Small Steps in a Big Movement

IMG_5606Tiny Leaf launched as a pop up restaurant, cocktail bar and events space in London’s bustling Notting Hill in January this year. The primary objective; testing the concept for London’s first (in fact the UK’s first) organic, vegetarian and zero waste restaurant. The venture was a hands down success and now the team are in the process of setting up a crowdfunding effort where they will reach out to the public to support the launch of a permanent restaurant site.

One of the key factors in driving Tiny Leaf’s success was its policy on waste. Being zero waste is a term that intrigues, bamboozles and confuses many. There is no absolute concrete definition of zero waste however this comes pretty close: “Zero Waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.

Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them.

Implementing Zero Waste will eliminate all discharges to land, water or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health.” Zero Waste International Alliance 

IMG_5734Now, this all sounds very serious, however, the important thing about adopting zero waste policies is that it does not have to happen overnight and the potential for one day becoming completely zero waste shouldn’t feel like a impossible task. The important thing is to start doing something, even if it’s only minor changes to supply chains, training, logistics or whatever. In fact never was there a more relevant place to insert the cliché that every journey begins with the first step.

So what does a busy restaurateur with enough on their plate, get from adopting a zero waste philosophy? The simple truth is your customers will love you for it. There is a latent awareness that eating out is an indulgence, when you transform that into a permissive indulgence that when things really start to change.

It’s not easy and it is understandable that while successful restaurants have aspirations of being more conscious regarding the level of waste they produce it may be difficult because they can sometimes be stuck in entrenched systematic thinking. The key thing to remember is that being zero waste and aspiring to be more zero waste can actually be a key driver of footfall. It no longer needs to be seen as a burden but actually a benefit to the restaurants future prosperity.


The below lists some easy to implement ways that restaurants can consider when becoming more ‘zero waste’ in their thinking:

  1. Foraging: a huge trend at the moment, it is surprising and entertaining so actually discover all that can be foraged in an urban environment, more rural restaurants have it easy of course. If you’re stuck, these guys can possibly help.
  2. Training: the first hurdle to cross here is to actively seek buy in from your staff, rather from preaching from a pulpit perhaps share links to important food waste films such as: Just Eat It and Cowspiracy
  3. Education of Customers: Again, this doesn’t have to be preachy, a simple few lines and some copy on your website and social channels should suffice to get the intellectual juices flowing, one thing a restaurant brand must do is avoid being ‘worthy’ at all costs
  4. Creative menu design: This simply means being ahead and thinking creatively, what can be saved? How can ingredients be used differently, is there room for experimentation?
  5. Supplier relations: We see customers putting pressure on supermarkets regarding their waste policies, they in turn will put more pressure on restaurants, and restaurants in turn need to put pressure on their suppliers.
  6. Straws & Ice: it doesn’t all have to be activism & pressure, adopting policies such as purchasing from 100% recycled and recyclable companies will help, this can be done with beermats, straws and coffee cups to name a few
  7. Carry out: doggy bagging is popular, to save on packaging waste allow customers to bring their own containers, the same goes for all food for take out.
  8. Surplus food: Composting is obviously the obvious win here, however you can be pretty sure that wherever there is a restaurant there will be someone who is hungry and cannot afford to eat there nearby, a simple introduction of surplus sandwiches and a pay what you feel policy can make a huge impact on a neighbourhood
  9. Composting & AD: As above, this is a term becoming all the more vernacular these days, composting can be quite easily set up (providing there is enough space) alternatively there are many companies that can be employed to do this. Anaerobic Digestion is a collection of processes by which micro-organisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen. The process is used for industrial or domestic purposes to manage waste and/or to produce fuels.
  10. Fit Out & Repairs: Recycle, re-use, up-cycle these are all terms we use a lot and not only can they be cost effective for a restaurant they will also elevate your perception of being contemporary and relevant, something that most menus try to achieve, why shouldn’t the interiors do this too?

Looking for inspiration? Here are some of our favourite zero waste restaurants:

Other key influencers in the zero waste domain:


Tiny Leaf will be launching at Mercato Metropolitano gourmet food market in Borough in late September. Mercato Metropolitano, 42 Newington Causeway, London SE1 6DR. Find out more.

For further information please contact:

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By Alice Gilsenan & Justin Horne, Tiny Leaf

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