An interview with Benjamin Lephilibert, the founder of Lightblue Environmental Consulting.
Benjamin Lephilibert, 37, is the managing director of Lightblue Environmental Consulting, whose work focuses on educating businesses on how to prevent food waste. Lephilibert has been working with major international five-star hotels in Thailand for the past five years. Here, he goes into more detail about his work and explains why food waste is a pertinent issue that needs to be addressed.
What is it exactly that you do?
We are a consulting company focusing on sustainability in the hospitality sector, expressly on food waste prevention. The focus is to reduce food waste through prevention—the stage before you create all the waste. The lack of knowledge about food waste is huge, so we start by raising awareness amongst everyone in the organization. We follow them from the purchasing of the food. There are so many processes that food goes through before it gets to the customers and we monitor those processes and address the issues that need to be adjusted, which can end up saving them a lot of money per year. The minimum amount that a hotel can save with us is US$70,000 a year; one hotel in the Maldives saves US$150,000 a year, and a large five-star international hotel in Bangkok saves around US$200,000 a year. Hotels can create 25 percent waste from all the food that they purchase and some can even create up to 40 percent. For some big hotels, by 1pm they’ve already created one ton of food waste—and that’s every day. There is a food budget that each business needs to stay within, but what we do is we help them to study customer behaviors more, like how much one person can eat.
Who are your clients?
Large five-star international hotels, like Pullman King Power and So Sofitel. Big businesses that are dealing with much larger volumes, making it more complicated. The level of control is much looser when compared to a smaller operation—99 percent of the time there is just no control over the waste. They are usually aware and can see that they are being wasteful but they have no clue as to exactly how much they are wasting—they just rely on gut feelings and they are always wrong, by miles.
Why do these businesses need you? Why can’t do they do these things themselves?
Technically they could do this themselves if they were dedicated enough and enforced the right things, but it would take so much effort and time. They [big hotels] still haven’t realized that it’s something that can be financially beneficial—they are still trying to find the easy solution, but it’s such a complex issue that relies on people’s behavior, so there won’t be an easy solution. It will take consistency, addressing the issue at its core. We provide a complex solution that can be adjusted to each organizations’ systems.
A business is sustainable if it can be financially stable, whilst not ruining any resources or trashing the environment at the same time. They must respect the local community and its people in general, and not ruin it for the future generation.
Are you working on anything interesting right now?
We are trying to do more workshops. People believe that their food waste will go to good use at some farm but it actually ends up in a giant pile somewhere only 30 kilometers from Bangkok. We are trying to constantly remind people that just because you throw something in the bin, doesn’t mean that’s not your problem anymore—the pollution problem is linked to waste. Even if you don’t care about saving the planet, you should at least care about your own health. You don’t even need to be a trash hero. We also have another service that focuses on standalone restaurants—in Bangkok we are currently working with Bo.lan.
How is Bangkok doing compared to other big cities?
In other cities, many projects happen at the community level with high levels of awareness. Bangkok is doing better than it was two years ago but there is still a long way to go.
How did you get into the business of sustainability?
Initially, I started working with Accor, implementing an environmental certification program called Green Globe for Novotel across nine countries in Asia. Then I was a consultant at the UN for three years. And that’s when I started to realize there was nothing related to food waste at all—food waste was treated as disposable trash, just like tissue.
How can we start to be more sustainable in our everyday lives?
Try to zoom out a bit on your own daily life. You don’t need to have a PhD in environmental science to understand this issue. Your everyday consumption habits can have an effect every time you take out money to buy some food. The most important thing is to understand why you should try to be more sustainable. We are the most powerful players in this change because we are the consumers. Don’t expect other businesses or the government to sort this out for you, as we don’t have a magic wand—we all have to help each other.
Learn more at www.fb.com/LightBlueConsulting