I was raised by parents who were thrifty and into recycling before it was cool. Their example has made me keenly aware of waste and the need to reuse resources whenever possible.
My love of travel has taken me places where food is a luxury, to places where there is no choice, to places where food = survival. That stark world view has sharpened my determination to make a difference in how I do business every day, with sustainability and my customer in mind. I believe in the value of live events but we need to consider ways to become leaders in making a difference in our planning around meals that reduce food waste. The meetings and events industry is one of plenty, and I find myself taken aback often when I witness how much waste we accept in order to keep up appearances with attendees. We must to work together as an industry to revisit food waste at events and impact on budgets and our planet.
There are a few minor modifications to the way we produce events that can have a major impact. Not only can reduce the events’ carbon footprint, but our clients can save money, too.
Consider these Top 10 ways that reduce food waste and can save you some green:
1. Limit beef to one meal per day. The production of beef is the most carbon-producing agricultural activity, and is generally a high-cost catering item.
2. If the hotel has the back end to support the correct disposal, use compostable products whenever possible. You might be surprised at the money saved, particularly at hotels.
3. Ensure guarantees can be adjusted and variable based on the days and meals requested and guarantee low. Hotels will serve 3-5% over the guarantee but this cannot be reduced.
4. Understand your attendee base. Attendees who pay their own way generally will consume provided meals at the conference. Hosted attendees frequently take other business meetings and meals outside conference schedules.
5. Keep content on schedule. If sessions run long, they may impact service times. If a mid-afternoon coffee break is scheduled at 3:15pm but the session runs long, all the food prepared to be served at 3:15pm may go to waste. Downstream events like receptions may get hit harder.
6. For break times, consider individually wrapped snacks, which can be billed on consumption. While attendees tend to take more than they need at the time (midnight snacks!), unused portions don’t have to be thrown away.
7. Source locally. Work with the chef to come up with menus that are seasonal and local. You can reduce the carbon footprint, and in true “farm-to-table” fashion, give back to the community that produced the food.
8. Consider the overall schedule when creating menus. Is there a late-night party the night before? If so, consider serving breakfast later the next morning, with a shorter service time, to avoid prepared food to go to waste.
9. Review your event’s history by examining previous menus and final BEO’s and invoices. You’ll get a good sense of the group’s dining personality and can make proactive decisions that impact cost for the future.
10. Scrub your RSVP lists. Reconfirm your numbers as your event gets closer, so you have the most accurate count heading into your event.
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