Making waste management a priority at your catering event makes sense on several levels. From an environmental standpoint, traditional food containers and utensils place a heavy burden on landfills. The fact that much of this waste is not only non-biodegradable but in some cases toxic makes matters worse. Utilizing natural products is simply better for the environment.
Aside from that, from a business standpoint, managing and reducing waste reflects well on businesses. Going "green" is not a fad. It is a movement that is here to stay, and organizations that recognize this fact almost certainly have an edge against those who don't.
There are several steps that can be taken to manage and reduce waste. These strategies can be implemented easily and can become part of a larger-scale waste management overhaul in the future.
- The first step is to audit current waste management practices. Identifying what is already working and what isn't can make it easier and less overwhelming.
- One way many catering companies manage waste during events is to use silverware instead of plastic utensils. If this isn't possible, consider using recyclable or biodegradable utensils. The same goes for cups. In some areas, using energy and water for washing dishes has more impact on the environment than using disposable utensils does.
- If a catering company generates a good amount of cardboard or cooking grease, a recycling program not only makes sense, but can also be a potential moneymaker for the catering business. There are companies in some cities that pay to take used cooking grease which they later convert to bio-diesel fuel.
- Switching from Styrofoam to plant-based containers is not only better for the environment, but helps improve the company image.
Staff should be trained on what the recycling policies of the business are, especially if sustainability practices are used as a marketing tool with prospective clients.
These are just a handful of ways to reduce waste and integrate green practices into the catering business. It's best to start small and gradually increase the number of green practices your business follows. That way its not onerous to consistently follow them. It can be as simple as implementing better recycling practices. From there, try replacing plastic food packaging with something biodegradable. The best place to start is awareness.
From a business and PR standpoint, minimizing waste, recycling and other green practices are beneficial for the organization. Many clients, both in the public and private sector take these practices into consideration when choosing a catering company, and that trend shows no signs of slowing.
Ken Jacobus is CEO and founder of Good Start Packaging. He works with restaurants and other organizations around the U.S. to help them find the best sustainable alternatives to traditional plastic take out food containers. When not busy trying to eliminate landfills and plastic, he hikes, bikes, skis, reads, and plays with his family around his home in southern New Hampshire.