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Food Waste Solutions for Events

May 26, 2015

A couple of years ago, I read about how the Vancouver Food Bank received 40,000 lbs of bananas that had been passed on by a retailer due to their colouring. I was shocked, but it sparked an interest in food waste that has become a big focus on the work I do with sustainable events.

Last week, I was invited to be a part of a panel hosted by Partners in Project Green, Tourism Toronto, and The International Centre on sustainable food issues. For my contribution, I focused on food waste solutions for events.


Paradigm Shift

In order to really address food waste issues in events, we need a paradigm shift on how we view food. Too often, success is measured by abundance and symmetry, and not about artistry, creativity, sustainability and quality. This tomato (can you see the face?) is a great example of the types of fruits and vegetables that are thrown out because of an emphasis on perfect produce.

Food Loss and Food Waste in Canada

In December, 2014 consulting firm Value Chain Management released a report that found that Canadians waste $31 billion dollars worth of food per year, with 9% coming from hotels and restaurants. Fortunately, there are many ways that we can bring this number down.

What’s the difference between food loss and food waste?

  • Food loss: occurs during growing, slaughter, processing or distribution
  • Food waste: discarded by the consumer

Choosing Your Supplier

For event planners, the decision that will have the greatest impact on your food waste strategy is your choice of supplier. When selecting a venue, caterer, or other food service provider, ask about how they deal with food waste, and for specific examples of how they work with their supply chain to reduce food loss and food waste.

How Meeting Planners Can Help Reduce Food Waste

  • Be flexible: give your supplier the flexibility to make food choices for you based on your sustainability goals and budget
  • Focus on quality not quantity: Select smaller portions of better quality items
  • Review your guarantees: Cross check your meal guarantees with arrival and departure patterns, and ask participants to advise you of their meal preferences and attendance at food functions
  • Offer fewer options and more sizes: This reduces variability and gives attendees the option to select the size they would prefer
  • Communicate: Let your attendees know that you’ve introduced a food waste strategy and enlist their support

How Caterers, Hotels and Venues Can Help Reduce Food Waste

  • Supply chain food loss: Talk to your suppliers, farmers and vendors about opportunities to reduce food loss in their operations such as taking their misshapen produce, or lesser known cuts of meats.
  • Serve blemished food: A couple of years ago, the U.N. served a banquet of food that would have been rejected by European supermarkets to high ranking dignitaries to highlight food waste.  Sourcing blemished food can reduce your costs and help prevent food waste. P.S. If all your chocolate covered strawberries are not all the same size, who cares? They’re strawberries and they’re covered in chocolate, they’re delicious in any size.
  • Sustainable weekday plan: A great way to reduce food waste is to have multiple clients using the same menu. By offering a weekday plan with a special for each day, suppliers can encourage more clients to sign on to the same menu.
  • Leftover/surplus recipes: Have a plan in mind for what to do with leftovers and scraps. For example, bread pudding can be made with leftover pastries.
  • Smaller plates: In 2012, Nordic Choice hotels (in conjuction with GreeNudge and CICERO) conducted a study where they found that food waste was reduced by 19.5% by using smaller plate sizes. Importantly, guest satisfaction did not chance.
  • Pre-set 80% of tables: If you are pre-setting salads and/or desserts, only set 80% of the tables in advance. Additional tables can be filled as needed.

Food Waste Priorities


In developing a comprehensive food waste strategy for events, there are four steps that should be followed.

  1. Reduce supply chain food loss: Work with your supply chain to identify opportunities to reduce food loss
  2. Reduce food waste: I suggest beginning with a focus on meat and dairy, as these are typically the most resource intensive to produce
  3. Repurpose or donate leftovers: This can include donating to charities, serving uneaten banquet foods in employee cafeterias, and even donating it as animal feed to farms
  4. Compost: This is the last step in the food waste strategy, but should always come after the waste minimization strategies mentioned above

Food Donation Legislation

When it comes to food donations, many suppliers may be concerned about liability. Fortunately, many jurisdictions have legislation to protect food donors. It can be helpful to provide suppliers with copy of applicable legislation, such as the Ontario Food Donation Act, 1994.

Meet Better: A New Book! Read an Excerpt on Sustainable Seafood

April 21, 2015

TitleThis past December, I had one of those great meeting moments – you know the kind that leaves you inspired and reminds you how face-to-face meetings really are amazing. I met with Nancy Zavada and Shawna McKinley (two amazingly talented women who are experts on sustainable events) and we wrote a book. In a weekend.

