More and more people are thinking about what they eat, and considering the ethics of their food choices. There is growing awareness of things such as Freedom Foods, Marine Stewardship Council certified fish, food waste, and air miles. But those are all choices we make for ourselves as we shop and cook. What about when we eat out?
In theory, asking whether eggs are free range or if coffee is Fairtrade is supposed to be a good way of informing caterers that these things matter to their customers. In reality, I’ve tended to get blank looks when I’ve tried it. Most of the time waiters are not briefed on where the food comes from and do not expect the question. Ask if the fish is responsibly sourced, and they’re likely to tell you that the sauce comes on the side and you can add as much or as little as you want.
Rather than asking our own questions for every establishment we might want to frequent, it would be handy if there was a sustainability rating for restaurants, like there is for quality and hygiene. That’s the theory behind the Sustainable Restaurants Association, which launched its rating system internationally last week. Headed up by Raymond Blanc, the not-for-profit association will be helping restaurants to think through their sourcing and their energy use, and helping diners find those doing the right thing.
Like other ratings, the sustainability rating awards one, two or three stars, based on 14 different criteria. They include water and energy use, local and seasonal food, as well as social aspects such as Fairtrade and treating staff fairly. It’s also good to see responsible marketing on the list, added so that restaurants can’t overclaim on their green credentials. The full list is at the bottom of the post.
To encourage good sustainable practice, there are annual awards. If you’re wondering, the most sustainable restaurant in the country is Ode in Devon and the most sustainable pub is Preston Park Tavern in Brighton. There are also campaigns, including one that helps restaurants to reduce waste by encouraging diners to take leftovers home in a box. Since restaurants waste five times as much food as households do, that’s got to be something of a priority.
You can find out more about the Sustainable Restaurant Association here. And next time you’re planning a meal out, why not browse their directory and see if you can support a sustainable restaurant in the process.