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  • Writer's picturePaige Nathan

Sustainable Catering Tips for Your Next Corporate Meeting

These days many businesses are focused on being good corporate citizens, and that includes being mindful of their carbon footprint and implementing ways they can reduce it. From the office to the boardroom, staff at all levels are focused on sustainable practices, including meeting and event planners.

Are you trying to lessen your environmental impact while planning your next corporate meeting? Then keep reading because the caterer you select and the menu you serve are key ingredients to hosting a sustainable event.

Why Does Your "Foodprint" Matter?

Yep, you read that right. If your company is focused on its carbon footprint, then it’s critical to be mindful of its foodprint. Your foodprint is the impact your food has on the environment, so corporate events serving upwards of thousands of guests at a single function can make simple changes that have a significant impact. 

A recent article in Harvard's School of Public Health's, "The Nutrition Source" said that "agriculture is the largest cause of global environmental change." They went on to share some eye-opening figures.

Food production:

  • Contributes approximately 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and the livestock sector alone represents almost half (14.5%) of these emissions 

  • Occupies about 40% of global land

  • Uses 70% of freshwater

  • Is the largest factor threatening species with extinction 

  • Causes eutrophication (nutrient overload) and dead zones in lakes and coastal areas 

  • Has led to a majority (~60%) of the world fish stocks to be fully fished or overfished (33%) – only 7% are underfished.

If these shocking statistics caught your attention as they did ours, here are some tips to reduce the foodprint of your next meeting or event.

Key Ways To Reduce Your Foodprint

The caterer you use at your next meeting matters, as do their food practices. It's important that you select caterers who focus on:

  • Plot to plate eating = Growing and harvesting the produce that's used in their menu items. If they don't grow their produce, then ensure they source locally. Sourcing locally means food doesn't have to travel too far, reducing fossil fuel consumption.  

  • It also means selecting menus that use in-season foods. Using produce that is out of season in your region requires significant transportation adding to greenhouse emissions.

  • Select menus incorporating more plant-based produce, which requires less energy from fossil fuels. It also requires less land and water than meat. According to the BBC, meat farming causes 60% of food-related greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

  • When serving meat, ensure it has been sourced ethically and sustainably, including a high quality of animal welfare and farmers that also follow sustainable practices.

  • Limit food waste by donating to charities or shelters. This can be a challenge if you're hosting your next meeting or event at a hotel where they don't allow extra food to be donated. To help reduce waste, ensure your guest guarantees for meal functions are on the low side to limit over-ordering. And consider catering options like food trucks, which only prepare food that is ordered onsite eliminating any leftovers.

It also matters how your food is served. Ensure your event location and selected caterer don't use single-use food containers or individually packaged food items.

1. Single Use Food Containers and Utensils

Did you know that 60% of all plastic produced is used for packaging your food? That's why it's essential to cut down on plastics, and when serving a large group of conference goers, it becomes critical. Single-use food service items – think plastic cutlery and Styrofoam plates and cups – are made primarily with fossil fuel-based chemicals. These items often can't be recycled and are tossed after one use and wind up in landfills. Ensure your venue or caterer of choice uses

materials that can be washed and reused (ceramic plates, silverware, and real glass) or items that can be recycled, including compostable food containers and cardboard, compostable straws, and compostable utensils. 

2. Single-Serve Food Items

Despite being convenient and great for attendees to grab and go at a large event, single-serve food items are a major contributor to waste. In fact, we use nearly one trillion disposable food service products each year in the United States. Instead of offering your guests single-serve portions of items like cereal, jelly, and butter, offer your guests these same items in glass containers or serving bowls. 

Want to cut costs and waste? Ditch the individual water bottles and replace them with pitchers throughout your meeting room. And when it comes to breaks, forgo individually wrapped items like chips and granola bars and offer fresh, locally sourced whole fruit and platters of freshly-baked cookies.

Meeting planners are focused on delivering a successful event and this includes making their employer or client look good. These easy-to-implement catering suggestions can help reduce your event's carbon footprint while offering fresh, locally sourced menus that are sure to please your attendees.

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