The United Nations estimates that by 2050 the world population will reach 9.2 billion.
A population increase of that magnitude results in an increased carbon footprint due to the consumption of resources such as food and the resulting waste products from that consumption.
How does this information affect you when planning your events?
Being an event producer, you are aware that food and beverage accounts for a significant portion of the decisions you must make.
This presents you with the opportunity to make more mindful decisions that will result in less contribution to our landfills and oceans.
Major cities throughout the United States, as well as many venues and restaurants, are already taking a proactive approach. Some establishments are no longer providing straws to their patrons. Many have also made the switch to locally grown and sustainable menus.
Every little bit helps, as they say.
Let’s take a look at how wiser choices can result in a healthier earth over the long term:
Food & Beverage Selection
Most people focus on elimination of waste, however, there are less obvious eco-friendly choices you can make with respect to sustainable food selection when deciding on your next menu:
•Ask the venue how it develops its menu. Is the food locally sourced so that fewer greenhouse gas emissions are emitted? Is there a variety of options for attendees with a selection of vegetarian, organic and seasonal food?
•According to the Worldwatch Institute, 51% of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide come from livestock and their byproducts. In light of this, menu options with alternatives to meat would be a prudent idea.
•If seafood is on your menu, ensure that it is being sourced from sustainable fisheries. You can do this easily by asking the venue or the caterer to only serve seafood that is certified by The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) who ensures the sustainability of fisheries to transform the seafood market and our oceans to a sustainable basis.
•Don’t forget about the beverages. Going local for your beverage choice is good for the environment for the same reason as food. It also gives you an opportunity to showcase a local winery or microbrewery at your event.
Set-up & Waste Control
Due to the disparity in numbers between registration or RSVPs and actual attendance, it is standard practice to order more food than required so you don’t run short.
While there will always be some additional food at the end of an event, there are ways to minimize waste in both your preparation and disposal methods:
•Work with venues who maintain a green certification. Since their standard operating procedure already implements these processes to reduce waste, much of the work will be done for you.
•Consider donating the leftover food. There are many operations in the United States who offer donation services such as City Harvest in New York City, Food Runners in San Francisco and The Entertainment Industry Hunger Project in Los Angeles. There are strict rules regulating safe food handling practices so check with your city and your venue to see that this is allowed.
•Choose reusable over convenient. In a similar vein to straw usage, eliminate the use of convenience items such as sugar packets and creamers, bottled water, plastic cutlery, and tableware as well as paper napkins. Aside from creating a higher-end look for your event, reusable items greatly reduce the impact on our landfills.
•Sometimes it will be impossible to use reusable containers and tableware due to safety concerns around breakage such as in the case of an outdoor festival. In that instance always choose biodegradable and compostable products over plastics.While there will always be some additional food at the end of an event, there are ways to minimize waste in both your preparation and disposal methods. Click To Tweet
•At some events, there is no staff on hand to clear the waste. In that case, set up a multi-bin waste receptacle system for event-goers. Consider having a member of your team near each receptacle bin to guide the attendees with proper disposal methods.
You might look at this and wonder if a few small choices on your part indeed have an impact on the environment.
In a recent study, it was discovered that meetings and events held in 2016 contributed $446 billion to the GDP of the United States.
Meeting organizers and event producers spent $48 billion on food and beverage services alone.
Considering those statistics, you can easily appreciate the cumulative effect the choices made by each event producer has on the environment.
It is up to you to decide whether you choose to make your impact a positive one.
What steps are you taking to eliminate unnecessary waste at your events? Tell me in the comments below.