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Hotel Industry Unveils Results of Program To Reduce Food Waste

Hotel Industry Unveils Results of Program To Reduce Food Waste

New York–The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA), with support from The Rockefeller Foundation, today unveiled results from a set of projects to reduce food waste in the hotel industry. Over the course of 12 weeks, the 10 hotels piloting the program effectively decreased their property’s food waste by at least 10 percent. The organizations are releasing a toolkit based on the results that includes strategies to help hotel properties and brands meet measurable, time-bound goals to reduce food waste.

The ten properties that participated in the 12-weeks of demonstration projects included a mix of full-service branded hotels and several independent operations across the country. They tested different waste reduction strategies, including low-waste menu planning, staff training and education, and customer engagement. Overall, participating properties reduced food waste at least 10 percent and some lowered food costs by at least three percent after increasing measurement and engagement. These findings support case studies conducted by waste tracking technology companies, which typically show cost reduction of three to eight percent. The program results also revealed that teams achieved greater success at properties where the owners, general managers, and executive staff were highly engaged.

“This project demonstrated that hotel staff can establish new approaches to cut food waste, which in turn reduces food preparation and disposal costs,” said Pete Pearson, director of food waste at World Wildlife Fund. “Collaboration and leadership by sectors like the hospitality industry will allow us to implement prevention strategies and solve problems faster.”

In line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and Champions 12.3, WWF and AHLA recommend that by 2020, U.S. hotels accomplish the following goals: establish measurement and report a reduction in food waste from a 2015/16 baseline year; establish food donation strategies and community partnerships at all managed properties; and set and achieve a goal to have at least 90 percent of hotels diverting food waste from landfills.

“Hotels are more committed than ever before to reducing food waste,” said Katherine Lugar, president and CEO of AHLA. “We are encouraged by the findings of the demonstration projects and are excited to be able to share the tools we have developed with our broader membership. By partnering with WWF and The Rockefeller Foundation, we can share new tools and resources to build on the success of this program and propel the industry to a new level of commitment around food waste reduction.”

The average American household spends an estimated $1,500 to $2,000 a year on food they never eat. Businesses, manufacturers, and farms spend $74 billion creating and transporting food that ends up in a landfill at an enormous environmental cost–wasting money, as well as land, water, energy, and other limited, valuable resources needed to produce food. With all that wasted food, the planet’s malnourished could be fed several times over.

“Worldwide, good food is going to waste rather than reaching hungry mouths, and through our YieldWise initiative, we are working to harness the power of corporations to reverse this troubling trend,” said Devon Klatell, associate director at The Rockefeller Foundation. “This project proves that change can happen, and what we learned through these demonstrations can be adapted and scaled across a variety of industries, beyond the hospitality sector. We now know that implementing proven food waste reduction strategies can reap large rewards for businesses looking to reduce their footprints, save money, and drive sustainability within our food system.”

As a culmination of their efforts, WWF, AHLA, and The Rockefeller Foundation developed a toolkit that shares key findings and guiding principles as well as provides next steps to tackle food waste in the hotel industry. A guide to help drive sector-wide participation in food waste reduction programs, the toolkit stresses the value of regular training programs, outlines a sequence of practices to develop food waste prevention strategies, and advises on how to collect and share data to adjust and improve performance. It also urges instilling a greater value towards food among staff and guests–something that is applicable across the entire food system.

“We no longer have the luxury of time. Because our food carries such a high environmental cost, avoiding waste is a win-win for both business and the planet,” said Pearson. “As these demonstration projects show, with increased hotel industry engagement, we know we can make a difference. We strongly encourage more hotel companies to participate in this valuable program and accelerate change.”

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