How to reduce the carbon footprint of your café

We run through some simple actions that you can take in order to reduce your café’s carbon footprint.

Reducing the carbon footprint of your café will not only help to improve you and your business’ sustainability credentials, but it will also help to reduce your customers’ environmental impact.

You might not think that your café has a massive impact on the environment. However, the hospitality industry is responsible for up to 15% of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK, so it’s important that each business in the industry, no matter how small, does their bit to reduce their carbon footprint.

So, without further ado, here are some ways that you can easily reduce the carbon footprint of your café.

Reduce your food waste

Not only could food waste be costing your business money, but it’s also a huge problem for the environment. UK cafés, pubs, restaurants, and hotels produce a massive 600,000 tonnes of food waste per year. If we stopped wasting food altogether, we could reduce human-caused greenhouse gas emissions by up to 8%!

Maybe your customers are often unable to finish their meals or the ingredients in your store cupboard expire faster than you can use them up — whatever the case may be, it’s important to figure out where your food waste is coming from and how much you’re wasting. Once you know this, there are a number of simple ways you can quickly reduce your food waste:

  • Do regular stock takes so you’re aware of what you already have and so you don’t buy too much that you will inevitably have to throw away.
  • Downsize your menu to offer fewer items so you have fewer ingredients to worry about wasting.
  • Reduce the portion sizes of meals that you offer to your customers.
  • Offer doggy bags to your customers to take away the food that they were unable to finish.
  • Research local food banks or charities where you can donate food to. The Trussell Trust, which allows you to easily locate and contact food banks near you, is a good starting point.

It’s not realistic to suggest that your café will be able to eliminate food waste altogether. Ensure that you’re composting as much waste as you can in order to minimise its impact on the environment.

If you’re already confident in your café’s food-saving practises, WRAP’s Guardians of Grub campaign offers resources to help reduce your food waste even further.

Source food from local suppliers

Buying food locally has obvious benefits for your carbon footprint — food that has travelled further to get to your café will have been responsible for more emissions on its journey. The fact that your café supports local farmers and uses local produce, which is also likely to be fresher and may even taste better, is also a great selling point and may help to attract more customers.

Do some research into your local food producers and see what ingredients you might be able to start sourcing locally. If you need help in your search, check out BigBarn for their directory of farm shops and farmers markets near you.

Image credit: Pexels

Reduce the impact of your energy usage

The energy supply sector, including electricity and heat, is responsible for 35% of total greenhouse gas emissions. Making some small changes to your energy usage will probably have a huge impact on your carbon footprint:

  • Switch to LED lighting — LED bulbs use 75% less electricity than incandescent bulbs, and a global switch to LED lighting could save 1.4 billion tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.
  • Switch to a green energy supplier, like Octopus.
  • Do some research into your options in terms of appliances — there may well be more energy efficient substitutes for the ones that you’re currently using.

Reduce your use of plastic

We all know how damaging plastic waste is for ocean ecosystems, but it’s also a massive contributor to carbon emissions. Plastic emits up to 7 times more CO2 per kilo than cardboard, 8 times more than Kraft paper, and 100 times more than bagasse!

There are a variety of easy ways you can reduce your café’s use of plastic:

  • Only give disposable cutlery to your customers when asked. For online orders, include a checkbox for your customers to request cutlery.
  • Find biodegradable replacements for the plastic that you use. For example, you can use compostable takeaway containers instead of plastic clamshells, or dried spaghetti as stirrers for hot drinks.
  • Charge your customers for disposable cups and consider stocking reusable cups so your customers can buy them in store.
Image credit: Pexels

Reduce the amount of meat meals on your menu

Meat and other animal products are responsible for 58% of food-related greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. In European diets, meat, dairy, and eggs make up 83% of dietary emissions.

However, you don’t need to eliminate all the meat from your menu to make a difference to your carbon footprint. For a start, you could try participating in Meatless Monday.

It’s also important to note that some types of meat are far more harmful to the environment than others – beef, for example, emits nearly 60kg of CO2 per kilo of product, while each kilo of pork and poultry both emit less than 10kg CO2. If you want to cut the carbon footprint of your menu while keeping the meat options, try swapping beef or lamb dishes for pork and poultry ones.

Carbon label your menu

Carbon labelling is a great way to encourage your customers to make more sustainable choices, as well as to reduce your café’s carbon footprint. After the Swedish chain, MAX Burgers, introduced carbon labels to their menu in 2008, their sales of more climate-friendly burgers increased by 15%.

You may be able to work out the carbon footprint of the items on your menu yourself, or emissions consultancy companies like My Emissions can help you.


You don’t need to adopt the methods we’ve listed in this article all at once in order to reduce your café’s carbon footprint. Instead, you can locate the areas where your café’s environmental impact could be reduced significantly by taking our Net Zero Scorecard. Once you know where you can make a real difference in reducing your carbon footprint, you can take action without having to worry about wasting your efforts.

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