Lessons for Sustainable Destinations & Events from Singapore- Local Food

Image

The concept of local food is in vogue and there’s a growing lexicon around the industry that’s mushroomed in recent years from “slow food” and “farm to fork” to the politically leaning “localism”.  Meanwhile in Europe, despite the naysayers who berate the bureaucracy of the EU, Brussels have been taking bold and important steps in protecting the origin of foods and valuable terroir in a globalized world. The expansion of the French “Appellation d’origine contrôléephilosophy across Europe is protecting everything from Cornish Pasties to Gorgonzola to Ouzo with the “Protected Geographical Indication” (PGI) status. All of this is good news for protecting heritage, promoting healthy and local food and reducing the food miles of a rapacious hospitality industry.

But what does this movement mean for sustainable events and destinations?

Guy and I have been working with a number of venues and events across Europe, Asia and the United States in the transition to more sustainable food sourcing. Particularly here in Singapore it’s thrown out some interesting questions in our work with the Tourism Board.  Just what is local to a nation only 710 kilometres square with one of the densest populations in one the smallest countries in the world?

Define your “local”

There is no agreed global definition of local and you’ll find that local food in the US might have travelled a lot further than local food in the Netherlands. Define what makes sense for your event, venue or destination. In the case of Singapore, “local” can’t be limited even just to the same country so we’re looking at Malaysia, Indonesia and even Thailand when considering that the bulk of fruit and vegetables are trucked down the 460 mile/740 kilometre Malay Peninsula, reducing carbon emissions significantly.

Set aspirations & projections early with your suppliers

Anything in life is possible with early preparation and even what once felt like a dream can become a plan with a leap of faith and commitment.  Share your aspirations early with your suppliers, your caterer or your local agricultural community and they’ll have time to work towards your goal. In Singapore, the challenge of feeding a growing population is pushing the concept of urban farming to new heights,  SkyGreen is the world’s first low carbon hydraulic water-driven, tropical vegetable urban vertical farm and 10 times more productive per square foot than conventional farming. Sounds like a dream?

Check out:

Maximise the strengths of the season

Seasons are unfortunately not one of Singapore’s many strengths but elsewhere in the world the cycles of nature can provide you with a constant source of fresh & flavourful local and sustainable food, be as flexible as possible- serve autumnal mushrooms and game in the fall and fresh berries and fruits in the summer.

 Dream big

The only barrier to “Fresh, Local, Organic, Sustainable and Seasonal” produce for the events industry is your aspiration and vision, collaborate with your supply chain and dream big. Who knows? Along the way we might discover a little more joy, to use the words of JRR Tolkien in the Hobbit “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

Protecting Biodiversity Through Sustainable Events in India

Last year Hyderabad, India was host to the groundbreaking COP11 -Convention on Biological Diversity hosted by the Ministry of the Environment and Forests. Our industrious team in India managed the logistics of more than 11,500 participants and 900 sessions over 11 long days in hand with leading AV provider Dorier Perfectus.

What’s most impressive is not just the sheer scale and complexity of such an important international event in India but what the team managed to achieve in sustainability including a 91% waste diversion rate. We are  pleased to be able to present the legacy and achievements of that event in the our recently released event report:

Sustainable Event Management Activities

The convention aimed to be a leading sustainable event for India, leaving long term positive social and environmental legacies in Andhra Pradesh and concerns were addressed through all phases of event design and execution, including the following activities:

-       Strategic Planning:  The planning team leaders met to identify a strategy for the sustainable performance of the event and created customized targets.

-       Supplier Engagement: Through a two hour educational event and a series of interviews, 50 suppliers were educated about the objectives of the event; key suppliers were questioned about sustainable practices and offered coaching and recommendations for improved results. In particular, the MCI team worked with the Novotel, waste management company and caterer to improve waste management, catering and sustainability measurement processes.

-       Sustainable Procurement: The event management team made a series of conscious decisions in the purchasing of material and services. This includes congress bags,bamboo stage set and exhibitions stands, exhibition USB sticks, printing, catering, communications as well as the selection of logistics teams that reduced transport requirements.

-       Community Impact: Amongst other great initiatives, a truly innovative engagement project was designed with social enterprises and sustainable businesses at the heart.  In  a unique market place within the perimeter of the Novotel Complex 40 local artisans and community groups were represented at The Biodiversity Haat. Stands featured groups selling organic produce, handmade artefacts and those using responsible materials.. Examples of local producers included the “Bodhana Tiruvalla Social Science Society”  who use bee products to fund and operate a Social Rehabilitation Programme; the Uravu  Indigenous Science & Technology Study Centre, a registered, non-profit trust supporting the livelihood of rural woman through end-to-end programmes in bamboo growth, harvest and product manufacturing. Projects like these within the Biodiversity Haat supported a vast number of Indian social development objectives including training in natural resource management, improving literacy, providing employment and women’s rights through to stimulating organic farming and renewable energy sources.