The three of us had been noticing that there was a need for an easy reference tool for planners who are interested in making their events more sustainable. So we gathered around a table, each equipped with our stack of index cards full of tips and shuffled them into categories. We had hoped to come up with 101 tips, but ended up with 167. The book details all of them, and also includes several infographics on specific topics. Here is one on sustainable seafood that was prepared by our phenomenal graphic designer, Erika Abrams.

TitleWant to learn more? Copies of the book are available for pre-order here. Use the coupon code “preorder” for a 20% discount. The books will be printed in time for World Environment Day in early June.

Check out Shawna and Nancy’s blogs for other unique infographics to help you Meet Better!

#CMP30 Influencers – Who is on your list?

April 13, 2015

Today, the Convention Industry Council opened up nominations for CMP Influencers. It’s a social media campaign to recognize those CMPs that are making a difference in our industry and is part of the 30th anniversary celebration of the CMP designation. It’s also an opportunity to recognize people that have had a profound influence on our lives as professionals.

Nominations will be accepted now until May 22, 2015 via social media. Post the nomination to the CMP 30th Anniversary Facebook Event Page or the CMP Twitter account the phrase, “I nominate (insert full name) from (insert organization) as a #CMP30 Influencer.” Include the hashtag #CMP30 and a few reasons why the person should be nominated, if space permits. Nominations are open to the public; however, only nominees who have obtained and are current with their CMP designation will be eligible for consideration as one of the top 30 CMP Influencers.

Once the public nomination window closes, the 30 CMP Influencers will be selected during a two-part process. Nominations will be aggregated and tallied via Facebook poll votes during the month of June, after which a committee will meet to select the final winners based on the number of Facebook poll votes, personal influence on peer(s) and community/leadership presence.

The #CMP30 Influencers will be announced in July of 2015 and will be honored with a special reception at the upcoming CMP Conclave, September 26-28, 2015, in Reno, Nevada.

Who are my influencers? In no particular order, here are some of the CMPs that have had a significant impact on me:


The CIC Manual Reviewers:

When I was working on the CIC Manual, I was fortunate to collaborate with 4 exceptional reviewers who each influenced the course of the book in different ways. Terri Breining (Breining Group, LLC) has a wealth of knowledge about our industry, and always applies both a strategic and an ethical lens to her reviews. Eric Rozenberg (Swantegy)helped keep international perspectives at the forefront – something that is so critical in our global industry. Roger Simons (MCI) provided sustainable event expertise – this was fundamental for the approach we took of integrating sustainability throughout the manual. Tyra Hilliard (@drtyra) is my “go to” for industry legal questions, and her way of analyzing and managing risk has changed the way I plan meetings. And… CIC’s own Lawrence Leonard is one of the smartest people I’ve met in this industry and is great at identifying what CMPs need to know in order to make meetings more successful.

The Forecasters:

When I want to know what’s next in our industry, I look to Elizabeth Glau (Building Blocks Social Media) and Tahira Endean (QuickMobile). Elizabeth has a deep understanding of the potential of social media to enhance events. Tahira’s knowledge in the areas of both meeting design and mobile technology has shaped my understanding of the importance and value of both these fields for our industry.

The Experts:

If you have a question about A/V, ask Jon Trask (A/V for Planners). I have really appreciated learning from him about selecting the right technology, not just what’s new and shiny. Nancy Zavada (MeetGreen) is incredibly knowledgeable about sustainability and her dedication to advocating for sustainable events has had a tremendous impact on the way meetings are designed and managed. Janet Sperstadt (Madison College) shares her vast expertise as an educator and is making a difference for the next generation of meeting professionals.

The Strategists:

There are people in our industry whose work is redefining the way that we conduct business. Eduardo Chaillo (Global Meetings & Tourism Specialists, LLC) has a deep understanding of the forces affecting our industry and leverages this knowledge to influence a positive evolution; and his dedication to mentoring is inspiring. Christine “Shimo” Shimasaki (DMAI) has helped us to have a richer understanding of the value of meetings through her work on empowerMINT. Karen Gonzales (also from DMAI) has been a longtime champion of cross-cultural communication and the value of diversity.

Which CMPs are on your list?







Celebrating 2013 #ArchiveFavs

December 31, 2013

Image courtesy of adamr at

Eek! 2013 has been a terrible year for me in terms of blogging. I’ve had good intentions, including a bunch of half-written posts sitting in my drafts, but somehow, other projects have gotten in the way.

