“This is an entrepreneur who sees a gap in the market,” says Jan Jonker, professor of sustainable entrepreneurship at Radboud University Nijmegen, (the Netherlands), and professor of social entrepreneurship & new business models at Toulouse Business School (France)..”Someone who is seriously trying to set up a business who considers all kinds of aspects surrounding sustainability. Of course that’s worthy of a compliment.”
Beer brewer Harmen van Deuren reuses wastewater and residual heat in the brewing process, as well as batteries from discarded scooters, and solar panels, and the remaining brewers’ bran, a protein-rich residual product, is sent to the cows on the nearby farm.
“You can always have reservations about initiatives like this. Like: ‘Nice that you’re trying to brew beer as sustainably as possible, but when those batteries were being made, did they have a sustainability check done as well? ‘ You can always make some kind of criticism. My question then is: What’s the point?”
According to Jonker, every entrepreneur who makes their business operations more sustainable is one more who makes the effort. “Change also happens bit by bit. The beer market doesn’t suddenly turn around. Nor the textile market. They are all kinds of pin pricks. Look at the first solar panels, for example. They appeared on the market in the Netherlands about ten years ago. I believe that there are now thousands of companies that install solar panels. The market has turned around, but that took about six years.”
Stadshaven Brewery is a great example of the transformation that is underway, Jonker adds. “It is consistent with the trend toward microbreweries.” But large brewers are also becoming more sustainable, Jonker explains. Limburg brewer Gulpener, for example, built the “most sustainable brewery in Europe.” The company is reducing their energy consumption with, among other things, a heat pump and a new technique, the Eco Stripper, which reduces the amount of brew that evaporates.
“You see the same steps coming back again and again,” says Jonker. “Your own water, your own hops, using people from the region, using as little energy as possible.” Similarly, you can brew beer from old bread, or ‘salvaged potatoes‘ to combat food waste.
That the hospitality sector in the Netherlands is gradually becoming more sustainable, is something that Minke Vorstenbosch, chair of Duurzame Horeca Nederland, also sees. “Entrepreneurs in the hospitality sector are busy. They have a lot on their minds, especially now. They often can’t achieve sustainability on their own. We help them by inspiring them with examples on our website and with projects.” For example, the waste management project. Small restaurant owners often don’t have the space for all kinds of different wheelie bins, Vorstenbosch explains. “We set up a project within the municipality of Leiden that features ‘collection heroes’. Every day, one of these collection heroes cycles around and picks up the different waste streams on a cargo bicycle.”
“We have identified the six pillars on which a hospitality entrepreneur can scan their business operations. In a few minutes, they can see where they can potentially become more sustainable.” These include energy, water, housing and staffing in addition to waste and food. “Not every entrepreneur can buy a composting machine.”
On your plate
The majority of sustainability gains are achieved when you don’t serve meat, says Vorstenbosch. “Then a lot of restaurant owners say, ‘Wait a minute, but that’s what the customers want.’ Fortunately, there are plenty of alternatives. For example, not 150 grams, but 100 grams of meat instead. Or a burger made of half-meat, half-mushrooms.”
There are more and more restaurants that have a completely vegan menu, such as Bij Albrecht in Eindhoven. “Not only is it plant-based, but also very beautifully put together.” Vegetarians nowadays don’t just have the choice of a stuffed Portobello or a goat cheese salad, Vorstenbosch goes on to say. The catering wholesaler also carries a multitude of plant-based snacks, such as flambeaus and bitterballs.
“If you are cooking with meat, then it’s good to use all parts of the animal,” he says. For example, bavette, from the flank of the cow, is regularly on the menu. “This used to end up in ragout or soup at most,” he says. And there are examples of ‘unwanted meat.’ Like the geese that fly around Schiphol Airport. These are caught and gassed, because otherwise they cause accidents with the aircraft. “You can also process them into a delicious goose pâté.”
From what is served at a table to how it got there
Or even a bottle of spring water. “Bottling, hauling and transporting spring water involves 300 times more CO2 emissions than tap water.” Duurzaam Horeca Nederland developed a campaign to inform restaurant owners that it is “not a crime to charge for tap water.” “Because service has to be paid for, those carafes cleaned, served, and they sometimes drop and break. If you explain that to the customer, serve the water with a slice of lemon and some mint, then they are quite willing to pay for it. Not particularly innovative, but definitely sustainable.”
From what is served at a table to how it got there, because a lot is possible with that too, Vorstenbosch contends. “Do you source your products from local entrepreneurs? How do you store your products? How energy efficient are your appliances? Where is your oven, stove, refrigerator?”
“Throwing something away is not something you want to do either. Do you have an overview of what is almost past its expiration date? For instance, make a daily snack in your menu. You can use what you haven’t used the previous day, or what is almost past its use-by date.”
Cafe and restaurant sidewalk terraces have been allowed to open again since April 28 here in The Netherlands. With the current weather conditions, that can be quite cold. “A blanket is a nice alternative to a heater. Although there are also infrared cushions that only heat up when you sit up against them. Or tables where the heater is integrated into the legs.”
All sorts of things are also possible with leftover products and waste, Vorstenbosch says. “Growing oyster mushrooms on coffee grounds, for example. One organization, Circ Energy, is developing a fermentation system that ferments food waste. This produces gas that can be used to cook on. Which is particularly interesting for large buffet restaurants, because you have to throw in about 50 kilos of waste a day there. “Realistic 3D models of the dishes, like those from the New York start-up Kabaq, also help to combat food waste. This allows guests to see what they can expect.”
Vorstenbosch: “A lot of people think about sustainability in terms of food and then the second thing they think about is waste. But you can still do so much more with your energy, water, cleaning agents, the insulation of your premises or your interior. What it comes down to is raising awareness, making it easier for entrepreneurs so that they know how and what they can change.”