Enjoy a quick run through of the highlights of the event in our video:

A Good Day for Sustainable Hotels

We all have good days and bad days, it’s a fact of life- Friday last week, fortunately was a great day, a re-invigorating day that reassured me that Singapore has some superb examples of a solid approach to sustainability in the hotel sector . At the frontline of meeting and events Guy and I work with a lot of venues, suppliers and hotels on their commitment to the environment and society and boy does their sophistication differ a lot- from the very basic to the leaders in our space. Working internationally, we come across hotels in some pockets of the globe that don’t know their armpit from their elbow when it comes to sustainable practice and it can be disheartening when they wheel out their finest sales person to take us round the hotel, highlighting their “green” golf course or talking about corporate HQ’s policies with no practice on the ground.

Integrated Tree

Integrated Tree

An “ECO Hotel” with substance

Fortunately, Friday was not one of those days. I had the pleasure of a site inspection at the Siloso beach resort . This resort, located close to convention facilities on Singapore’s Sentosa island has really demonstrated what can be done if you build and operate with sustainability in mind, but they’ve really gone beyond the everyday and thought about how they can do it radically differently. The most striking example being the integration of trees. Normally at the onset of a hotel development space will be cleared to build a hotel and perhaps if you are lucky, ornamental shrubs re-introduced once construction is over amongst the paving and water features. Not here, the Ng family wanted to integrate nature, build around it and include it within the structure- this means the existing trees stayed and the hotel and villas were built around them. This actually provided a threat to worker safety during  construction due to the common electrical storms in this part of the world- each  tree could be a lightning  conductor so every one was individually earthed with a copper wire to ensure safety first. The villas around the property have the existing trees either encased in glass (if they are fast growing) or included in the structure with rain umbrellas (if slow growers). 1 Villa has an amazing 17 trees within the structure and in most cases, the design and layout of the rooms was totally dictated by the position of trees meaning that no villa is the same. Upon questioning, the Manager of the hotel revealed that construction costs were 30% higher due to responsible sourcing & planning  and although the hotel took 18 months to build, the villas required 30 months.

roofgarden

The hotels impressive Roofgarden

What else left me impressed and excited? The 95 metre swimming pool, who’s shape was also dictated by trees but most interestingly avoids the more common heavily chlorinated type , using salt ionised spring water-I didn’t take a dip to test out the salt levels but there’s always next time. When it comes to food they’ve created a closed loop organic food cycle using 1 million Malaysian blue worms. Equipped with a fabulous roof garden, they grow 100% of their herb requirement for the restaurant and 10% of their vegetable needs but most impressively  everything stays within the system.  Fruit and vegetable wste from the kitchen gets mashed, then molasses and bacteria are added to promote decomposition. The friendly Malaysian blue worms then feast on the decomposed waste and create “worm castings” (which is worm excrement to you and me). These castings go back into the cycle as fertiliser for the plants and hence the nutrients are constantly recycled, again and again.  Likewise, other types of food waste are broken down with a sophisticated mulcher which even has a capacity to break bones.  Apparently a human body could be mulched in 12 hours with no remnants remaining, there’s a crime drama storyline in there somewhere.

Elsewhere the hotel source unwanted wood from property renovations to build furniture using their own on site carpentry workshop and house a sophisticated third generation modular heat exchange system that collects heat dispersed in air conditioning and uses it to heat water.  When you’ve got initiatives like this, towel and sheet re-changing programmes are somewhat less exciting so we’ll leave it there- if you are looking for a visionary eco-hotel with a conscious in Singapore, look no further.

Lessons for Sustainable Destinations & Events from Singapore- Water and Land

Once a River, now a Reservoir- Courtesy of 50MM Photography

Having lived in Singapore for most of the last 2 months I’ve still much to learn about this fascinating island state but in this relatively short time have already been left impressed by how the government has used sustainability as a catalyst for innovation- providing lessons for any events business.  The conundrum is why has Singapore come on leaps and bounds in some areas of sustainability where other countries are lagging behind?  The answer is fairly simple, resource scarcity is a very real and tangible challenge in Singapore, albeit due to the quirks of international boundaries.  Take water- 50% of Singapore’s water is imported from outside the country so they’ve invested in correcting this imbalance. Water management has had clear support and funding with the result that two thirds of Singapore’s land surface is now a water catchment area with water stored in 17 reservoirs. One of the most impressive is of course, the old Singapore river which used to be tidal. Although instrumental in creating much of the initial fortune of Singapore, shipping here  has long since moved to a larger scale and what was once a muddy and reeking place each day when the tide went out has now been dammed to create Marina Basin, right in the heart of the city. Other great initiatives include NEWater-  wastewater is collected from toilets, sinks and daily use and treated using micro-filtration, reverse-osmosis and UV technology to recycle it into water that’s good enough to drink. This meets 30% of the city’s water needs, a target that will be increased to 50% of future needs by 2060.

