Perhaps when you travel you are the type to throw everything for weeks in a single backpack and rough it, but it seems like most of us are falling into a dangerous mindset where going on vacation (or even attending an event) changes the rules when it comes to sustainable practices.
You might give in and do everything the easiest way possible because, well, you’re on vacation! What’s the big deal about buying a bottle of water everywhere you go? Or loading up your plate a little more than necessary in the morning at the hotel’s breakfast buffet only to have to throw a third of the food away? But there is so much we should be doing when traveling or attending events in order to minimize our detrimental impact on the environment — particularly as sustainability consultants!
Here are some areas where you can improve your personal level of waste while traveling or organizing events while at the same time encouraging your clients to make changes. First you may need to help your clients better understand the benefits that come from implementing a sustainable development strategy which incorporates people, planet and profit for long term success. Sam Trainor-Buckingham outlines that there are many practical benefits for the hospitality industry in this area.
In so many travel experiences people encounter a buffet. This overstocked and overwhelming area of a hotel or cruise is, in actuality, greatly contributing to a massive food waste problem.
The FAO reports up to one third of food is spoiled or discarded before consumption, a terrible thing when 800 million people around the globe are considered chronically hungry.
We are particularly guilty of this wasteful behavior in the United States where per capita food waste has increased by ~50% since 1974, with each individual generating upwards of 220 pounds of food waste per year.
A recent study found that only slightly more than half the food put out in hotel buffets is actually consumed so not only is food going to waste, but hotels are wasting money by overstocking. With this info in mind, some hotels are looking to improve their offerings in order to minimize waste such as offering smaller plates, having stations with nutrition information and more.
But it isn’t just a hotel issue. We are a culture where food seems to be everywhere and we need to be more mindful of how we can reduce this terrible problem. Just a few weeks ago Ashley Weisman published A Step-by-Step Guide to Zero Waste Events on Greenbiz.com. Weisman issues a challenge — to make zero-waste events the new norm.
In order to do so you must collaborate with your venue and your vendors. With the right information, you can work to divert waste to compost and recycling. You just need to make sure you ask the correct questions, such as: What type of waste infrastructure does the venue have in place? How is food waste normally disposed of ? Where at the venue can you intercept waste between the event and the landfill? Are there compost and recycling bins in the kitchen for meal prep?
For zero-waste events you also need to make sure that the back of house staff is trained, which should take no more than 10-15 minutes, including time for questions. This will allow you to list what items are compostable and recyclable, explain why it matters and how their efforts will make a difference and add that responsible waste management is becoming the new normal. Just think, your event will not only have an immediate impact, but it could make an impression on vendors, the venue, the attendees and the staff who may work toward adopting similar practices for future events.
The bottom line is that this waste is not only hurting the environment, but it is also hurting businesses bottom lines. It’s time to work with your clients to help them improve their food offerings, the way they handle waste, and the items they chose from the start. In time, they are bound to be pleased with a reduced footprint and a reduced budget.