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How can we all play our part in tackling the beast that is food waste?

According to the Food & Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO), there are more than 820 million hungry people in the world. The need to reduce food waste is not only critical to creating a Zero Hunger world but is also key to reaching the world’s Sustainable Development Goals. Alarmingly, it is also reported that one third of all food produced for human consumption across the globe is lost or wasted. This wasted food has taken huge amounts of fresh water, land and labour to produce and if it were a country, food waste would be the third highest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world (Friends of the Earth).

Event professionals are familiar with the sight of buffet tables overflowing with food, or multiple empty seats at dinner tables, on both the delegate and crew side of the spectrum. These statistics make us stop and think, but also question how our events and our own personal decisions, could be fundamental to the elimination of the global food waste issue. 

Research conducted by Lime Venue Portfolio has shown that the average event wastes between 15% and 20% of the food it produces. Interestingly, the survey also shows that of all in-person event feedback, food is the primary source of conversation, and roughly 20% of all food-based feedback is in relation to waste. It’s therefore fair to say that, just like event managers, participants are increasingly aware of the issue too.

TTA Toolbox

TTA is committed to sustainability and is working closely with our friends at ISLA to support the acceleration of the event industry’s transition to a sustainable future.

We are also creating our ‘TTA Toolbox’ for battling the beast that is food waste to provide ideas for ways in which we can all support its reduction both at our events and in our homes.  As the world begins to open up and in-person events are back on the agenda, some strategies to minimise food waste include:

  • Consider plated or pre-portioned food rather than a buffet. If a buffet is agreed, offer less choice if possible
  • Choose whole fruits for breaks
  • Be careful about over-ordering. Liaise with the venue about food management to ensure they do not overcompensate, especially for buffets. Consider reducing numbers, but ultimately trust the venue to manage the food requirements
  • Food donation: explore partnering with either an independent food donation programme, or one in partnership with the venue or caterers
  • Compost recycling: does the venue have a composting programme, are there clearly marked bins?
  • Menu planning strategy: this can help with more than the food wastage. It’s an opportunity to assess where the food is sourced from, its packaging and perhaps consider vegetarian/vegan options to reduce the carbon footprint

As consumers at home there are also many ideas we can implement that will make a difference to how much food we waste.  Here are some thoughts from the TTA team….

  • Don’t throw vegetables out, make soup (or take it to the neighbour’s rabbit!), or freeze it. There are SO many veggies that can be frozen that you may not even realise can be
  • Make a shopping list so you’re only buying what you need, don’t over-buy (and don’t shop when you’re hungry!)
  • Organise your kitchen so that you are using the items that will go to waste more quickly, first
  • Use your senses: don’t just rely on best before dates
  • Pick ugly fruit and veg! These are usually thrown away
  • Donate unwanted tins or dried food (beans, spaghetti, etc) in your cupboard to local food banks
  • Make stock and freeze it – especially with veggies with water soluble vitamins (or use to make gravy)
  • We all tend to have plenty of reusable plastic storage containers. This does mean that we are able to freeze leftovers and use them later. Although in our houses, leftovers don’t tend to be too much of a problem!

Partnering Charities to Reduce Waste

TTA has been supporting the reduction of food waste onsite at events for many years. In one pre COVID project, our global healthcare client shone a spotlight on reducing its environmental footprint by supporting efforts to reduce food waste from its meetings at a medical Congress in Barcelona.   The meeting venue we partnered with our client was the Crowne Plaza Fira which is signed up to IHG Green Engage, an innovative sustainability project from the IHG group consisting of advanced tools for measuring daily online the environmental impact of participating hotels. Each day the Crowne Plaza Fira meticulously prepared and donated excess food from events, staff catering and deliveries to a local charity.  TTA was invited to experience the special journey of the food from the hotel kitchen to the project recipients (local orphanages, homeless shelters, youth centres and rehabilitation centres) chosen by the charity. With so much food produced in the world going to waste, the significance of supporting projects that help local communities and also help to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions coming from the food system, cannot be underestimated.

The Role of Technology

Undoubtedly, the COVID-19 pandemic has paved the way for a higher volume of sustainable meetings with the rise of virtual and hybrid events which will have an impact on food waste.

We have also witnessed a surge in technologies and apps which help us minimise food waste in a variety of ways. These include offering access to unsold food from restaurants for a discounted price (Karma); providing a platform for stores to sell their surplus produce at a reduced price (Too Good To Go – which is available in nine European countries); and perhaps the most well-known of these three examples, Olio, which helps to connect neighbours and local retailers so surplus food can be shared and not disposed of.

At TTA we are always up for a challenge, and the issue of food waste is one that we are tackling head on through our sustainability drive as the world begins to open again. Between us we can help change the way in which the event industry manages food waste and the expectations around the policies that require us to do so effectively. We can all make a difference to help Stop Food Waste.

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