling rainwater to use in our guest toilets. We refitted the premises using reclaimed wood and are currently fund-raising to develop our large community allotment using Permaculture growth principles. Using composted food waste from the kitchen along with raised beds and polytunnels, our plan is to expand how much we can grow directly on site considerably over the next year.

Plant-led pioneers

Working in harmony with nature, our amazing local farmer The Organic Pantry (less than 15 miles away) allows us to create a fully plant-based menu around incredible seasonal and organic produce. We also celebrate indigenous wild ingredients foraged within our neighbouring Yorkshire wilderness. Being vegan, foraging uncovered a sustainable way to recreate deep Umami flavours beyond meat such as glutamate rich foods like wild mushrooms or foraged Kombu.

Yorkshire’s East Coast is fantastic for Seaweed products, allowing us to make anything from Dashi stocks to “Fish” Sauces – even sustainable Sushi creations using Laver with local Barley and Rye Grains. The texture and flavour of dried Dulse is a particular favourite for anyone seeking a nutrient dense meat replacement, working extremely well when integrated into dishes to create an alternative chewy bite.

Our winning dish for this year’s ‘Best Vegan’ at the BSFA was a Yorkshire-Malaysian fusion Laksa that used locally grown Shitake, Wild Foraged Kombu, Hen of the Woods, Ceps and even Yorkshire grown Lemongrass. The ingredients we couldn’t source from the UK (like coconut milk) were sourced responsibly and supported ethical social practice such as Fair Trade or Rainforest Alliance certification.

We also love using weeds in our kitchen, ingredients like Dandelion, Nettle, Garlic Mustard, Himalayan Balsam and Chickweed all grow pervasively and in abundance so can be harvested responsibly with little effect on the environment (even with great ecological benefit as is the case with invasive Himalayan Balsam).

Waste not want not

To ensure we can access these fantastic, nutrient rich ingredients all year round, we use a range of preserving techniques from dehydrating, pickling and fermenting – to making jams, syrups and chutneys.  

Since 2015, we have only used biodegradable packaging and cutlery – bagasse take-away boxes provide a high-quality hot food container that immediately impresses customers and mirrors the ethos and quality found within.  Before Covid we were also using reusable palm leaf bowls with a deposit scheme at events and the Café which we would take back and clean ourselves.

Despite reusing and recycling everything we can, to reduce single use plastic further, we hand pick suppliers that reflect our ethics – only using ones that promote cruelty free, sustainable production practices, responsible packaging solutions and social welfare.

We only use environmentally friendly hygiene and cleaning chemicals too, which further helps reduce our impact on water quality and ocean pollution.   

Sharing the message

At the heart of systemic change is Education. We regularly give talks across different platforms, hosting sustainable cookery classes at Universities for students and are set to launch “The Sustainable Chef” School online at the end of this month. The Sustainable Chef School will be the first fully vegan cookery school in the North, creating a collaborative hub to educate in all aspects of food sustainability. Classes will bring together a diverse array of field leading specialists; from Nutritionists and Farmers; to Fermentologists, Foragers and of course incredible Chefs! 

We hope this type of Cookery School will inspire a new generation of Chefs that cook in harmony with the planet. Please get in touch if you want to get involved.  

Our customers absolutely love what we do and resonate deeply with something that affects us all. We have created a dedicated community that is driven by conscious consumerism.

While our budget constraints are undoubtedly tighter than most, our commitment to choosing only the best practices in turn enables customers to trust us and ultimately enjoy a final product that supports ethical food production.

Profit has never been the most important thing to us, and in a world that makes quick purchase decisions with lasting unseen consequences, connecting customers to a more transparent journey allows them to feel both empowered and aligned with a sustainable philosophy voted for via their wallets.

Being chosen as this year’s Most Sustainable Trader is unbelievably rewarding and fulfils a goal we set out to accomplish five years ago as a start-up company. 

We hope what we do can show it is possible to be earth-friendly, reduce your carbon footprint and still create high-quality products. Onwards and upwards.

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