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6 Simple Ways to Make Business Travel More EcoFriendly

With business travel back in full swing, many of us are on the road or in airplanes travelling to our in-person meetings, conferences or trade shows. With our tight travel schedules, we are constantly on the move and as a consequence, we are buying and disposing of things out of convenience and consuming inefficiently.

Although we can’t control every aspect of our travel activity, we can modify our behaviour and make choices that support a more eco-friendly way. For example, choosing rideshare, selecting green certified accommodations, or using biodegradable travel products while travelling can still contribute to the environmental cause. Here are 6 ways to make business travel more sustainable.


Choose a Green Certified Hotel

Choosing a green certified hotel is ideal but may not always be practical for your unique travel situation. But if it makes sense for your travel plans, consider booking a green certified hotel.  

The hospitality industry, particularly hotels, are one of the biggest contributors to waste and energy consumption. According to a 2018 report by Green Lodging News, the average hotel guest generates approximately 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) of waste per night, and about 30% of that waste is made up of plastic. The international hotel industry uses 150 million tons of single-use plastic every year with less than 10% of plastics recycled correctly. 

In recent years, there’s been a growing number of hotel chains enrolling in eco-certification programs to show their commitment to sustainability. The Global Sustainable Tourism Council sets the standard for sustainable travel and tourism and acts as the international accreditation body for these sustainability certification programs. Three of the most recognized green certification programs in North America include Green Globe, EarthCheck, and Green Key with many more listed on the US Environment Protection Agency (EPA) website.

Hotels that participate in green certification programs are accountable to maintaining a sustainable operation which includes the reduction of waste, resource consumption and the use of environmentally friendly products. Well-known hotel brands participating in eco certification programs include the Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, Hilton Hotels, Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants, InterContinental Hotels (IHG), Starwood Hotels which include the Marriott and Sheraton brands to name a few. Making a commitment to choose green certified accommodations is a step in the right direction.


Bring your Own Toiletries

We love the little gifts we get in the bathroom especially when we forget to bring our own toiletries but the each year, 980 tonnes of travel sized plastic containers are dumped in landfills. Plastic toiletry bottles are a huge contributor to hotel solid waste. Many hotels have started to replace these small bottle toiletries with refillable glass bottles affixed to the shower wall that contain shampoo, conditioner, and shower gels. 

ecofriendly business travel green sustainable toiletries

The Marriott chain, for example, has eliminated the tiny disposable plastic toiletries from its 1,000 properties in North America which translates to saving the landfill from 500 million small bottles or 1.7 million pounds of plastic. 

Travel responsibly by bringing your own reusable small glass bottles and refill them with your own liquids instead of relying on hotels to provide these to you.


Reuse and Reduce Energy and Water Consumption

When travelling, some of us like to take advantage of the convenience that housekeeping offers. Replenishing our rooms with new linens and bath towels whenever we want, getting a towel for every part of your body and taking a special towel for different activities like fitness and swimming. Some of us are guilty of over consumption and unnecessary water and energy waste.

Water scarcity is a global concern and is a sustainability issue. The tourism and travel industry, specifically hotels and their guests, contribute to the water scarcity problem. According to Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, a hotel can use an average of 1,500 liters of water per room per day. In some regions, where there is water scarcity, mismanaged water consumption exacerbates the issue. Many green certified hotels are now tackling this problem with stricter regulations and policies.

Frequent visits by housekeeping to change bed sheets and replace soiled towels leads to more laundry which translates to more water and energy consumption. While on business travel, reusing towels as much as possible, or bringing your own towels will help reduce the need for laundry services during your stay. 


Dine-In to Reduce Disposable Plastic Waste

When you are on-the-road running a tight schedule full of meetings, it is hard to resist ordering take-out or delivery from fast food restaurants. It’s convenient, affordable and fits your schedule. But unfortunately, your take-out order uses a food container that is made of some material that will end up in the landfill and will take years to decompose. While many states have banned the distribution of plastic-based food containers and cutlery, many dining establishments continue to pollute the environment with non-biodegradable products and their choices are simply out of our control.


ecofriendly business travel green sustainable toiletries restaurant dine-in

Restaurants and food service businesses spend about $24 billion on disposable products each year and throw away nearly 9 million tons of disposable food ware and packaging. According to National Geographic, the restaurant industry generates about 78% of all disposable food packaging waste in the US and uses more than 36 billion disposable utensils each year. 

