Mark Newman, General Catering Manager at Thomas’ London Day Schools is sharing some of the sustainable initiatives his team has undertaken so far, to help the schools reduce their environmental impact.
Mark manages operations across Thomas’s London Day Schools, four independent, co-educational preparatory schools located at prestigious campuses, including Battersea, Clapham, Fulham and Kensington. There is also a primary academy in Fulham in addition to a kindergarten in Battersea. The schools serve over 2,000 meals a day, as well as providing further refreshments throughout the school day.
Sustainable initiatives in the kitchen
Mark says: “It’s been a few years since sustainability was placed high on the school’s agenda, with the commitment to reduce our environmental impact. From the catering point of view we have introduced a broad range of initiatives – everything from reducing meat on the menu, to cutting out plastic straws and portion pots, to rethinking waste completely.
It has been extra work for us, but not all that much. The mindset is that we’re doing this for the right reasons. The sustainability journey is an ongoing process and we are constantly looking for other areas or ways we can improve.
One early move was a switch to a supply of plant-based cleaning products, from Delphis. And we’ve got our suppliers on reduced deliveries, so our footprint on that front is relatively good.”
Pressure for change comes from several quarters, including the pupils themselves, who are following the lead of peers such as 15-year-old Greta Thunberg. “Ultimately, we have nominated eco-warriors across the school, who hold us to account.
We moved our disposables to greener products made from recycled or compostable materials, such as the range from Vegware. We then realised that, as part of our packed lunches, we were supplying the children with 330ml plastic bottles of water. Instead, we asked parents to supply their children with a reusable bottle, that they can refill. That initiative alone has removed 50,000 plastic bottles each year!
We have also switched to ecofriendly Christmas crackers. This year will be using over 3,000 of them over the course of one week when serving Christmas school lunches and all of them will be placed in the correct recycling bags..
Turning to the kitchens, we’ve worked hard to reduce packaging waste. We were serving 2,500 carton smoothies with straws each a week, as a pudding option. Instead, we decided to make our own. It was a bit of a game changer, but we’ve got better at it, and once people make it a routine, it gets easier. This has also helped us reduce food waste as we use the fruit that was not used during the breakfast serving. Then there’s yogurt, which was served in individual 2,500 cartons, and is now bought in five gallons containers, and decanted into food bowls.
Furthermore, we have also changed our menu and now one day a week is ‘meat free’. By doing this the school saves around 200kg of meat per week!
Sustainability lessons in the classroom
Our latest initiative is around reducing food waste in the classroom. The leftover food from children’s mid-morning breaks was simply going into the general black bin waste. So, we’ve introduced green bins, with compostable bags, that get returned to the kitchens for disposal to composting with our other food waste – that’s going to save a massive amount of waste. We wanted to make sure it is going back to the right place.
We’d love to spread the word about what we are doing and share our experience – not least because if more people buy the green products, we can all negotiate better prices for them!”