Smarter Business: Greening Advisor

 

Food and beverage

The food we eat has diverse impacts on human health and the environment. Agriculture is one of the leading sources of water pollution in the country, tainting rivers and streams with pesticides, sediment, and fertilizers, and the transportation of food contributes to global warming and other forms of air pollution. Food packaging uses considerable amounts of paper and plastic, and discarded food fills up landfills and contributes to the release of methane gas into the atmosphere.

In addition to these impacts, much of the food we buy today is made from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and is produced using considerable amounts of antibiotics and hormones. The effects of these processes are not well understood. GMOs may escape to the surrounding environment and adversely affect biodiversity; elevated hormone levels in rivers and lakes have been implicated in male fish generating female sexual characteristics; and elevated antibiotic levels could lead to strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, making it more difficult to treat human diseases.

Consider consulting with your company’s suppliers to determine the availability of more ecologically preferable ingredients and materials.

You may also want to consider including environmentally preferable food and packaging/serviceware specifications in future contracts and requests for proposals from concession vendors, delivery services or other food suppliers.

To locate nearby markets and other local food sources, search the Local Food Guide Database. The Organic Consumers Association’s  business directory is another source of information about where to buy local and organic food.

Environmentally Intelligent Food Specifications

  • U.S. Department of Agriculture “Organic” products
  • Fish certified by the Marine Stewardship Council
  • Produce grown using more sustainable production practices, reduced amounts of pesticides and fertilizers, and/or fewer toxic pesticides and fertilizers
  • Non-genetically-modified organisms
  • Meat, poultry, and dairy goods raised and processed without hormones and antibiotics
  • Fair trade, shade-grown coffee
  • Free range and/or pasture-fed meat and poultry
  • Locally grown foods
  • Products delivered in minimal, reusable or recyclable packaging

Bottled Water

Discourage employees from purchasing single-serving bottles of water when possible. The production and consumption of bottled water has significant environmental impacts: Hazardous air pollutants are produced during the nonrenewable, petroleum-based manufacture of plastic bottles; the transportation of these bottles consumes a significant amount of energy; and in the United States, an estimated 75 percent of these bottles are thrown in the trash instead of being recycled. Encourage the use of reusable containers that can be refilled with tap water, or consider purchasing water coolers with reusable water jugs. If needed, also consider purchasing an effective filter for tap water. For information on water filters, visit the website of the National Sanitation Foundation International, which provides listings of NSF Certified Drinking Water Treatment Units.

Sample Letter to Food Suppliers

Dear _______,

Our company has initiated a policy to improve its environmental performance in all aspects of its operations. Because you are one of our food suppliers, we would like to meet with you to discuss buying ecologically superior food products in more detail. We would also like to discuss ways to cost-effectively switch to products that use less packaging, recyclable or reusable packaging within the next few years.

The production, packaging, and transportation of food products have a considerable impact on the public health and the environment. Agriculture is one of the largest global contributors to water pollution and habitat loss; unnecessary packaging wastes resources, destroys forests, and fills landfills; and the transportation of food causes the release of harmful air pollutants such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, volatile organic compounds, and many toxins. In addition, factors such as trans fat content can have a considerable adverse impact on public health.

We would like to reduce as much as possible the harmful effects associated with our operations, and we would like to speak with you about more healthy and environmentally preferable alternatives to the food and food packaging products that we are currently using.

We look forward to discussing this with you. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.

Sample Contract Language

Our company has adopted an environmental policy to improve its environmental performance. To further this goal, food-related products and services will be evaluated in part on their health and environmental attributes. Specific factors to be considered include:

  • Locally grown foods
  • Food with zero trans fat
  • Reduced packaging
  • Packaging made from recycled content
  • Recyclable or reusable packaging
  • Organic food
  • Reduced pesticides and fertilizers

Please address these concerns when submitting your proposals.

Additional Resources

Greening Advisor

The Business Plan

The Opportunities

Quick Tip

Look for food products and services that meet the following criteria:

  • Locally grown foods
  • Food with zero trans fat
  • Reduced packaging
  • Packaging made from recycled content
  • Recyclable or reusable packaging
  • Organic food
  • Reduced pesticides and fertilizers

Suggestions?
Let us know.

The production, packaging, and transportation of food products have a considerable impact on the public health and the environment. Ask your company’s suppliers about the availability of more ecologically preferable ingredients and materials.
 

Sign up for NRDC's online newsletter

See the latest issue >

NRDC Gets Top Ratings from the Charity Watchdogs

Charity Navigator awards NRDC its 4-star top rating.
Worth magazine named NRDC one of America's 100 best charities.
NRDC meets the highest standards of the Wise Giving Alliance of the Better Business Bureau.


Donate now >

Share | |