Five states have banned the purchase and distribution of foam and polystyrene restaurant products which include Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Vermont. Many restaurants have started to replace plastic cutlery, straws and stir sticks with organic materials made of bamboo and other wood products. 

With these laws left at the state and municipal level, there is inconsistency across the country and a lack of consolidated effort to reduce plastic pollution. However, as an individual, you can still make a positive impact and minimize plastic waste by choosing to dine-in and use reusable versus disposable tableware products provided by the restaurant. It may not always be practical to use your own glass food containers to package leftovers nor to bring silverware for the road, choosing to dine-in is a way to reduce food packaging waste and reduce the overall demand for materials that are harmful to our environment.


Share a Ride

Travelling with colleagues or solo travelling on a schedule with multiple destinations poses a sustainability challenge. The cost of ground transportation on our environment is enormous and again, the ideal scenario options may not be practical for your business travel but can be manageable if planned ahead.  

According to the EPA, transportation accounts for about 27% of total greenhouse gas emissions with short haul flights and local ground transportation as a solo driver being the biggest contributors to this statistic. While ride-hail programs like uber, lyft and grab don’t reduce carbon emissions when used by a single rider, an electrified car-pooled ride that is shared between two or more people, does reduce carbon emissions dramatically.

A driver with an electric vehicle transporting one person to a destination cuts emissions by about 50% while a car-pooled electric vehicle trip cuts emissions by nearly 70% compared to a private vehicle trip using a non-electric vehicle. Though we can’t always choose the type of vehicle we get when using a ride hailing app, we can try to coordinate ground transportation with colleagues to minimize the frequency and distance of travel thereby reducing our carbon footprint. 

Wherever possible, choose charter transportation, locate your hotel near your meetings, select taxi fleets with electric or hybrid vehicles or choose companies that implement navigation systems that offer the best fuel and time efficiency.  


Virtual Meetings as the Most Viable Option

We have seen how the use of technology to replace in-person meetings and conferences to virtual ones has positively impacted the environment. The savings generated in terms of time, money and resources moving from in-person to an online platform is a blessing for many businesses.

Based on a Cornell University-led study, the transition to virtual conferencing can reduce the carbon footprint by 94% and energy use by 90%. Producing conferences require the planning of food and hotel services, printing of signage and marketing materials, transporting supplies through various modes of transportation and the consumption of energy and other natural resources before, during and after the event. According to this study, each individual attendee produces up to 6,600 pounds of carbon dioxide because of their participation. If in-person events with more than 50 participants are expected to grow at a rate of 11.2% over the next decade with no other alternate delivery options, our environment will be greatly impacted. Though in-person meetings are necessary for building relationships, choose the virtual option whenever possible and fly only if necessary.


Your Sustainable Business Travel Commitment

Travel is a costly but necessary activity for business operations. If your company doesn’t have a sustainable travel policy, it might be a good time to reassess your travel program. From accommodations, to dining to transportation, consider the many areas and activities of business travel that affect our environment and find ways to implement sustainable practices. 

Even if you, alone, cannot influence or change your company’s current travel policies, you can still make choices that support the preservation of our environment.


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Canada’s Plastic Ban on Food Containers and Sustainable Alternatives

The food take-out and delivery business was a lifeline for many restaurants during the pandemic.  When in-person dining was on lock-down, the only revenue stream restaurants could leverage was their food delivery business. Unfortunately, the increased customer demand for take-out service, increased the amount of disposable food containers and packaging in our waste system. 

The growing consumption of single-use plastics presents a global environmental pollution crisis. Because plastic has been the material of choice for many products including disposable dinnerware, its global production has doubled every ten years. 

Like many first world countries, Canada has a plastic pollution problem. According to the Environmental Defence report, Canada disposes of 90% of its plastic waste which is roughly equivalent to about 4,426 kilo tonnes of plastic discarded each year of which 50% is food packaging.

