(Telegraph) – Carbon emissions — everyone’s gassing about them. Since flying is the biggest contributor to our individual footprint, flygskam – the flight shaming movement, as coined by the Swedes last year — is certainly lifting off.
But what about our carbon ‘foodprint’ when we travel? Considering food-waste emissions comprise eight per cent of the global total, whereas aviation accounts for around two per cent (according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN), maybe we should be thinking more deeply about that thing we do every day, at home, and on holiday — eating and drinking.
Think of the ecological impact of the appetite of millions of visitors to all those dreamy tropical islands that import all their comestibles.
Menus that rely on the long-distance transportation of fossil-fuel-dependent-farmed ingredients (which also require processing and storage).
Just imagining the methane generated from shipped-to-landfill leftover food from the decadent buffets alone makes my head spin.
If, like me, you’re not quite ready to surrender all your long-haul forays, at least try and pick accommodation that considers its food and beverage impact.
We’d be hard pushed to find a stronger commitment to transparency around emissions than the Soneva group.
Their Total Impact Assessment takes into account every aspect of the footprint of their resorts in the Maldives and Thailand, right down to that of their supply chain.
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Hyper-local, seasonal ingredients are always a good sign, but even better if the property references permaculture.
A Malaysian luxury resort implementing an impressive closed-loop farming and waste system which works entirely in cahoots with nature is the Datai Langkawi.
It may be the award-winning beach and nothing-is-too-much-trouble service which entices sybarites to this land of palm oil production, but explore beyond the hotel’s dramatic architecture and what has my heart fluttering is their water filtration and bottling plant, and clever wetlands which naturally purify sewage en route to the ocean.
Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort in Aruba is the Caribbean’s first and only certified carbon-neutral hotel (how that is quantified is a conversation for another day). One of their schemes is portion control.
By scaling down to “sensibly sized” servings (more European than American, as they put it themselves) they’ve slashed what’s scraped into the bin by 30 per cent — and apparently guests are into it.
So too is World Travel & Tourism Council who awarded owner Ewald Biema with a Tourism for Tomorrow Climate Action Award this year.
Meanwhile in Machu Picchu Pueblo, Inkaterra (maybe mindful of talk around Peru’s overtourism) partnered with local government to turn this city into Latin America’s first to recycle absolutely all of its solid waste.
A biodiesel plant recycles used vegetable oil from homes, hotels and restaurants, sparing the Vilcanota River from thousands of litres of dumped oil.
The hotel recently debuted an organic waste compactor which converts all biodegradable matter (including human waste) into bio-char, a fertiliser now used in reforestation.
“Zero waste to landfill” is a buzz phrase easier said than implemented. It’s complicated and fiddly — so those hotels striving for it deserve to be saluted — and to me it’s as appealing as knowing there’s an excellent spa, say.
In Wiltshire, Whatley Manor works with waste management company Grist Environmental, while The Bristol is partnered with the Gen-Eco plant in Avonmouth.
However good a hotel’s kitchen management is, there will still be peelings and plate scrapings — but if it’s destined for digesters which separate methane for power and makes by-products, such as compost, all the better.
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It’s especially impressive when you hear of farm-to-plate-to-farm happenings in London’s E20.
Thanks to The Stratford hotel’s partnership with Pale Green Dot, they get the bulk of their fruit and vegetables from their affiliate agro-ecological farm, with everything grown in compost made from their own organic scraps, with an aim to be entirely self-sufficient in time.
Patrick Powell, the acclaimed chef behind its just-opened fine-dining restaurant Allegra, only writes each week’s menu once he’s had their delivery of organic, seasonal produce — and he loves that it forces him to be more creative.
As we become more conscious of tourism’s impact it’s hard not to wince envisaging the growing mountains of uneaten food hotels around the world, every mealtime, every day.
It’s uplifting to hear about landfill-dodging initiatives such as the Winnow machines at SO Sofitel Bangkok or Armani Hotel Dubai.
For every 80kg of organic rubbish, 15kg of soil-enriching powdered compost is produced. Food-disposal costs are cut, nutrients are redirected to farms, the hotel’s carbon footprint is lowered, resulting in a perfect example of a triple bottom line: when a business’s actions are good for people, planet and profits.
In my dreams, as well as more hotels observing a circular economy, everything would soon have Impact Labelling.
These panels resembling the food nutrition information familiar from the sides of cereal boxes would mean suppliers convey a breakdown of emissions so we can make better-informed purchasing decisions.
In the meantime, we’d all do well to seek out hosts genuinely working hard behind the scenes to minimise their impact beyond installing a couple of solar panels.
Personally I don’t need more in-depth climatology reports for it to be scientifically proven that Arctic sea-ice loss is linked to anthropogenic CO2 emissions.
But as well as wagging fingers at air miles, considering our carbon foodprint could mean more nourishing travels, too.