5 Tips for More Sustainable Food & Beverage

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Buying local produce supports the community’s economy, reduces your food miles and results in fresher food.

Three leaders in sustainable meetings—Mariella McIlwraith, Shawna McKinley and Nancy Zavada—have joined forces to publish Meet Better: 167 Easy Ways to Make Your Meetings More Environmentally and Socially Responsible. Here’s just a sampling of their collective wisdom.

1. Donate leftover food. Some venues or caterers may have concern about liability. However, many laws protect food donors. Contact the food bank to confirm local regulations and practice safe food handling.

2. Serve seasonal food from local farms and vendors. Buying locally supports the community’s economy and typically results in fresher food. It also helps to reduce your food miles, though this is only one factor in determining the environmental impact of your menus. 83 percent of the average U.S. household’s carbon footprint for food comes from growing and producing it. Transportation is only 11 percent.

3. Be flexible and allow the chef to make decisions that meet your budget and sustainability goals.

4. Ask your chef to minimize air-freighted food. Pay particular attention to fish and tropical fruit. These can significantly increase the carbon footprint of your menu.

5. Carefully order food to minimize waste. Very often, meeting planners guarantee numbers across the board for all functions. Instead, cross-check with arrivals and departures and past history to make adjustments for each meal functions.

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Barbara Scofidio is Editor of Prevue and heads up the Visionary Summits, our exclusive conference series targeting senior-level meeting and incentive planners. In her 30 years in the industry, she has become known for her passion around greening meetings, growing awareness of human trafficking and promoting CSR activities as part of business events. She is currently a member of SITE's Women IN Leadership committee and the media liaison for FICP's Education Committee. She was the first member of the media ever to be invited to sit on a committee by GBTA, where she spent three years on the Groups and Meetings Committee. She has also been an active member of SITE for 30 years, chairing its Crystal Awards committee and acting as a judge. Before joining Prevue in 2014, she served as Editor of Corporate Meetings & Incentives (MeetingsNet) for more than 20 years. She has a BA in Literature/Rhetoric from Binghamton University. Barbara is based outside Boston, in Groton, Mass.