If we are to reach our climate goals, the food industry is one of the first that needs to change. Everyone needs to play their part, and whether you own a single food truck or a street food empire, you need to start thinking about ways you can make your tasty treats more eco-friendly. It won’t just be the planet that appreciates your efforts either, but your customers, who are savvier of sustainable practices than ever before.
There are three main elements of your travelling food operation that need to be rectified if you are to become sustainable; your vehicle, your food and your kitchen culture. Let’s take a look at each one in detail.
A travelling food business is built on the vehicle that drives it. The infrastructure, the design, the ease of service, it all comes together to provide a great street food experience. It’s also the best place to begin your sustainable revolution.
Driving an electric vehicle over a gas-guzzling truck is the biggest immediate difference you can make to your carbon footprint. You’re always on the road, travelling from one location to another, so it’s vital you make a dent on this frequent output. There are a number of different models available, from hybrids to fully-electric options, all of which will be drastically better for your output than a traditional petrol model. If you’re worried about the cost of insuring an electric car, then you’ll be pleased to know that electric car insurance is often cheaper than insurance for traditional methods when using major providers, whether you’re buying the model outright or just leasing the battery. You’re not just easing pressure on the planet, but your bottom line.
Beyond the exact model of vehicle you’re using, there are are a number of other things you can do surrounding it to ensure you’re more sustainable. Try and keep your team confined to one vehicle on the road, so as to limit the number of vehicles in use. Plan out your routes in advance to ensure you’re taking the fastest and most efficient route possible. If you’re not able to transition to an electric vehicle, the best thing you can do is limit the amount of time you spend on the road.
Food is the life and soul of your travelling business. You’ve no doubt put years of thought and effort into developing a menu full of unique touches and recipes close to your heart. We’re not asking you to rip that up and start again but make little tweaks to thank the planet that bore you your wonderful ingredients.
You should aim to use sustainable ingredients from eco-friendly sources as much as possible. That means researching how your current providers farm their produce and looking for more sustainable options. Check for their wastage records and if they have any statements about sustainability on their website. Try and shop locally for ingredients, using the closest farms to your base. As a travelling business this can be difficult to achieve, so try and have local providers in all locations you frequently operate in to lower the carbon output of delivery. Consider transitioning to a seasonal menu to prioritise naturally produced goods, cutting out the demand on your suppliers to waste energy on artificial growth.
Plastic cups have before the symbol for poor sustainability practices, and how you serve your food is a great way to change your waste output. Encouraging customers to use their own coffee cups and water bottles is a brilliant way to dramatically cut down waste, and easy to do as more and more people become aware of this simple individual change. Serving food is more difficult than just not stocking bottled water though, but you can invest in recyclable plates and cartons over sticking with styrofoam options. Your customers shouldn’t feel like they’re harming the planet just because they bought food from you.
Changing your staff’s habits in the kitchen is just as important as what you do with your vehicle and food, and in many ways, much easier to do.
As a travelling food business, you’re likely operating with a small team anyway. However, you should aim to limit the number of people working within the vehicle on location to keep the personal waste down to a minimum. It’s just as important your team are on board with the sustainability efforts.
Try and keep the amount of time your machines are running to a minimum, this means turning off ovens and grills during long down periods. Any leftover oil should be recycled properly along with generally recycled material. Just because you’re closing down for a season doesn’t mean you should throw all those cooking materials out. How you clean your equipment is just as vital as how you operate it. Certain cleaning products exude fumes that are hazardous to the environment, so always use eco-friendly ones.
While not technically kitchen culture, you should aim to make your business paperless where possible. One of the best ways to do this is during the payment process, offering your customers electronic receipts rather than physical paper ones.
Thankfully, many small businesses are making sustainability a key part of their operation, including within the street food industry. There are so many little changes you can make across all sectors of your business to make a big difference to the environment. Who knows, you may even inspire another food business to follow suit.