Food Waste Diversion for Tourism Operators with Food & Beverage Service

In March 2023, we’ll celebrate the world’s very first anniversary of International Zero Waste Day on Thursday, March 30th therefore this month will point our sustainability lens toward waste reduction and diversion strategies for streams of all shapes and sizes among businesses and companies in the Canadian tourism industry. The first business type to be put under the microscope: hotels and accommodation providers.  

Did you know that 56.5 million metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions are created by food waste in Canada every year1? This quantity of emissions is equivalent to that which could be sequestered by nearly 41 forests the size of Banff National Park in the same amount of time. What proportion of that accounts for waste produced by hotels? About 3.11 million tonnes1 – the weight of about 20 cruise liners with a passenger capacity of 4,000.  

Unlike many climate scenarios, the cause for much anxiety, in this particular scenario, hotels and accommodations aren’t doomed! According to the World Resources Institute2, an estimated $5-$10 can be saved among hotels that spend $1 on food waste reduction strategies. The same WRI study also found that on average, hotels achieve a 21% reduction of food waste by weight in just one year when they prioritize waste diversion. The potential these businesses have to make an impact is substantial: 1.44 million tonnes of this waste can be avoided in the future. Hotel participation in these food waste diversion efforts would help make global progress toward the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 (as referenced in action recommendation #3, below) to reduce global per capita food waste by 50%.  

Well how?, you might ask. In Canada, hotels can choose from a variety of solution strategies that will help them rise to “save the world” fame quickly, easily and without breaking the bank.       

Top 3 Food Waste Actions to Include in Your Property’s Sustainability Action Plan

  1. Donate Surplus Food. Hotels, as well as the restaurants and businesses that may be located within them, are legally able to donate surplus food as specified under a few province-specific laws and through collaborations and partnerships that exist throughout Canada. The National Zero Waste Council provides several helpful resources for guiding hotels through this process- from educating staff, to outlining Centre for Disease Control guidelines; even providing more comprehensive guidance, no matter what questions or concerns your hotel may have (using the National Zero Waste Council’s Guidelines to Minimize Wasted Food and Facilitate Food Donations). Learn more online at National Zero Waste Council’s website to scan their resources and find exactly what you’re looking for. For those staff and individual properties a bit more weary to this process, consider registering for more coordinated and specialized guidance with the assistance of La Tablée des Chefs’ Sustainable Food Brokerage Service. This is the priority action for your hotel to take, as avoiding the problem is the industry’s first priority.
  2. Compost Food Waste. Since we cannot always avoid the problem from the source, there must be alternative solutions that come with the priority action step recommended: The next best action for hotels is to compost waste. In an industry where hiding unpleasant smells and sights is commonplace, backyard compost may not be a solution your business can consider. Canadian hotels are among the luckiest in North America, having compost waste hauler service companies and providers in every province! Visit www.compost.org to find your province on the map, and be taken to a more interactive map of service providers, regulatory information, as well as collective impact data related to this initiative as it specifically applies to your hotel’s location. For this reason, hotels and accommodations in Canada have fewer barriers than most to support waste diversion and reduce the source of some of our most potent emissions on Earth. With ample resources and opportunity, this action should be a little easier than others.
  3. Specialized Innovation. Take the Hotel Kitchen Quiz to find out how your hotel or accommodation provider can improve waste management while saving money. Visit hotelkitchen.org/take-the-quiz to share your property-specific information and become well-informed about the many opportunities that exist to make small changes and see huge impacts. Learn how much money your hotel could save by visiting the British Columbia-based Better Table commercial kitchen calculator. Review an example of hotel food waste reduction in action in The Business Case for Reducing Food Loss & Waste: Hotels: A Report on Behalf of Champions.

Written by Kate Manzer, Sustainable Tourism Specialist, GreenStep Solutions


  1. Nikkel, L., Maguire, M., Gooch, M., Bucknell, D., LaPlain, D., Dent, B., Whitehead, P., Felfel, A. (2019). The Avoidable Crisis of Food Waste: Roadmap; Second Harvest and Value Chain Management International; Ontario, Canada. <https://www.secondharvest.ca/getmedia/73121ee2-5693-40ec-b6cc-dba6ac9c6756/The-Avoidable-Crisis-of-Food-Waste-Roadmap.pdf>. 
  2. Lipinski, B., Hanson, C., Waite, R., Searchinger, T., and Lomax, J. (2013). Reducing Food Loss and Waste: Creating a Sustainable Food Future, Installment Two; World Resources Institute; Washington, D.C., USA. <https://www.wri.org/research/reducing-food-loss-and-waste>.