It is world food day and so I decided to make a little post about something that I really love and something I really hate. I love food and hate waste.
Approximately one-third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. In the events industry we have calculated that over 50% is thrown away in some location. In the UK, where performance is better 18% of all food in the hospitality sector is estimated to be wasted. For UK hotels food waste represents a cost of £318 million each year including food procurement, labour, utilities and waste management costs, or £4,000 per tonne.
Waste – the hidden cost
Globally the economic costs of this food wastage are substantial and amount to about USD 1 trillion each year. However, the hidden costs of food wastage extend much further. Food that is produced, but never consumed, still causes environmental impacts to the atmosphere, water, land and biodiversity. If the carbon emissions of food wasted was measured as a country it would be the third largest co2 emitter just behind china and the US. These environmental costs must be paid by society and future generations. Furthermore, by contributing to environmental degradation and increasing the scarcity of natural resources, food wastage is associated with wider social costs that affect people’s well-being and livelihoods. Quantifying the full costs of food wastage improves our understanding of the global food system and enables action to address supply chain weaknesses and disruptions that are likely to threaten the viability of future food systems, food security and sustainable development.
So what can you we do about this in the events and meetings industry?
- Measure and Monitor
- Conduct a food audit at your next event. Work with the catering and ops team to find out what is wasted, what is recycled, composted etc
- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
- Confirm your numbers: use the web, registration systems and apps to ensure you know how many people are coming to your events. It amazes me how many no shows people get at events.
- Serve less food. Do you really need so much at a lunch buffet. Less food will make for more alert and responsive delegates. We like to use smaller plates as that is proved to reduce food consumption.
- Serve smaller portions. 41% in a recent WRAP survey blamed oversized portions for leaving food.
- Donate surplus un-served food to charities. Yes it is possible if you follow safety legislation- easiest is to work with a local charity who knows the rules. Find a food bank
- Eliminate disposable Serviceware: Try and use real cutlery and crockery. Its nicer and creates a better experience.
- Ban the bottle: Follow San Francisco and delete those nasty plastic water bottles from your events. It saves a fortune and its much nicer to have a glass of water than to drink from plastic.
- Go bulk: Ask the hotel and venue to switch to bulk jam, sugar, salt, pepper, milk etc. Eliminate more of those nasty disposables.
- Choose reusable centerpieces and decorations. I like edible ones like herbs.
- Communicate and educate
- Make sure your waste bins are clearly visible with simple signs so that people know what and how to recycle. If you use compostable or biodegrable plates/cups clearly mark in what bins they should go.
- Engage your participants: Mention your sustainability initiatives in the program and keynote.
- Educate: Share the facts and your progress. Ask for feedback and ideas from all the team of suppliers, delegates and clients
- Measure and Monitor
- Repeat your measurements and see how you have improved and where else you can improve.
More info: about waste, resources and food