Tags Posts tagged with "Green"

Green

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food truck food waste

Since the mobile food industry exploded in 2008 many food truck owners have looked for ways to go green, many have chosen a systems type approach that reduces the amount of waste that comes out of their trucks and turns up in landfills.

Although composting and recycling programs are great for the planet, some mobile food vendors have found that controlling the amount of food that becomes waste in the first place can be more cost-efficient.

So what is the best strategy in managing food waste in your food truck?   Reducing, preventing and minimizing food waste at the source.

But what is the source of the waste? Pinpointing the areas that waste is produced the most is best done through food waste tracking. Without tracking, it is difficult to diagnose problem areas or measure your truck’s improvement.  With tracking, it is easy to point the main sources of waste and determine the best avenue to correct them.  The bottom-line is the food waste tracking is a must-do if you want to reduce the amount of waste coming from your mobile food business.

Pre-Customer vs. Post-Customer Food Waste

There are two types of food waste.  Pre-Customer food waste (waste from your commercial and food truck kitchens) is food that your food truck staff throws away due to overproduction, trimming, or handling issues.  Post-Customer food waste is food that customers leave on their plates and throw away.  Food truck vendors have more ability to control pre-customer food waste because they control what happens in their kitchens.

Tracking Food Pre-Customer Waste 

Pre-Customer food waste should be tracked every day.  Every item thrown away by your employees should be recorded in a tracking logbook.

Tips: 

  • Track pre-customer food waste at the time of disposal.  Record the waste in the logbook immediately after placing it in the trash.
  • If you have set up an agreement with a local food bank where your excess food can be donated, record these donations in your waste logbook immediately after dropping it off.
  • Record the type of food and the reason why it is being wasted in the logbook.  These are the two most important pieces of information that will reveal opportunities for change.
  • Record how much of each menu item is being wasted.
  • Owners or truck managers should review yesterday’s waste logbook at the beginning of the following day’s shift.
  • The top 5 waste items should be discussed with the team at pre-shift meetings. Ask the team for ideas to reduce the waste.
  • Review progress on the Top 5 items every week until the amounts drop.
  • If you have time, keep an Excel spreadsheet with your daily waste totals so you can track your progress.

Tracking Food Post-Customer Waste 

  • Because many food truck customers take their order with them and may not use your food truck’s waste container, this tracking is not going to be exact, but at the same time, it will give you an idea of the amount of food that is being wasted.
  • Post-Customer Food Waste should be tracked periodically, usually once per month.
  • Use your waste logbook just as you do with pre-customer food waste.
  • Post-Customer food waste includes many different foods as well as the food containers and utensils, it will not be possible to track specific amounts of foods or loss reasons unless you separate your trash.  Instead, track the number of trash bags used per shift. If you only use one trash bag, throw it on a scale and weigh them.
  • Keep a record of total weight or count of post-customer food waste in an Excel sheet.
  • When tracking post-customer waste, always do it on a busy day and track future measurements on the same day of the week.  Using this approach, you will have comparable data.
  • Make sure to look at the food in the garbage and note any trends.  There may be items that customers do not like which should be removed from the menu.  In other cases, you may find portions need to be adjusted to avoid waste.

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tip of the dayMany of the food trucks traversing the streets use cooking oil to prepare the food they serve. Dealing with used oil can be a problem if you don’t know what to do with it.

Depending on your volume and location, you can likely get free pickup of used cooking oil (called “yellow grease”) and may even be able to sell it as small but welcome additional revenue stream.

There are plenty of vendors interested in yellow grease, ranging from large companies to food and delivery trucks running on bio-fuel, that paying for carting these days should be a last resort. The vendors are able to start-up their oil filtering business by purchasing the filters and pumps to clean the oil can for about about…$700.

If you look at the price of diesel fuel these days (3 -4 dollars a gallon) they are able to convert it and save about $120 a week in fuel costs.

Another reason for donating used cooking oil is that it is the most significant thing a food truck can do if they are interested in the environment and being green. Bio diesel emissions are 90% less toxic than petroleum based diesel.

Use a licensed and insured vendor and get on a regular schedule. One 35-pound carton of frying oil yields about five gallons of yellow grease. To fill a 55-gallon drum, calculate, on average how long it takes your food truck operation to go through 12 containers of oil (keeping in mind the last one is in the fryer) and schedule pickups accordingly.