Truth be told, I enjoy blogging, but sometimes find it a bit deflating that blog posts seem to have such a short shelf life, not only on this blog – but on those of many brilliant bloggers that I follow regularly. So, today I’m celebrating some of my favourite posts from some of the blogs that I love to read regularly.

Listed below (in no particular order) are some of my favourite blog posts from this year. Most are from the #Eventprofs community, but I’ve also been following some in the sustainability and content marketing fields.

I encourage you to spend a bit of time rummaging through your favourite bloggers’ archives looking for treasure to share.

The Meeting Professional’s Guide to Behavioral Economics

April 3, 2013

I’m honoured to have an article in this month’s MPI One+. A quick recap of the article can be found below.


World Water Day – Resources for #Eventprofs

March 22, 2013

In honour of World Water day, here are some of my favourite resources for event professionals:

International World Water Day Resources:

Water Footprint Information:

Charitable Organizations:

Industry Specific:

What are your favourite resources?

Image courtesy / hospitalera

Does your event need some @kred?

March 20, 2013

Influence and Outreach

In December, I had the honour of speaking about Gamification at the Next Generation Meetings Conference in Stockholm. While there, I was introduced to the Kred leaderboard for events and saw first hand how it encouraged interaction and social media engagement. The Kred leaderboard was projected on the wall of the event and it provided real time information about who has the most influence, as well as who is the most generous on social media.

What I like about the Kred Leaderboard for Meetings

  1. Encourages social media interaction: using gamification best practices, including real time feedback and rankings, Kred motivates participants to interact.
  2. Amplifies the reach of your event: by encouraging participants to be more active on social media, they are able to engage their networks both inside and outside of your event community.
  3. Encourages pro-social behaviour: since Kred measures not only influence but also outreach, it rewards participants for recognizing others and engaging in dialogue – all things that we want in building a stronger event community.

I’m grateful to Kred’s CEO, Andrew Grill, for answering a few questions about Kred and how to set one up for your event.

My Interview with Andrew Grill, CEO of Kred

Q1. What is the difference between influence & outreach? 

Kred Influence is the measure of what others do because of you on social media. Your Influence score increases when someone takes an action because of your content on Twitter related to the event hashtag. On a Kred event leaderboard, those with the highest influence score are the ones being mentioned most at the conference, and generally it is the current speaker on stage who scores the highest for influence. Kred Outreach is the measure of your generosity. Outreach increases when you retweet, @reply a person. On the Kred event leaderboard, those being generous and mentioning other delegates and speakers by @name will rank higher on the board.

Q2. What is the leaderboard and how is it used for events? 

The Kred events leaderboard provides a real-time view of who has influence, and who is being generous at the conference. The leaderboard is reset at midnight each day, and to appear on the board, you must mention the event hashtag and at least one other @name.  Points are then awarded to the mentioner and the person who mentions based on the Kred scoring rules.  The leaderboard refreshes every 30 seconds so delegates can see not only who is at the conference and talking about it, but who they should connect with because they are driving real interest and action at the event.  A live example of a Kred leaderboard can be found at

Q3. How do meeting planners create a leaderboard?  

At the moment the quickest way is to contact Kred and we can set up the leaderboard – it is a paid service.  In the future we will provide as self-service tool allowing event planners to create, modify and curate any leaderboard they like themselves.  The elements that can be changed are the title, logo, and color scheme.  In addition, specific @names can be withheld from appearing on the board in real time.

Q4. What are the benefits of the leaderboard for events? 

The feedback from these event leaderboards has been amazing.  People love seeing their names up “in lights” on the big screen, and at every one of the 100+ events we have run with the leaderboard, there has been a very healthy competition between delegates to get to the top of the leaderboard – gamifying the experience.  In some instance, iPads and hotel stays have been awarded to the people at the top of the list at the end of each day by the event organisers and their sponsors. The second benefit to an event planner is that it extends the reach of the event beyond a physical location.  Because delegates must use the event hashtag in a public tweet to appear on the leaderboard, this means that literally thousands of other people not at the event read tweets tagged with the #conference name and start to “tune in” to what is being said, and contribute virtually.  This means that the leaderboard drives many more organic mentions of the conference by delegates on twitter – at no incremental cost.The leaderboard has also become an amazing delegate discovery tool. Many people have said that they only knew a particular person was at the event because they saw their name on the leaderboard, and decided to seek them out and renew or create new relationships at the conference.



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