Conestoga news

April 11, 2024 4:03 PM

Bloom restaurant’s green initiatives recognized with leadership award

Conestoga’s student-run restaurant Bloom won top honours for its green initiatives.

Bloom restaurant.jpg
Conestoga's student-run restaurant Bloom won top honours for its green initiatives.

The Waterloo campus restaurant was awarded the 2024 Green Leadership Award by Kostuch Media Ltd., publisher of Foodservice and Hospitality magazine and Hotelier magazine. The award recognizes environmental excellence and innovation within Canada’s hospitality industry and businesses that are leading the way in environmental sustainability.

“It is the focus of the Bloom Restaurant to create awareness and provide actionable guidance for students, faculty and restaurant patrons of the greenhouse gas impact of food waste, single-use plastic packaging and meal choices, to help the community make decisions based on fact-based information,” the award announcement said.

A team of Conestoga faculty, researchers and students transformed Bloom into a climate action Living Lab. Through funding provided by Colleges and Institutes Canada, the team aimed to demonstrate the impact and solutions to greenhouse emissions related to food and food waste, as well as packaging.

With their ambitious goal to include the carbon footprint of each dish by winter 2023, Bloom became the first restaurant in Canada to display greenhouse gas emissions information on its menu.

“This year’s Green Leadership Award winners reflect a comprehensive approach to promoting sustainability,” said Rosanna Caira, editor and publisher of Kostuch Media’s Foodservice and Hospitality and Hotelier magazines. “They’re leading the way in transforming their businesses while creating a more sustainable and responsible industry.”

Bloom’s executive chef Dan McCowan said the environmentally conscious approach infuses every aspect of the restaurant, including incorporating reusable packaging into its operations, and continually pushes the faculty and students to do better.

“I joined about half-way through the initial project, but it has become addictive,” McCowan said. “When I’m creating the menu, I want to see the lows become lower and I want to ensure we’re using things that are in the curriculum. We re-purpose some things that come from the butchery to use as much as we can in-house.”

Adding the greenhouse-gas icons to the menu, which denote whether a dish has low, medium or high emission levels, isn’t meant to guilt people, he said.

“The goal is to start a conversation and allow people to understand where we’re headed. We’re not trying to change the world in one day.” Nicole Detlor, director of the Conestoga Food Research & Innovation Lab, agrees. “We’re not shaming people for their meal choices,” Detlor said. “It’s about creating a moment for mindfulness and conversation.”

Conestoga was fortunate to be one of the first colleges in Canada to receive a grant through Colleges and Institutes Canada, which allowed for the hiring of student researchers who helped with the initial project research and menu labelling.

The task was daunting at first, starting in a grassroots way by scouring the literature to find credible data and then built a tool for culinary staff to use. Then they purchased Klimato software, which greatly simplifies the calculations but didn’t exist when Bloom’s green initiative began.

“Finding the initial data was challenging,” Detlor said. “For someone in the industry who wants to try and do this, it’s a daunting task. However, Klimato software is a great example of making this data accessible and meaningful. They have a great science team backing them and have added even more North American ingredients to serve our region.”

This is only the start, said Keith Müller, dean of the School of Hospitality, Culinary Arts & Food Processing Technology.

“This is a project that has brought us a long way from where we were, but we’re not stopping here,” Müller said. “Moving forward, what we’ve learned through this project will be embedded into the curriculum for students who have to do menu planning as part of their program.”

Hyatt Place Ottawa West was also honoured for its comprehensive environmental sustainability program with a Green Leadership Award. The winners will be celebrated on May 28 at the Top 30-under-30 Leadership Summit at the Sheraton Centre Hotel Toronto.

Bloom is an interactive live classroom that’s part of Conestoga’s School of Hospitality & Culinary Arts, which provides a range of programs to serve the workforce needs of the growing hospitality industry.