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.
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.
- Reduce supply chain food loss: Work with your supply chain to identify opportunities to reduce food loss
- Reduce food waste: I suggest beginning with a focus on meat and dairy, as these are typically the most resource intensive to produce
- 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
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
- Shawna McKinley‘s posts Do Events Have the Power to Heal and Meeting Mythbusters: Bioplastic Fantastic? on her blog Eventcellany. Shawna is a gifted writer who is both thoughtful, and thought-provoking. What I most enjoy about Shawna’s posts is the rich analysis she brings to her writing, which she infuses with personal stories. (Reaching back a bit more – I love reading her 2011 The Jackass Whisperer from her previous blog, Sustainable Destinations.)
- Tahira Endean‘s post How Would You Sign Your Day is a touching tribute to women influencers. Towards the end of the post, building on the words of Marilyn Carlson Nelson, she asks “If you imagined your life as a great masterpiece, and today was a painting, would you put your signature on it?” – something I’m going to try to myself more in 2014. I love following Tahira’s blog Events, Life and Impact Points – she keeps me up to date on the latest industry trends, and is always sharing the spotlight with others.
- Nancy Zavada‘s post Stop Traffick! brings light to the important issue of helping to end child trafficking. She provides links to resources for event professionals to help us to get involved in this human rights issue. Nancy’s blog, Pretentious Musings of a Meet Green Martyr is great to follow for her on the ground reports of sustainable events, and she is one of the people that inspires me the most in this field.
- Dennis Shiao‘s How to Do Product Marketing Without Marketing Your Product was a great start to the year – a good blend of tried and true marketing concepts with newer elements of content marketing brought to the forefront. His blog, It’s All Virtual it’s a great source of information on social media, content marketing and personal branding.
- Jenise Fryatt‘s post Are You Practicing Ethical Content Marketing? transcribes a timely #ContentChat discussion on issues ranging from plagiarism to reputation management. She blogs regularly with Mitchell Beer on the SmarterShift’s The Content Roundtable blog. I also recommend Mitchell’s post A Low Carbon Future Depends on Economic Conversion.
- Julie Urlaub‘s post Sustainable Supply Chain 101 is a great piece on the business case for promoting sustainability outside your organization’s walls. I highly recommend her Taiga Company blog for sustainable business content.
- Jeff Hurt‘s post It Is Time To Reinvent the Meetings Industry and the Meeting Professional is a great call to action. My favourite quote “We have more silos for our major conferences than the traditional farm. Unfortunately, the conference silos are not used to store nourishment that leads to outstanding education and networking.” Velvet Chainsaw’s Midcourse Corrections, where Jeff blogs along with Dave Lutz, Sarah Michel and Donna Kastner is a fantastic resource for event professionals.
- Jonathan Bloom‘s Wasted Food blog is one of my favourites. He includes great infographics, resources, and funny anecdotes and photos that keep things lighthearted. I particularly enjoyed his solution to a rotten spot an apple and his collection of alphabet shaped veggies.
I encourage you to spend a bit of time rummaging through your favourite bloggers’ archives looking for treasure to share.
I’m honoured to have an article in this month’s MPI One+. A quick recap of the article can be found below.
In honour of World Water day, here are some of my favourite resources for event professionals:
International World Water Day Resources:
- UN World Water Day Information – useful information about the water crisis
- Taiga Company’s Pinterest page – beautiful images and great curated content
Water Footprint Information:
- Water Footprint Network – this is my “go to” page for water footprint information. Their product gallery is incredibly useful and has strong scientific background.
- National Geographic Water Footprint Calculator – great way to measure your household footprint.
- ONE DROP’s Calculator – gives you the water footprint of what’s on your plate.
- Shawna McKinley’s blog post on how much water is saved using water stations instead of bottled water.
- Green Meeting Industry Council’s information page on International Water Day 2012 (be sure to click on the commitment to change form for more great information)
- A bit self-promotional, but I really like my last post on water conservation for meeting professionals (infographic)
What are your favourite resources?
Image courtesy bigstockimages.com / hospitalera