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In our Under the Hood section today we will look at not only helping food truck owners save a few bucks over the lifespan of their food truck, but will also provide a way to make your food truck a little more environmentally friendly.  One of the easiest parts to swap out in a food truck is its air filter. A quick pop of the hood and the loosening of a couple of clamps or a wing nut and you simply reach in and pull out the old air filter. Next, open the box up containing your new air filter; pop it into place, secure everything and you are done.

reusable-air-filter

Maybe five or ten minutes are all it takes to accomplish this job. So, why is it that everyone doesn’t change their own air filter? More importantly, why don’t more people opt for environmentally friendly air filters, commonly known as “green” air filters? You can install a green air filter yourself and do much more than keep the air clean in the process.

So, what is a “green” air filter? A green air filter is an environmentally friendly air filter. No, they aren’t usually green as the color green is what signifies that the product works in harmony with nature.

Several advantages to installing a green or reusable air filter:

Once is Enough

With a reusable air filter, you never have to buy another air filter again for your rolling kitchen. Periodically, all you would have to do is take the air filter out, clean it, and then re install it. Many reusable air filters, are made of a washable cotton gauze material. Cotton is one of the most durable materials on earth and thus is able to handle consistent cleaning and reuse.

Save the Landfills

In many states, disposing of trash has become a big problem. You can do your part by not adding to the problem. Just think about it: over the lifespan of your food truck you could easily add 10 or more air filters and boxes to the city dump. With a reusable air filter, you will be adding one box, and that is all.

Engine Runs Better

A deep pleat in a reusable air filter means better filtration: your food truck’s engine “breathes” better with a higher quality, natural product. As you may know, an efficient engine uses less fuel too.

Some may say that a reusable air filter will cost you more, and in most cases they would be correct since most are approximately two to four times the price of a throw away air filter. However, you will recoup that money over time and do your part in showing environmental responsibility. Who can put a price on all of that? Go green and make a difference today!

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tip of the dayDriving technique has a lot to do with your fuel economy. Avoid sudden starts and stops and go the speed limit. Not only does speeding and herky-jerky driving kill your MPG, it is dangerous.

Even if no one gets hurt in a fender bender, how green is it to get a new bumper or have your truck re-painted or re-wrapped? As a general rule of thumb, keep your engine speeds between 1,200 – 3,000 RPMs, and up-shift between 2,000 – 2500 RPMs (if applicable). Also, drive wise and minimize unnecessary miles by doing errands in in your truck. Use your personal vehicle (which in almost every case will be much more green than your truck) to drive anywhere other than the commissary or your next truck stop.

 

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Green trends are flourishing in all divisions of the foodservice industry (including the mobile food industry) as consumers demand more environmentally friendly products. According to the 50 percent of American adults said that when selecting products, a business, restaurant, or a mobile food vendor to visit, the topic of sustainability at times influences their choices.

green-bottom lineFor food truck owners, going green may impress customers but it also serves a more practical purpose: It will benefit your bottom line.

Here are five tips to consider when implementing sustainable practices in your mobile food business:

Source food and ingredients locally. Choosing locally sourced foods lessens your carbon footprint while boosting the local economy. Many food trucks are already seeing the benefits: locally sourced meats and seafood topped menu trends for 2013, according to a National Restaurant Association survey.

Choose green vendors: A recent report indicated that 77 percent of American businesses consider a vendor’s commitment to sustainability a “somewhat important” factor when deciding to purchase products or services. To ‘green’ your food truck, choose vendors and suppliers that also have green programs and processes in place. Third-party certifications like Green Seal or EcoLogo can help you determine those vendors.

Improve kitchen culture. According to a 2012 white paper by the Natural Resources Defense Council, 4 – 10 percent of food purchased by restaurants becomes kitchen loss (edible and inedible) before reaching the consumer. This number should be headed by food truck owners as well. You should educate and monitor employees in your mobile kitchen area to reduce the food waste that occur from poor cooking and cleaning habits.

Cleaning green: Certain cleaning products and chemicals can be hazardous to the environment and harmful to your health. Mobile food vendors should take the appropriate steps to incorporate green cleaning products into their maintenance plans to reduce sick leave and productivity loss from ill employees.

Save paper: In addition to using recycled paper products, food truck owners should also make an effort to minimize paper waste. One-at-a time napkin dispensers control napkin consumption and reduce overall paper usage. Some brands of napkin dispensers  can reduce paper usage by 25 percent.

While sustainability might not directly drive your mobile food business, it can still be a cornerstone to your business practices. The reward is recognition from customers, repeat visits to your service window and an opportunity to build brand loyalty for your food truck.

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tip of the dayDisposing of used vegetable oil has always been an issue in the mobile food industry.  In recent years it has gotten easier with the increasing demand for biodiesel.  Now many food trucks and commercial kitchens depend on free pickup services by biodiesel companies as a convenient and cheap way to dispose of their waste fryer oil.  Some even pay to have it hauled away.

