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Green Certification: Focus Area 7 -- Locally Grown, Organic Healthy Food

December 15, 2010

by Kit Cassingham

Buying organic food is one step in greening your inn. What you'll find as you start researching this is healthy food is easier to find when locally grown than store bought, unless of course the store is buying locally grown foods. Compost the waste of that food and you add to an eco-friendly cycle of growth that promotes healthy eating. Leading by example encourages people adopt eat better, and to avoid fast food. B&B innkeepers can be that leader as they pursue green certification.

Food is half of what your bed and breakfast promises. It seems to me it should be an excellent offering, with you providing the best food you can. That means fresh, local, organic ingredients cooked into delicious, nutritious recipes. Your food, simple or elaborate, should make people yearn for more.

It amazes me, even horrifies me at times, to see the packaged breakfast items some innkeepers serve: boxed cereals, pastries individually wrapped in cellophane, or canned juices. That's a hotel pretending to be a B&B type of breakfast! That's not the kind of breakfast that's served at a bed and breakfast that's going to have many return guests or have a great reputation.

Proper food management is one key to protecting your profits. You don't have to have packaged food to have that kind of control over your expenses. In conducting research for this article I learned that food waste is the third largest component of generated waste. (Yard waste and corrugated boxes are the two items ahead of food waste in that department. It's also the second largest component of waste that's actively discarded, following yard waste.) That means food isn't being well managed and costs are being seen in both food purchase and increased waste disposal costs.

The food that's going to provide the best flavor and the best health for you and your guests is food that's locally grown, and organic. That's the food that's going to build and spread your reputation as a great bed and breakfast. And most of the food-borne illnesses come from agribusiness sources, not the small farmer/gardener sources; that should be enough to get you to convert.

In my own experience I have found that locally grown foods last much longer than store-bought foods. That means I can better control my food costs, along with quality and flavor. So can you.

Incorporating locally grown, organic food into your operation is an easy and excellent step toward greening your bed and breakfast inn.

Green Your Inn With Local, Organic Foods


Points to help you green your inn in the food department are to use ingredients:

  • locally sourced:
    • eggs
    • dairy
    • herbs
    • produce like potatoes, tomatoes, chilies, peppers, berries
    • meat
  • organic:
    • all of the previously mentioned, plus those that aren't grown locally
  • fresh:
    • avoiding canned items to avoid the BPA (Bisphenol A is an endocrine disruptor, and often mimics the body's own hormones, possibly leading to negative health effects.) that lines most cans
    • frozen produce is sometimes fresher than fresh produce because it's often flash frozen soon after harvest
  • from your inn garden, as possible

Composting produce waste (you generally can't compost meat or dairy products) is also an important step in running a green B&B inn. You may not be in a position to do your own composting, but there are always other people around who would love to have your scraps for their compost pile, or for their livestock (pigs, goats and chickens love food scraps). The compost product can be used in your garden beds, or used by food growers to enhance their soil for their crops.

Compost is wonderful because it adds nutrients lost by the very act of growing plants. The soil texture is improved, holding moisture so plants withstand drought and heat better. And air is able to get in around the roots and plants to keep them healthy. Compost also makes a good mulch, further protecting plant roots from sun, desiccating winds, and weeds. It's better to let your food scraps go into that kind of product than be a part of the landfill problem.

Here are the benefits of buying locally grown, organic foods served in your bed and breakfast:

  • more nutritious and fresher than its standard store counterpart
  • contributes to better air and water quality
  • supports the local community

Everyone knows that salad with salad dressing on it goes bad so it's not worth saving as a leftover. Well, that's what I grew up experiencing. When I took salad from my garden to the family dinners, with my homemade pesto salad dressing, I'd make salad for everyone, not knowing which kid would eat it and which wouldn't. There were always leftovers that Mom kept, even knowing they'd be wilted and "icky" the next day. Well, it turned out to not be true! That salad would be crisp and delicious for several days, even a week, after a family gathering. The difference? The salad we bought at the store was typically weeks old before purchase and consumption, but my garden-fresh salads were hours old before consumption. It's no wonder they stayed crisp longer, even with dressing, than what we were accustomed to.

I understand most innkeepers don't serve salad as part of their breakfast menu, but it's still a great analogy for the quality you can serve your guests. With local eggs, wheat for bread and bread products, jams and honey, homemade cereal or granola, ham and other breakfast meats, and of course butter and other dairy products, you can cook and bake fabulous recipes for meals that will delight your guests. And the leftovers will be delicious too.

When you use fresh ingredients you also reduce the amount of preservatives and unhealthy ingredients that go into packaged foods. No more corn syrup, chemicals for color and flavor, or thickeners. As a society we've forgotten what food tastes like because of the processed stuff we eat, usually on the run or standing at the sink.

Locally grown food is more environmentally friendly than shipped food because it doesn't require the expense of petroleum, like food that's been shipped half way across the country, or around the world. Furthermore, the herbicides and pesticides -- processed from petroleum -- used in non-organic foods place the first negative impact on food stuffs. These chemicals also pollute the air and water where they are used, and threaten the health of the people using them (or using the air or water "downstream". Avoiding herbicides, pesticides and shipping food long distances improves the environment, a good step to take as you green your inn.

Then the actual shipping, and the refrigeration consume more petroleum. Treatments along the way to keep the food as fresh as possible also contribute to the costs associated with food production. And most food that travels like that is picked green, before it's had a chance to develop its full compliment of nutrients and flavor.

There are lots of reasons to start changing your food buying habits as part of your green certification efforts. The quality of your product will improve. You'll be more careful with production and portions to minimize waste. Your health will improve as well, supporting your innkeeping habits. And air and water quality will improve around the world.

How can you lose by providing fresh, locally sourced, organic food to your guests and family? Green certification has so many benefits.




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