COVID-19 and Sustainability – an Incompatible Duo?
Over the last few months, one topic and one topic only has occupied our minds and kept us from the industry we love. If you’re anything like us, you may have found it difficult to keep on top of other important issues or plan for anything other than the immediate.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented circumstances and change, making it easy to overlook some of the other major issues impacting the world today. The environment and sustainability are two issues which have been gaining traction in recent years, especially evident within hospitality.
Before the pandemic hit, focus on sustainability seemed to be getting stronger and the pressure was on for industries to be more sustainable. Hospitality listened; whether it was moving away from single use plastics, banning plastic straws, creating more homemade products or stocking sustainable brands, there was definitely progress.
Fast forward a few months and everything feels like it has been turned upside down. We’ve seen the industry learning and adapting to the new normal – with safety and hygiene coming first and venues around the world taking different approaches to safely allow them to re-open. But what has this meant for sustainability?
We’ve been watching and listening as venues re-open around the world, and have seen a knock-on effect on sustainability, both good and bad. If you hadn’t had the chance to see how venues are adapting around the world, then read on.
The good news is that a lot of the new initiatives look like they will have a positive effect on sustainability. We’ve seen more venues using paperless menus as part of ongoing safety measures and instead opting for QR codes, where guests can scan with a smartphone to view the menu. The drinks coaster is also disappearing from venues, with many outlets only using them when specifically asked by a customer.
Food waste is a global issue and accounts for about 8% of all greenhouse emissions (according to the United Nations), however during lockdown, many of us are shopping less and using up more of what we buy. Videos on how to reduce waste are becoming more and more popular online and though already a focus in many bars, the on-trade can take inspiration from this to create as little waste as possible after the pandemic.
Trade shows moving online also has many positives, not only are they more accessible to the world, but it means less travel – with many international shows requiring air travel – meaning the carbon footprint here can dramatically reduce and in fact, digital events is something that could become the norm.
Some methods we’ve seen are slightly less sustainable in the long term, as it’s likely that venues will need to use more single use products, albeit short term, as the safest option to avoid contamination.
Take venues that can only open for take-out, whilst inside drinking or dining is still banned. A huge number of plastic cups are being used to facilitate this increased demand and there’s concern consumers aren’t recycling these (or can’t recycle locally). On the flip side, some venues are using this as a chance to introduce compostable cups or using a deposit scheme to give out real glasses that must be returned.
What we do know is there’s still a lot to learn and as the world moves out of lockdown, there’s growing knowledge and advice on how to move forward and how to provide a safe yet sustainable experience for guests. The industry is adapting, and we’ll be watching, learning and sharing with you.