But what if you could take that oil and use it to help yourself or your commercial kitchen to save money, instead of just giving it away? The Vegawatt power system uses vegetable oil to generate electricity and pre-heat water going to your water heater.  It’s a self-contained unit that doesn’t require any special skills.  It’s as simple as adding your oil, and cleaning the unit from time to time.

The savings on your kitchen’s electricity and hot water bills can be significant.  Vegawatt says the unit can save a business about $800 a month in electricity bills, although that does include a $100 per month renewable energy rebate from local government, which may or may not exist in your area.  Smaller operators probably don’t generate enough oil to take advantage of the Vegawatt power system, and the company recommends the machine for establishments that have 3 – 5 deep fryers and generate at least 50 gallons of waste oil a week.  If you truck fleet does or your commissary or shared use kitchen generate that much oil, you can realize a return on investment in 2 – 3 years.

Your used vegetable oil is now worth a lot more to you if you keep over giving it or selling it to a biodiesel company or paying to dispose of it.  It’s pretty amazing what a little ingenuity can do for a lifelong problem in the restaurant business.  Of course, there is some up-front investment required here, something that doesn’t sound very appealing, especially in a tight economy.  Vegawatt does offer a leasing program as well, and you’ll be saving more than the cost of the monthly lease. So even if you own a single food truck and work out of a commercial kitchen, speak with your landlord. They may be able to install this system, and at the same time, offer you a discount rate on your rent, or even a cut on the profits they make from installing a Vegawatt system.

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A lot about the white-hot food truck industry might seem inherently greener. Trucks are smaller than restaurants, go directly to their customers, and often source local ingredients. But is buying your lunch from a truck really better for the environment than buying it from a bricks-and-mortar restaurant? Might it, in fact, be worse?

union kitchen commercial kitchen
Washington, D.C.’s Union Kitchen, a commissary used by Curbside Cupcakes and TaKorean food trucks. (Sara Johnson)

Pitting food trucks against bricks-and-mortar lunch spots on their relative greenness isn’t a simple task. Food trucks tend to operate for only a few hours a day and focus on just one meal, while bricks-and-mortar locations generally offer a wider menu, stay open longer and can see several surges of customers throughout the day. Location and corresponding foot traffic also play a role, as trucks have the ability to drive — on-demand — to their customers, while traditional restaurants must rely on traffic from a set location.

Further complicating the comparison is that many cities require truck operators to prepare their food out of a commissary or approved shared kitchen facility. In Washington, D.C., for example, truck owner Che Ruddell-Tabisola of BBQ Bus cooks out of a catering kitchen in Alexandria, Virginia, which means he drives his truck to and from downtown D.C. each day.

Perhaps the biggest eco-con for food trucks is the amount of off-the-grid fuel needed for both running the truck itself and powering the generator to run any on-board cooking equipment. But the degree of on-board power use can vary widely depending on the food served and what type of cooking is done on the truck itself. Kim Ima, owner of New York City’s The Treats Truck, bakes all of her cookies, cupcakes, and other baked sweets in her bricks-and-mortar shop in Brooklyn, so her generator only needs to power a hand washing sink, lights, and the cash register on the truck itself.

There are other factors that contribute to environmental footprints that are shared by both standing and moving restaurants. To-go containers and corresponding trash, for instance.

As for bricks-and-mortar restaurants on their own, a 2011 report [PDF] on restaurant energy benchmarking by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory notes a variety of factors that influence their energy consumption:

Over the past 20 years, the typical floor plate size has changed (often shrinking), and the number of meals served at each store has increased. Hours of operation, operational practices, and the number and type of appliances also have a discernable influence on energy use. The authors’ experience has shown that the absence or presence of seating in conditioned space, location and customer traffic patterns, climate zone, absence or presence of automated control systems (time clocks, building energy management systems), facility type (stand-alone building, interior space in a larger building, etc.), type of walk-in refrigeration, and the amount of outside and parking lot lighting included in the utility bill are also factors.

Find the entire article by Sara Johnson at The Atlantic Cities <here>

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Green Truck Moo

While some of you might think that this food truck owner went a bit too far to make sure the truck is green, this customer thinks they did a moovelous job.

So what do you suppose is on the menu that’s gourmet? Lemongrass?

