How to cut down on food waste at work

Whether you're in an office or a retail setting, minimising food waste can make a significant impact.

Here are ten actionable tips to help you and your colleagues cut down on food waste at work...

1. Implement a meal planning system

Creating a shared meal planning system can help ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to lunches and snacks. Coordinate with coworkers to plan meals and snacks for the week to avoid over-purchasing and duplicating items.

Tip: Use a communal whiteboard or a digital calendar where employees can sign up to bring certain meals or snacks, ensuring a variety and preventing excess.

2. Encourage mindful portions

Encourage employees to serve themselves smaller portions initially, with the option to go back for seconds if still hungry. This helps reduce the amount of uneaten food that gets thrown away.

Tip: Provide smaller plates and bowls in the office kitchen to naturally encourage smaller portions.

3. Share leftovers

Create a culture of sharing leftovers. If someone brings extra food or there are leftovers from a meeting, ensure there is a designated area where employees can place and take these items.

Tip: Set up a “free food” shelf in the office fridge clearly labeled, so everyone knows they can help themselves. Flagging any potential allergens is also a good idea.

4. Get composting

If your office doesn’t already have a compost bin, consider starting one. Composting can significantly reduce the amount of food waste sent to landfills.

Tip: Partner with a local composting service if managing a compost bin on-site is challenging, or encourage employees to take compostable materials home.

5. Store food properly

Ensure that the office kitchen has the necessary supplies to store food properly, such as airtight containers and storage bags. Proper storage can prolong the life of food items and reduce waste.

Tip: Label all shared food items with names and dates to keep track of freshness and ownership.

6. Educate employees

Raise awareness about food waste and its impact. Provide educational materials or hold brief workshops on how to reduce food waste at work.

Tip: Share tips and statistics about food waste reduction in company newsletters or on a dedicated bulletin board in the break room.

7. Keep it clean

Schedule regular cleanouts of the office fridge to prevent forgotten items from going bad and being thrown away.

Tip: Assign a rotating schedule for fridge cleanout duties to ensure it is done consistently and fairly.

8. Encourage bulk buying and sharing

Encourage buying in bulk for commonly used items like coffee, tea and snacks to reduce packaging waste. Share these items among employees to minimise the chance of individual food going to waste.

Tip: Set up a communal snack station with bulk-purchased items and encourage employees to contribute to a shared fund for replenishments.

9. Support food banks

If your workplace often has leftover food from meetings or events, consider partnering with local food donation programs. Many organisations will pick up and redistribute surplus food to those in need.

Tip: Research local food banks or shelters that accept prepared food donations and create a list of these resources for easy reference.

10. Lead by example

You can set a strong example by actively participating in food waste reduction efforts. When leaders prioritise sustainability, it encourages the entire team to follow suit.

Tip: Share personal tips and successes related to reducing food waste in team meetings or company-wide communications to inspire others.

By incorporating these strategies, your workplace can make a significant dent in food waste, promoting a more sustainable and eco-friendly environment.

Small changes can lead to big results, and with everyone’s participation, reducing food waste at work can become a seamless part of your office culture.