In an effort to reduce the gap between the amount of plastic packaging that is currently consumed and disposed of each year and the country’s aim to eliminate plastic packaging waste by 2030, governments at all levels, from municipal to federal, are working together to develop a solution. 

On June 20, 2022, the Government of Canada announced a ban on single-use plastics. The regulations prohibit the manufacturing, importing and sale of six categories of single use-plastics including plastic bags, disposable plastic cutlery, beverage ring carriers, plastic stir sticks and restaurant food containers particularly those that contain expanded or extruded polystyrene foam, polyvinyl chloride, carbon black and and oxo-degradable plastic. 


Timeline for the Ban on Plastics in Canada

Any establishment using single-use plastic bags and containers such as retailers, hotels, food services of all types (food trucks, cafes, bakeries, fast food, casual and fine dining restaurants), are affected by this new regulation. The Canadian government outlined the definition of these six affected plastic categories and proposed a graduated timeline for phasing out the products so that businesses have time to deplete their current stock and start finding alternatives to plastic materials.


restaurant food containers take away food delivery sustainable plastic ban

Below is a table of the banned plastic product categories with a definition of what each category includes and the proposed material alternatives to replace plastic based takeout or food delivery packaging and supplies. 

Plastic ProductsDescriptionAlternatives
Check out BagsPlastic bags for carrying purchased goods at the point of sale in a retail establishmentUse your own fabric bag, bring a paper bag or reuse plastic bags you have for as long as possible
CutleryPlastic disposable knives, forks, spoons, sporks and chopsticksOffer birch or bamboo cutlery including knives, spoons, forks, sporks, chopsticks
Ring carriersPlastic rings that fit around the beverage containers and designed to carry multiple beverages like a 6 pack togetherDisplay them on the shelves or bag them together
Stir Sticks and lid coverPlastic stir sticks for stirring and plastic lid plugs that prevent liquids from spillingBamboo stir sticks or lid with spout cover built-in
Food service warePlastic food containers like clamshell containers, lidded containers, boxes, cups, plates or bowls which contain expanded or extruded polystyrene foam, polyvinyl chloride, carbon black or an oxo-degradable plasticBamboo fibre, bagasse pulp, kraft paper food containers have no plastic. 
StrawsStraight or flexible straws which have a corrugated section that allows the straw to bend or packaged with beverage containersPaper straws or bamboo straws. 


The Government of Canada in collaboration with local municipalities are supporting the transition to plastic free food containers. Some municipalities, such as those in the Greater Vancouver region, are accepting plastic products including cutlery into their recycling stream as a way to deplete those already in circulation. The Government published the timeline for this transition and the approximate dates for the ban so that industry can prepare for the mandatory replacement of single-use plastic. Learn more by downloading this document.


Item TypeManufacture and import of plastics for sale in CanadaSaleManufacture, import or sale for Export
Checkout bags, cutlery, foodservice ware, stir sticks, straws*December 20, 2022December 20, 2023December 20, 2025
Ring CarriersJune 20, 2023June 20, 2024December 20, 2025
Flexible straws packaged with beverage containersNot applicableJune 20, 2024December 20, 2025


The Various Types of Plastics Used for Food Containers 

A majority of food containers are made from plastics because they are sturdy, heat-resistant and possess properties that create the ideal condition for food storage. They are also cheap to produce making them an attractive option for restaurants that operate with thin margins. 

The most widely used food containers are made from synthetic plastics which are derived from crude oil, natural gas or coal (fossil fuels) and refined into ethane and propane. Ethane and propane are then treated with heat in a process called “cracking” which turns them into ethylene and propylene. These two are combined to create different polymers such as polyethylene and polystyrene and then injected into the container molds to produce the take out food containers. Most take away food containers are made from these types of plastic. 

  1. Polypropylene (PP) used for microwavable food containers and condiment packaging.
  2. Polystyrene (PS) is the lightweight, rigid plastic used for clamshells, bowls, trays
  3. Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) is a clear lightweight plastic typically used as a cover lid for food containers.
  4. Polyethylene (PE) is a flexible plastic used as food bags typically in grocery and produce

Containers made with these plastics are non biodegradable and with its widespread use, we are racing against the rapid growth of its disposal in our landfills.