 

 

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When a discussion on food trucks comes up, the first words that will typically pop into your head might be anything from “delicious” to “roach coach” but to many they don’t tend to think about “ sustainability.” The problem with this thinking is…it’s wrong! Food trucks and their owners are joining the ranks of urban farms and gardens in changing and greening the urban food scene.

green_truck

Considering the perils of drive-through restaurants and eating in cars, it may seem counterintuitive but there are many environmental, economic, social and nutritional benefits to these mobile bistros. While it’s true that many food trucks travel to different locations, emitting greenhouse gas emissions along the way, when you compare them to their brick and mortar counterparts, their carbon footprints are actually pretty small. Restaurants use a ton of electricity, water and cleaning services, and in many cases import their ingredients from all over the world (thankfully this trend is changing). Food trucks are forced by their size to conserve resources like water, and while they may move around town, most tend to park in locations with good foot traffic and move only once or twice a day.

Every food truck generates tax revenue for the city and employs local residents (even if many restaurant owners are trying to tell their politicians something different) and doesn’t need much in regards to infrastructure. The positive impacts on the city extend far beyond economics—mobile eateries also can help increase access to healthy, culturally-appropriate foods in low-income, underserved neighborhoods. And, on top of that, they foster a more lively street scene and social awareness of food production and consumption.

Many food truck vendors practice good green habits, but it’s the ones who employ these components that should receive two thumbs-up for sustainability:

  • The use of locally farmed ingredients.
  • The use of organic ingredients.
  • The use of fair trade products.
  • Trucks fueled with biodiesel or vegetable oil.
  • Trucks with zero-emissions systems.
  • The use of propane and rechargeable batteries.
  • The use of solar power.
  • Packaging and utensils that are either recyclable or compostable.
  • Organic and compostable items given to farm or composting facility.
  • No idling engine.

So how well does your food truck fit into the “sustainable” category? Based on this criteria, do you think food trucks should be able to become certified as green?

Should Food Trucks be able to Achieve a National Certified Green Rating?

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“Farm to truck” isn’t a new concept to the mobile food industry, but at the same time, it is a term that some food truck owners aren’t aware of. This is a concept of purchasing locally grown food directly from the source. The term which was adapted from “farm to table” comes from the idea that with less time and fewer hands for the food to get from the farm to the food truck, the fresher, more environmentally sensitive and community minded it is. This can include growing your own garden for sustainable consumption at home or for your mobile food business.

food farm food truck
FoodFarm Food Truck from San Diego, CA

Outside of the fact that you can greatly impact the economy of your community, health of your customers as well as the bottom line of your food cost budget as a result of buying from a local farm as your main food supplier, some of the benefits that come from the farm to truck concept are:

  • Support the local economy. Money stays within your community, which in turn directly supports your food truck business. Advertise the information about the farm that grows your food. Engage your customers with your locally-minded concept and inspire your neighbors to support local commerce as well.
  • Keep inventory longer. Food that is purchased directly from the farm will naturally last longer on your storage shelves. It hasn’t spent time in a processing plant or on a delivery truck during the shipping process. It came straight from the ground to you, meaning you just bought yourself more time to think creatively.
  • Invest in value. Many local farmers will compete with nationally recognized grocery store chains, but at times may charge a bit more because the quality of product that is being sold may be greater. Local produce and meat is more likely to be organic which increases the value of your menu.
  • Create a local partnership. Building a business partnership between your business and local farmers, and other food trucks that support local business, can create a marketing network that promotes and sustains the local economy.

While it may seem as though there is no reason to join this movement, it isn’t without it’s challenges:

  • Buying meat locally. Buying locally raised and processed meat, fish and poultry can be challenging. The U.S. Department of Agriculture restricts the number of birds a farmer can process on site and does not allow any red meat processing for small farm operations. Because of this, the meat may have been locally and organically raised with an emphasis on humane standards, but the slaughter and processing of the meat animals are probably (with the exception of poultry) handled off site.
  • Finding off-season produce. There will be periods between planting and harvesting when produce may not be as bountiful. However, many farmers do have greenhouses where produce can be grown during colder months. Discuss off-season options with your partnered farmer or farmers ahead of time to avoid lack luster deliveries.
  • Setting-up in the city. Maybe there isn’t a farm just down the road from where your food truck operates. This is the case for many mobile food businesses, but chances are there is a farm within a reasonable enough distance to your urban area. Visit your local farmer’s market and inquire about locations. Learn about delivery options for your establishment, or show up early and stock up weekly at the market.

If you are interested in getting started, try one of these organizations:

Farmtotableonline.org

Sustainabletable.org

Americanfarmtotable.com

The farm to truck (table) business model supports your local ecology and economy. Many food truck owners who have joined this movement have also developed composting programs to assure that their business stays green from start to finish. Consider buying locally to strengthen your neighboring rural community as well as your immediate neighborhood’s economy.

Is your food truck already using the farm to truck concept? Share your story with us in the comment section below.

 

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