Pee-powered eateries, garbage-fueled grub and no-waste nom-noms…
Sounds pretty peculiar, right? But these are the kinds of good food initiatives being adopted by restaurants and organisations in order to make a social impact throughout the world. Whether they’re trying to minimise waste, promoting sustainable food practices or donating to those less fortunate, there’s a huge number of ways both restaurants and consumers can give back to society.
There is a huge problem around food wastage, particularly in countries like the United States where it is estimated about 40 per cent of food is thrown away. Restaurants in particular generate huge amounts of food waste, which goes to landfill. This is where Closed Loop comes in.
Closed Loop an Australian-designed zero-waste recycling system, which turns food waste into compost by reducing its volume by 90 per cent in 24 hours. About 60 restaurants in Australia have installed a Closed Loop machine, as well as a number of top international restaurants, including the UK’s first zero-waste restaurant Silo in Brighton and Alex Atala’s award-winning D.O.M. in São Paulo, Brazil.
An early adopter of the Closed Loop machine was Brothl, Melbourne’s first zero-waste café. Every Melbourne eatery needs a name with a witty wordplay and Brothl is definitely up there. It was opened by florist-turned-restaurateur Joost Bakker. Described as a “high-end soup canteen,” they served up hearty homemade broth made from animal byproducts such seafood shells and beef and chicken bones sourced from high-end restaurants. If that wasn’t eco-friendly enough, the broth was brewed using Monbulk rainwater.
This wasn’t Bakker’s first foray into sustainable restaurants. Before Brothl, he opened a pop-up restaurant called Greenhouse by Joost. On arrival, patrons were encouraged to “give pee a chance” and donate their urine, which was collected in a large opaque vat at the entrance to the restaurant. It was then used as fertiliser, providing a source of ammonia for the mustard seed crops which powered the restaurant’s generators.
Bakker’s vision was driven by the amount of food that goes into landfill. Australians alone chuck out approximately $8 billion of edible food every year. But Bakker isn’t the only one concerned by this. To mitigate food wastage, social entrepreneur Ronni Kahn established OzHarvest, an organisation that “rescues” perishable foods, collecting excess and uneaten foodstuffs from commercial outlets such as hotels and supermarkets and delivering it, free of charge, to charities across the country.
The Google of restaurants
Another waste-conscious restaurant which has installed the Closed Loop machine is Copenhagen’s Noma, the brainchild of gastronomic wunderkind René Redzepi. With testimonials ranging from “the Google of restaurants” to an “auditorium-sized crack den” you know you’re in for something good at Noma. Its Scandinavian terroir-led cuisine has secured it the number-one spot on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list four times.
Redzepi is committed to producing sustainable cuisine, only serving locally sourced ingredients.
For those who get excited about gastronomy, Redzepi is bringing a Noma pop-up restaurant to Sydney in January 2016, with a menu comprising entirely of local Australian produce.
Dine and donate
Some restaurants actively in-build social good into their business model. For Sam Prince’s first birthday, his parents donated the money they would have spent on a birthday party to an orphanage in Sri Lanka. The example must have rubbed off on him. Prince went on to found Mexican restaurant Zambrero, which is helping tackle world hunger one burrito at a time. For every meal purchased in a Zambrero, a meal is donated to someone in need in a developing country.
The concept of “eating for a cause” seems to have worked. First opening in Canberra ten years ago, there are now 89 Zambreros across Australia and 8 more internationally.
A different take on the dine and donate concept is found at non-profit vegetarian restaurants Lentil As Anything, where patrons pay what they feel. The menu isn’t extensive, but the positive effects are. Diners pay as much as they think the meal is worth, placing donations into “magic boxes” as they leave. The average donation is $7 per person but many people pay more, which subsides the meals for those who can’t afford to pay as much. Any money left over goes towards opening new stores.
You don’t have to go vego to make sure you’re eating for social good. Sydney butchery Feather and Bone offers quality sustainable meat products with complete transparency in their process. They only source sustainably managed and pasture-raised whole animals, and have a client list with the likes of Rockpool, Billy Kwong and Kitchen by Mike. They maintain close relationships with suppliers, ensuring animal welfare and genetic diversity, eschewing farms that use chemical pesticides, fertilisers, herbicides or antibiotics.
Some groups are doing social good in the food industry without even setting foot in the kitchen. Consumers are encouraged to shop ethically but most of us only ever see the end of the supply chain. Websites such as Sustainable Table, a non-profit organisation empowering people to buy eco-friendly and sustainable food, provides online information and guides on how your weekly shopping budget can work towards achieving social good.
How YOU can make a difference
Is it your dream to have your restaurant that gives back? That’s where we come in. The courses at William Blue give you the industry connections, mentors and exposure you need.
The Greatest Degree on Earth is currently looking for the next generation of social good restaurateurs and entrepreneurs who will change the world one meal at a time. Entering is easy, click here to find out more.