Alternatives to Plastic Foodware Containers and Cutlery

Companies continue to innovate with new materials to find more eco-friendly alternatives to plastics. Compostable and biodegradable materials are becoming more popular due to their ability to break down easily and naturally thus lessening the impact on the environment. The most common alternative materials for food packaging include bioplastics, paper and cardboard, bagasse, bamboo and polylactic acid (PLA).

Bioplastics are made from plant-based renewable resources such as cornstarch, sugarcane and potato starch. While they are more sustainable than traditional plastics made from fossil fuels, the product process can still involve significant energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, some bioplastics may not biodegrade quickly or completely under certain conditions and may require composting facilities to break down properly.

Containers made of kraft paper or cardboard is another sustainable option for food packaging but is much less durable than plastic. Paper and cardboard are more vulnerable to mold, fire and water. They don’t have the ability to hold as much weight because they are not as durable and strong or  to retain temperatures well or as long as other more durable materials like bagasse and bioplastic. Because of its poor barrier properties, some are coated with oil and water repellents – chemicals that could affect how they are disposed of. However, there are kraft based containers coated with plant-based poly lactic acid (PLA) making them biodegradable with very little to no impact on the environment. 

restaurant food containers take away food delivery sustainable plastic ban

Bagasse is a byproduct of the sugarcane process. It is the fibrous residue that remains after the sugarcane stalks are crushed to extract their juice. It is biodegradable and compostable. Because it is derived from the waste produced by the sugar-making process, it is a sustainable and organic option and contributes to the zero waste initiative. The only drawback is that bagasse tends to lose its strength and durability at temperatures above 95 degrees celsius. However, it ranks high as a healthier alternative for storing food.

Bamboo containers are made from the pulp of bamboo plants. Its properties are appealing and suitable for food packaging as well as disposable cutlery. Bamboo is renewable, biodegradable and has natural antibacterial properties. It is stronger than bagasse and can withstand higher temperatures without losing its durability.

Polylactic acid (PLA) is made from starches and sugars of corn. The corn is milled and the sugars are fermented into lactic acid. It’s a natural polymer designed to substitute widely used petroleum-based plastics like PET (polyethene terephthalate). PLA is used to produce clear cups, lids and salad boxes and also used as a layer of coating on kraft paper based containers to repel water and oil. The downside to PLA based food containers is that it requires specific conditions for it to be properly composted and must be sorted separately in a closed composting environment otherwise it contaminates the recycling stream.

A Transition Plan for Compliance

All of these alternative materials are considered environmentally friendly and sustainable. But before deciding to switch from plastic based containers to biodegradable or compostable ones, be sure to check with your local waste management program to ensure that the food containers you invest in are truly providing the positive impact that you intended.

For a selection of biodegradable food containers, visit our shop and let us help you with your transition for compliance with the new regulations.


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Is the Food Delivery Business Polluting Our Planet?

Since the pandemic, we’ve had to adjust our lifestyle, our habits and daily patterns. With the closure of many businesses including restaurants, we could no longer gather to socialize with friends and family. Instead, many of us who still wanted to enjoy dishes from our favourite local restaurants, opted for take out and food delivery.

Many flocked to online food ordering apps like Uber Eats, DoorDash, Ritual, Skip the Dishes, Fantuan and Chow Bus for convenience and access to the wide range of eateries during our quarantine period. 

By April 2020, restaurants saw a shift in their business model. For example, for full-service restaurants, 28% of their sales were generated by food ordering apps by 2020. These same shifts from dine-in to take out, delivery and pick up or drive thrus were experienced by all types of food service including quick service (fast foods). More people ordering take-out or food delivery means more demand for food packaging.

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Why the Shift to Food Delivery? 

For those who shifted from remote working during the pandemic, life just got so much busier balancing work, family and house chores. With school aged kids now doing online education at home and young kids using the home as their daycare and playground, suddenly life is chaotic with no time to eat, clean or even sleep. 

