Stop Event Food Waste - What Can You Do?

How could you help decrease the food waste at an event? Are you looking for help planning your event, or do you want to know what to look for when attending an event to reduce waste? We are here to help!

Did you know that “the average event wastes between 15%—20% of the food it produces?” Lime Venue Portfolio and BCD Meetings & Events have put together a packet called Fear of Running Out explaining industry opinion, understanding, research, discussions, and the pathway to reducing food waste. This is a great resource for reading up on more detailed research and interviews on some of the information we will go over today. 

What You Can Do As An Attendee?

As an attendee, you may feel like there is little you can do to help the waste you see at an event, but this is far from the case! While much of the change that needs to take place comes from those who are organizing the event, there are still steps you can take to make a difference.

A big part of making events more sustainable is talking about it! Mentioning your concerns or offering suggestions for sustainable substitutions to those there can make a more significant difference than you think it can. Many people, when using single-use items, for example, don’t think about the effect that they are having on the environment. It is almost second nature for many people, but bringing this topic up often and when appropriate can change the way they think when they grab that plastic cup next time! 

I mentioned plastic cups in the above section. Bring a water bottle instead of using these for water at an event. Instead of throwing away the name tag you are given, return it to the venue. Another more straightforward example would be not taking SWAG that you think you will throw into the landfill. Only use items that can be recycled, reused, or composted. This is a great rule to follow for where to make a difference. 

At the end of an event, there is ALWAYS food leftover. Most of this food is going to be thrown away. If you will use this food, offer to take it home! Additionally, you can find nearby shelters or places accepting donations and bring items here instead. This is not to say that you should feel obligated to do the event planner's job, but stepping in and making others aware of the food donation options can make a huge difference!

What You Can Do When Planning?

On the other hand, when planning an event, there are many choices you can make to be more sustainable. 

When ordering food for your event, consider the true number of attendees. How much food is an accurate estimate of what they will consume? Instead of ordering lots of extras “just in case,” only order what is needed for the event. This will help cut down on food waste enormously!

What do you do with all the extra food when the event is over? Donate it! Give it to leaving attendees or find a shelter or donation center nearby that would accept ready-made meals. Not only does this prevent waste, but it also helps the community.

If you’ve ordered the correct amount of food and donated what you can, and you still have food leftover, compost it! Rather than throwing it away and putting it into a landfill, ask the venue if they have a compost option. If they do not, look for a venue that does or find a company that can do this for you after the event. 

When the event is over, note how much is left and how much was ordered. Make sure to remember these figures, as this can impact how you order for your next event as well! If you know that even with accurate attendee numbers, there was still way too much food at the end, you can order less for next time to decrease your food waste.

Additionally, the Rockefeller Foundation has a great resource in the form of a toolkit to help you produce a Food Waste-Free Event. We have looked through this many times as a great reference!

Jessica Coons, the Senior Conference Coordinator at GreenBiz Group, recently published a post during Food Waste Prevention Week about what they are doing to stop event food waste. They have been through training on food waste and shared this helpful case study from Circularity 23: 

They also shared a great article from last year talking about how they are sustainable at their events: 

As we work on sustainable events, food waste just scratches the surface of why and how an event should be sustainable. Sustainable events have many moving pieces and are forward-thinking. Please check out our other blogs and contact our team with any questions. We love this topic and would happily discuss your next event strategy!