Scientists across the globe are stressing the importance of making changes to our deleterious daily habits for the betterment of our Earth and the future of those who will inherit it. Climate change is rising to an irreparable level, the oceans are flooded with hazardous plastics and chemical pollutants are used to produce more agricultural products for the growing population.
But all is not lost. A few are fighting back against these damaging habits in the hope of fixing the footprints already left. Ferragamo, for example, is leading the way in sustainable fashion and many businesses in Florence’s hospitality industry are doing their best to operate in the most ecologically friendly manner, therefore inspiring other companies to follow suit.
Florentine fast food eatery FastSud and luxury summer spot Villa Vittoria are just two examples of firms who have made important eco-conscious changes within their operations and are taking steps to work in an environmental-first manner. Despite the obvious differences in food and service styles, they are making similar crucial adaptions.
The prospect of working in an eco-sustainable way may seem daunting to business owners who have operated under very different means for many years. Representatives at Villa Vittoria, a plastics-free hangout near the Fortezza da Basso, state that the first step is to “be informed and understand what the consequences of our actions are”.
Mariella Tummino, co-founder of FastSud, which only serves organic, artisanal and Slow Food-protected ingredients from Puglia and Sicily, agrees. “Understanding the impact that plastic waste and polluting detergents have had on the health of humans, animals and the planet is certainly the starting point. After becoming aware of this, change occurs simply by changing habits: replacing the disposable packaging with recyclable or biodegradable products.”
The second step is to take action and implement simple but significant changes within the company. Villa Vittoria, for example, elected to try and reduce their amount of plastic waste. “Plastic straws have an average use of 20 minutes but take 500 years to disappear. This inspired us to serve all our cocktails without straws and, where needed, to use biodegradable straws. Also, we extended those actions on the street food: our packaging and forks are compostable.”
Thinking sustainably offers opportunities to change more on the premises than just the replacement of plastic goods with recyclable alternatives, and can be implemented in almost every aspect of the business.
“The FastSud premises have had minimal impact since they were built,” commented Tummino. “When we renovated the space, we opted to use eco-sustainable materials, such as solvent-free paints that aren’t harmful to the environment and fillers based on raw plant materials. Even our furniture consists of upcycled industrial and vintage pieces.”
The possibilities are endless. Changing plastic bottled drinks for glass, upcycling old furniture, using eco-friendly cleaning products: the list goes on. There are always more ways to do more for the betterment of the planet. When asked if there was more they could do within their business, Villa Vittoria did not hesitate in replying. “Absolutely yes, there is still a lot to do. We are planning to save more water, reduce noise pollution for the protection of the local fauna and implement eco-sustainable dishwashers in order to use only re-usable glassware.”
FastSud also stressed the importance for every other business to take action. “In order to safeguard the environment, we all need to make these small simple gestures that can lead to a great change for humanity.”
Villa Vittoria concurred: “Thanks to our visibility, we feel like we have a personal duty to educate our consumers to change their habits by avoiding unnecessary waste. But the hospitality industry as a whole has a duty to spread the word and make their customers aware of a lifestyle that is attentive to environmental sustainability.”
Are there any setbacks to working sustainably? Were there any problems that these businesses faced when they made their changes? Villa Vittoria: “In all honesty, we didn’t find any bad aspects about this campaign, only benefits. In the beginning, we were concerned about how the customers would react, but their involvement was overwhelming”. FastSud agreed that are no negative impacts involved in thinking sustainably and working with ecologically friendly practices, adding, “Being or becoming sustainable does not and did not cause any problems whatsoever. Loving nature is a simple and natural gesture.”
The time to act is now. With easy changes to the way restaurants, bars, hotels and related sectors operate, the hospitality industry could work together to help reduce its footprint. The effect and damage humans have caused—and continue to cause—will not go away overnight. But if we start now and follow the lead set by enlightened and eco-conscious businesses such as FastSud and Villa Vittoria, we might be able to undo some of the damage and leave a greener world for the generations to come.
Other food businesses in Florence embracing a green ethos include Gesto (Borgo San Frediano 27R) and Gelateria Badiani (viale dei Mille 20R). Now with restaurants in Milan, Bologna, Perugia and Padua, Gesto’s entire philosophy centres on an ecological approach: not over-ordering, reducing waste to a minimum, saving on water and electricity, and upcycled artisan design. Historic gelato shop Badiani, on the other hand, adopted a plastic-free approach this year, removing plastic spoon and petroleum-derived containers in favour of low environmental impact materials.