Looking at the population of the city, it’s simply boomed over last 25 years, nearly doubling to over five million. Over the same period, Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Environment and Water Resources proudly stated at the recent launch official launch of the new TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity) for Business Coalition Headquarters  on the 6th November  that when you arrive by plane- Singapore is visibly 50% green. This has increased from a little more than a third of the city-state’s area to this impressive percentage. Why? Because the Singapore Government has designated it a high priority- and that’s all part of Singapore’s next “green road map,” its 10-year development plan, the country aims to go from being “a garden city” to “a city in a garden.”

Singapore has built it’s success over the years from attracting the best traders, from spices, to opium to the trading of today- stocks, technology and services and Singapore wants to stay at the top of the places people will want to work, play, live, and raise a family. The government intends to increase the country’s National Park space from from about 3,300 hectares today to 4,200 hectares in the next 10-15 years and I’ve had the pleasure of visiting 3 such parks on my free weekends already and witnessing live the success of this project relating to biodiversity. One such example for the “twitchers” out there is the reintroduction of the Oriental pied hornbill — the bird’s population has increased from just a pair 16 years ago to about 160 today and here’s one of that small number photographed 2 weeks ago on a simple Iphone.

Oriental Pied Hornbill In Singapore Park- Photo R.Simons

So what are the valuable lessons from Singapore’s national approach for the events business?

  1. Designate sustainability a priority at the very top of the business or organisation and fund appropriately
  2. Understand your supply chain and focus on resource challenges
  3. Recycle whatever you can (including sewage)
  4. Treat your event attendees or employees like you would yourself, provide them with healthy environments, sustenance and lifestyles
  5. Lastly, but perhaps most importantly don’t be afraid to innovate!

Sustainability driving innovation in better meetings

Many great things came out of the recent European Sustainable Event Conference in Copenhagen but this great video sums up the key points and delivers some of the  energy from that event. The early adopters have known it for a while but here we have a selection of them on record sharing their expertise and knowledge, including leadership from Oracle, Symantec and a whole raft of familiar faces.

The conference was the first of its kind and designed to foster innovation in the meetings industry and illustrated how meetings of the future will be driven by collaboration, sustainable meeting design, innovation and hybrid technologies.

Check out the video and let us know what you think!

Behind the scenes of a sustainable EU Presidency

“To have success in sustainability – you just have to make it sufficiently hard for yourself that it becomes easy”. This was the advice from Kirsten Aggersborg, the director of the super sustainable Hotel Axel in Copenhagen.

I think there is some real value to this observation, and this is no where more true than with the Danish Presidency of the European Union Council.

By June 30, when the European Union Presidency 2012 Denmark concludes, the Danish Foreign Ministry Logistics team will have supported the organization of 100 meetings serving 15,000 total participants while meeting criteria of the ISO 20121 event sustainability management system.

With a team of just 22 people, the logistics team delivered an EU Presidency at a fraction of the total cost of past Presidencies. The €30million savings were an important result of the strategic meeting design and sustainable event management system

Working with Wonderful Copenhagen, we made the following video to show how sustainable event management is not complicated, but  that it requires leadership, vision, commitment and discipline.

I take my hat off to Andreas and the Government team for demonstrating the business case of sustainable meetings. And also to the Bella Center, for the paradigm shift in sustainability performance in the last 3 years.

MCI Sustainability Services supported the Danish Foreign ministry in the development of the ISO20121 Sustainable Event Management System, and in the application for third party certification. This project will be one of the largest most ambitious implementations of sustainability in the meetings industry.For more info.

MCI have also led a stakeholder engagement initiative to increase the sustainability and outreach of the Danish Meetings Industry. A sustainability report will be available in the summer on http://www.sustainableeventsdenmark.org

PCMA: Partners in sustainable event education

Dateline San Diego, PCMA Convening Leaders conference

The cup runneth over. Not since GMICs Sustainable Events conference has so much high quality, relevant educational content been available to the events professional. The Professional Conference Managers Association (PCMA) has worked hard to feature relevant and timely sessions to help planners understand sustainability as smart business.

Education Needed
Loved and respected educator and expert Sue Tinnish quoted a recent survey which revealed that 4 in 10 planners are unfamiliar with the topic of sustainability. If the industry is to stay viable and if planners and suppliers are to meet business objectives, professional education is going to be the key. PCMA sessions included topics on writing policy (MeetGreen’s Amy Spatrisano), marketing and communication (the aforementioned Sue Tinnish) and engaging stakeholders (Wonderful Copenhagen’s Steen Jakobsen and I), among others all offered example and ‘get started’ tips as well as deeper thinking on more advanced application of sustainable event management.

The strong turnout (4000 attendees) at Convening Leaders has much to do with the quality of the educational content. PCMA, like Green Meeting Industry Council (GMIC), are important partners in the transition to creating a sustainable meetings industry. Smarter, more profitable, more innovative, more effective meetings require different thinking, concrete examples and a sharing of best practices. Industry events like these may represent the best method to improve skills and gain access to education and collaborations.

Partners are more than providers of services. Partners share in our concerns and our successes. They understand out needs and feel compelled to support us. Partners are integral to our success. In providing great, timely, practical educational content, PCMA earns the ‘partner’ title.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,591 other followers

%d bloggers like this: