University of Westminster

The University of Westminster and their caterer Aramark, have used the Green Kitchen Standard as a framework for improvement for their sustainability in catering. In 2018 they became the first London university to achieve the standard. Cormac Cleary, sustainability officer at University of Westminster, explains the changes the catering and University teams have made to meet the Green Kitchen Standard. 


Tell us why you opted for the Green Kitchen Standard?
Green Kitchen Standard has been a great way for us to approach our environmental management in a systematic way. We always strive to use energy and water conscientiously and segregate our waste. However, the standard has ensured that we have a framework to make sure our informal good practice is recognized, monitored and sustained. Environment is now enshrined in company policy and no longer relies on our staff going above and beyond their duties – sustainability is not an optional extra but an integral part of our operations. 

 

What have you changed to meet Green Kitchen Standard?Cooking
The scheme has helped us to identify areas we can improve on. This is particularly the case with communicating the good work we do, both to staff and customers. Green Kitchen has inspired us to broaden the reach of our communications and reach out more to our stakeholders. 

We now have written commitments to monitor and improve our performance and these have achieved commitment at all levels of our organisation. This means we have not just officially embedded sustainability in our own kitchens, but we’ll hopefully inspire other Aramark contracts to follow our lead and gain this award.

The Aramark team has been working hard at all levels and to implement our kitchen environmental management. We’ve engaged with our front of house and kitchen teams, our catering managers, our group manager and our director of operations. The University have also supported our commitment with help from the sustainability team, procurement team, estates team and campus services manager. Without cooperation between these diverse groups of people this would not have been possible. 

We’re lucky to have a very conscientious and interested team, so we didn’t need to make a lot of big changes to the way we work day to day – it has instead been about making sure to standardise best practice across all sites and develop a system to formalize all the good work we were already doing. 

What was your biggest challenge?

As a large operation, where we serve 20,000 students and 2,000 staff across four campuses dispersed around London. It’s a big, diverse group of staff with very different roles and schedules, so establishing a system and schedule to train everyone on the standard and their responsibilities has been a challenge due to the scale of the operation. To address this, we now delivery our staff training in small groups during quiet periods and ensuring the training is meaningful and valuable. 
Another challenge was to build a kitchen-specific system to track our progress on waste, water and energy. We collated data from our waste contractor, our energy monitoring system, our tills, and our daily kitchen reports, as well as carrying out regular inspections of kitchen operations. Each of our sites have their own identities, so it has been challenging to understand how to implement a consistent system across the university estate. Utility monitoring differs at different sites and so was the main reason we started carrying out site inspections monthly. This way we can pick up on qualitative utility use issues at all sites to supplement our incomplete quantitative data and get a true idea of how we are performing 


What is next for Aramark and the University of Westminster?
We are proud to be the first University in London to achieve this award and feel inspired to look at our food service sustainability and are currently working towards achieving our Food for Life Bronze Award to expand our sustainability practises.

What’s your advice for others going for the Green Kitchen Standard?

  • Regular check-ups are essential – Staff are busy and old habits die hard, so don’t expect to implement something new overnight. Inspect your sites regularly to make sure that new recycling bin is collecting waste and not just collecting dust in the corner.
  • Collaborate – Implementing the standard has been a real team effort - we could never have achieved this without the dedication of both Aramark and the University of Westminster. 

"We feel inspired to look at our food service sustainability"Cormac Cleary (Sustainability Officer, Westminster University)

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