The separation between work and home became blurred and many of us found ourselves working later and longer hours. So, ordering food was a relief, providing more convenience and less cleaning. With all the money saved from staying home, most of us reallocated our budgets to buying food and groceries online or through delivery apps.

More demand for food delivery means more demand for food packaging. Though many restaurants have converted to more eco friendly food packaging and containers recently, some still use plastic and styrofoam. This became a real dilemma for our environment. 

The Price of Convenience 

Plastics production and manufacturing is a $35 billion dollar a year industry in Canada with packaging being one of the 3 major categories showing growth in demand. The hospitality sector which includes hotels, restaurants and resorts, are one of the biggest contributors to single-use plastic waste in our environment. 

In Canada, plastic packaging accounts for almost half of the 3.2 million tonnes thrown out each year. According to a study conducted by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) in 2019, 86% of the plastics consumed end up in landfills and only 9% are recycled. 

food delivery, sustainable, packaging, plastic, restaurantPackaging creates pollution and governments, such as Canada, now consider and classify plastics as “toxic”. According to Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), substances that harm the environment, biodiversity, human health or both are considered toxic and will fall under strict regulations in order to mitigate the externalities it creates on the environment. 

Why is Non-Biodegradable Packaging the Choice? 

The cost of convenience now will most certainly be a price the next generation will pay later. Plastic based food packaging is, indeed, a readily accessible, familiar and relatively cheap material that offers durability and practicality for the hospitality industry. But the harm that these choices make on our environment is multi-generational and far reaching. 

The restaurant industry is composed of many small independently owned restaurants. A good portion are likely family run and owners are not sophisticated business people. They may not even be aware of the consequences of their choices in packaging materials. Restaurateurs are only thinking about their bottomline and how much more profit they can make now with cheaper materials. 

Plastic based materials have been used for decades for food preservation and with this established network of suppliers and distributors, it’s no wonder plastic owns a large market share of the packaging industry. Its popularity and high demand creates economies of scale that reduce the price per unit and perpetually drives even more demand from buyers – the restaurant owners.

Why restaurateurs use plastic over biodegradable materials may also be attributed to the fact that they may not even know of alternatives. They may be choosing the food packaging only based on the limited options presented to them by distributors that knock on their door. These distributors and suppliers may be incentivized to promote sales of certain types of materials that offer higher margins and returns for their business.

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Is Sustainable Packaging The Best Choice?

Sustainable packaging has proven to be just as effective in keeping food warm or fresh as plastic or styrofoam. Just look at pizza boxes. Pizza outlets (including large chains like Dominos and Panago) have been using cardboard boxes, far more earth friendly and biodegradable than plastic containers, to keep pizza warm for food delivery for decades. 

food delivery, sustainable, packaging, plastic, restaurantSo you must wonder why some restaurants continue to use plastic when biodegradable versions do the job of keeping food warm and fresh during the delivery process (refer to the reasons outlined above). Access, cost, lack of education and convenience are factors that drive demand for non sustainable packaging. 

Key Takeaways

As an industry, the switch from plastic to sustainable food packaging has not been quick nor without resistance. Lack of awareness and education about sustainability contribute to the types of decisions being made by restaurateurs. 

Governments are stepping in to curb the demand for single use non recyclable plastic products. But we don’t have to wait for policies and regulations to be implemented before we can start our journey towards zero waste. 

Buyers (like restaurants) and end consumers (like us) have a significant role to play. We create the demand that drives the supply side to produce more. We can tackle the problem from the other side of the equation by demanding less of the bad stuff and more of the sustainable products. We need to be better educated about the impact our choices are making on our environment and educate more people along the way. 

At the end of the day, it is not the delivery companies that are the source of the problem. They are only the intermediaries providing the service from the businesses to the consumers. The source of the problem lies with the restaurant industry. Just as retailers need to pay attention to the materials they are offering their customers, restaurants need to be aware that every plastic container that leaves their restaurant on its way to the customer ends up in the landfill.

Interested in learning more about sustainable packaging? Contact us and we can help you find a sustainable solution for your business or help you find better ways to live sustainably every day.


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