Hurtling rapidly towards the year 2020, we are becoming more conscious than ever of the impact our actions have on the environment, and reducing environmental impact in baking.
This can be easier said than done in the baking and hospitality industry as professionals endeavour to ensure industry standards are met and, where it is in place, HACCP regulations aren’t being violated.
Chocolatier, pastry chef and cooking school owner Jessica Pedemont says there are a lot of small changes industry professionals can make within these restrictions to reduce waste and make as minimal an impact on the environment as possible.
One of the major issues Jessica has seen in her time working in kitchens is energy wastage, with many commercial kitchens running appliances that aren’t being used as a matter of convenience, and this provides inspiration to make small, sustainable changes in her own home and workplace.
Everything is considered, even down to light switches, she says.
If no one’s using a piece of machinery like a fridge, we would have the switch switched off at the point, because even the switch being flicked generates power.
It’s a small change to make, but a good habit Jessica believes everyone should be doing, even just at home.
You don’t have to have a conscious mind wanting to do something right, she says.
If we’re going to use a machine, we turn the power on—we turn it off at the switch and we turn it on at the switch.
It’s good to not have that energy engaged for no reason.
Jessica thinks that while saving money tends to be a good motivator for most people to make more energy-conscious choices, busy lifestyles, convenience, and carelessness are factors in not doing as much as we could be.
Everyone’s talking about what we’re doing to the environment, what we’re doing to our planet and that it’s not sustainable.
A lot of people leave burners running and leave ovens on when they’re not using it because they feel it’s convenient.
It was very much a practice when I was in restaurants where whoever was in to start the shift lit all the pilots and baking might even have all the ovens turned on.
It’s a tricky one. These days there’s better quality equipment out there that has really fast recovery time and is energy efficient.
Of course, updating equipment to the latest in energy saving can be a huge investment and isn’t always feasible, especially for small business owners, but Jessica says that properly maintaining the baking equipment you have can also make a big difference to energy consumption and running costs.
Check all the gaskets on your fridges and ovens once a year at least to ensure they’re not frayed, and they’re not weathered or stretched, she advises.
Especially with ovens, all the baking and heating, and cooling and heating and cooling—the rubbers only last so long and the same thing with fridges; if it’s worn out, the machines just keep sucking more juice.
And defrost the freezers if needed—that goes for domestic appliances as well.
Jessica tries to implement these practices at home too and encourages the whole household to think about the greater impact of their actions. As far as waste in the cooking school goes, she says they are practicing mindfulness with everything, from the amount of waste generated to the types of soaps and detergents used.
There’s no question that waste is a huge issue in the baking food industry and one that is really difficult to avoid because much of it depends on suppliers and regulations around hygiene—especially in HACCP accredited workplaces.
“I’ve worked in kitchens with HACCP in place, and there are certain protocols that we had to follow no matter what,” Jessica explains.
There was definitely some reasonable sense in it, but some of it’s just to create blanket rules over everything and that there’s a system in place and if everyone’s following it, it should be minimising bacteria spreading or contamination and everyone’s got a higher standard of hygiene.
Things like, they’ll have an area where you wash your hands and whether it’s automated to drop the soap or you press it with your elbow or something like that, so your hand doesn’t even touch where you press the soap and then you wash and you dry with paper towel—it has to be disposable. “You would then follow up with sanitiser— same scenario with the automatic dropping thing or you’d press it with your elbow or something like that to keep that whole sanitised kind of continuity there.
But if you were to do those sorts of things, you could very well have a bin there just for paper towel, and then that paper towel could be recycled rather than just going into general waste.
Jessica goes on to explain that her current kitchen doesn’t have HACCP in place because she is not engaged with any clientele that would require it—places like hospitals, airlines, or big chain hotels—so she has some more room to move in making moves to more sustainable ways of operating.
We’re a clean kitchen and we have everything in order and we do have minimal baking waste, she said.
As far as waste in the cooking school goes, Jessica says they are practicing mindfulness with everything, from the amount of waste generated to the types of soaps and detergents used.
Without HACCP in place, they have a little more flexibility in their choices and are able to use cloth towels and aprons that can be washed and reused rather than disposable aprons, and individual tea towels for students to use to dry their hands, saving a lot of paper towels.
We noticed a significant reduction in the amount of paper towels that ended up in the bin at the end of the day, she says.
And we used to supply bottled water as well as glasses, and we just saw the amount of bottles at the end of the day, and especially bottles that weren’t even half drunk.
So we just totally moved to glasses only, and we had water in the fridge in jugs and even all the tea and coffee facilities; we’ve never had anything disposable.
We’ve always had real cutlery, real glasses, real mugs, real plates, real bowls.
They’re small things, but at the end of the day they do add up and we don’t have much rubbish.
Some waste is unavoidable, but Jessica ensures anything that can be recycled is recycled.
Our jute bags that the raw cacao comes in, we recycle those, we give them back to the person that sends them down to us—they’re not single use, she says.
Even though they were an expensive investment, we can keep reusing those. There’s no time limit on them.
When we do the chocolate work like I said, all the bags get recycled, the sugar bags can be used as waste paper bins to put rubbish in anyway, and pretty much everything we get we can reuse.
All the cacao shell is either composted or people buy it so that doesn’t get wasted, all the chocolate gets used, all the sugar gets used—we don’t really have much waste.
We have less waste than we would at home.
Excess packaging is a more difficult issue to mitigate, as much of it depends on the suppliers.
“With the cooking school, the food (waste) wasn’t the problem,” Jessica says.
It was more things like say, cake boards.
Most of the brands individually wrap a cake board, they put a little sheet of branding in there, and then when you’re buying a 10-pack they’re suctioned together in plastic again, and when you’re buying a box of all that, there’s the box.
The box can be recycled or reused, but all that plastic… we couldn’t really do anything with it.
They don’t need to be baking individually wrapped, but they want to individually wrap it because if someone’s buying it in a retail store, individually, then they’re already pre-packaged with their branding.
Even working in kitchens with HACCP in place, Jessica says it’s still possible to be mindful about the way you’re using products throughout the day to minimise waste.
We had plastic bags, but we used to think about what our daily routine was and we would reuse everything we could to the point where it wouldn’t be acceptable, she explains.
We’d kind of use it for different things throughout the day, without it getting contaminated, and we’d wait until the baking bag busted or we’d finish with a particular recipe that couldn’t contaminate another recipe.
It was pretty detailed, but it was the best we could do in that situation.
There’s a lot of single use plastic. Each individual plastic apron is in a plastic bag.
It’s a tough situation.